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NFL relocation questions: Why can't the Rams, Chargers and Raiders all move to L.A.?

The Rams, Chargers and Raiders all have called Los Angeles home at various points in their history. The Rams are coming back. The Chargers might be, and if not them maybe the Raiders.

The NFL might not have predetermined which teams would return to Los Angeles in advance of Tuesday's meeting of league owners, but the league long ago decided that both new stadium proposals — the Rams in Inglewood, and the Chargers and Raiders proposing to share a new stadium in Carson — would not be adopted.

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For more than two decades, this was the question: "When will the NFL return to L.A.?" With that answer set — the Rams will be back this year, with the Chargers receiving the first invitation to share the Inglewood stadium — The Times explores some of the fundamental questions that led to Tuesday's decision:

If the NFL wanted two teams in L.A., and if the Carson and Inglewood stadiums looked good, why not build two showcase stadiums and put a team in each one?

With taxpayers not subsidizing either stadium, the NFL wanted to minimize the dollars an owner must spend on financing the stadium.

For example, the price for a personal seat license would be higher if those licenses were sold for one stadium rather than two. That would be true for naming rights too, and it also would avoid the risk of a company trying to discount a naming rights deal because its name turns out to be on the less popular of the new stadiums.

Also, two stadiums would go head to head for concerts, trade shows and other lucrative events aside from football. That market already is crowded, with venues that include the Rose Bowl, Coliseum, StubHub Center, Staples Center, Honda Center, Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium.

NFL owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles and give the San Diego Chargers the option to join. The Oakland Raiders will not be moving to Los Angeles.

The relationship between the teams also could be an issue. However, the success of the New York Giants and New York Jets sharing Met Life Stadium in the biggest market in North America has shown the NFL that a two-team stadium can be the best option no matter how wealthy the market and no matter that "the two teams don't exactly love each other," said Andy Dolich, the former chief operating officer of the San Francisco 49ers.

Why did the NFL not want all three teams to move to L.A.?

There is no unanimity among NFL owners that moving even two teams is a good idea. Three could have been a disaster.

"Is the marketplace large enough to do three? Probably," Dolich said. "But you are running a fast race. Somebody is going to finish first. Somebody is going to finish third."

The L.A. market might be the second-largest in North America, but NFL owners are acutely aware that two teams left the market at the same time two decades ago, preferring the smaller markets of Oakland and St. Louis.

The L.A. sports dollar already is split among the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Ducks, Galaxy, UCLA and USC.

"It's an incredibly competitive marketplace," Dolich said. "It's a lot different than if a new stadium were built in St. Louis."

And the local airwaves already are crowded — not to mention that an all-sports radio station is about to drop sports entirely — so football teams might struggle to find homes for radio and preseason television packages. Of the three remaining all-sports radio stations in the market, the Dodgers own one and the Angels own the other, complicating efforts to find a station to air Sunday NFL games through the end of the baseball season.

Pro football might be the most popular sport in the United States, and the existing local sports teams undoubtedly will lose some business as the NFL returns to L.A. But three NFL teams competing with the existing teams to sell seats, suites and sponsorships might so saturate the market that at least one and maybe two of the teams would find itself at a financial handicap. Again, the teams are financing their stadiums, not the public.

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Is there a risk in the Chargers or Raiders waiting to join the Rams in Inglewood?

Absolutely. The Rams could benefit immediately from the excitement surrounding the return of the NFL, and with it the money from selling those seats, suites and sponsorships before a second team could make its pitch.

Even if the Rams reach agreement with a second team to share stadium revenues — or even to share stadium ownership — the team that already has the longest and most beloved history in L.A. would have at least one year to get the best advertising and media deals in the market. The second team — already one that would be at risk of playing second fiddle to the Rams — would fall behind in the financials and in fan loyalty before ever playing a game in Inglewood.

If the Rams wanted to move into a new stadium in Inglewood and the Raiders and Chargers wanted to move into a new stadium in Carson, why couldn't they all come?

Legally, they could. The NFL, unlike Major League Baseball, does not have an antitrust exemption from federal law that allows the league to control franchise relocation.

However, the NFL has some financial carrots to dangle in front of teams that play by the league's rules. If you don't play by the rules, you probably can forget about the league offering the usual $200 million toward stadium financing, and you probably can forget about hosting a Super Bowl.

Those dollars are helpful to all teams but would be particularly crucial in the Inglewood and Carson projects, neither of which would have benefited from the traditional hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds.

ARCHIVES: Remembering when the Rams left

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