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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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Raiders hope Vegas gamble will pay off this week

The NFL has little choice but to approve a third franchise relocation in less than three years.

The Oakland Coliseum is widely regarded as the worst stadium in the NFL.
The Oakland Coliseum is widely regarded as the worst stadium in the NFL.
Image: Eric Risberg

IT IS NOW almost certain that NFL owners will vote this week to allow the Raiders to move to Las Vegas after league commissioner, Roger Goodell, rejected an 11th hour bid from the city of Oakland to keep their franchise.

On Friday, the mayor, Libby Schaaf, shared details with the NFL of Oakland’s plans for the first time — which included a $1.3 billion stadium on the current Oakland Coliseum (their spelling, not ours) site — and vowed that she and the city were doing all they could to keep the team.

But, as with so much of the city’s efforts, the promises appear to have fallen well short of expectations as Goodell’s reply was swift, and damning.

In the response, seen by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, he rejected the latest proposal saying he could see no clear timeline from the city of Oakland, specifically regarding the future of the Athletics baseball team, which currently shares a stadium with the Raiders.

And while the league would rather the Raiders stay in Oakland — it is a significantly larger TV market — the fact remains, with no viable alternative from the city, and Mark Davis refusing to sell the team to someone who can afford to build a stadium in Oakland without the need for taxpayer funds, the team must move.

To fans unfamiliar with US sport, the concept of a team relocating might seem odd, unless you’re a Shamrock Rovers fan, of course.

But after two decades of relative stability in the NFL, the Raiders will become the third franchise — after the Rams and Chargers left St. Louis and San Diego for LA in the past two seasons — to change city in less than three years.

It would also mark the second time the team has left Oakland, having relocated to Los Angeles for 12 years in 1982.

Vegas, baby

Las Vegas Stadium Football Mark Davis has been keen on a move to Vegas for some time. Source: John Locher

That the Raiders need a new stadium is without question.

The Coliseum is the fourth-oldest venue in the NFL and the only one that sees teams having to play on a baseball infield for the first two months of the season.

It has significant infrastructural problems with burst pipes, sewage leaking out onto the concourses and amenities that make the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh look like the world’s most advanced stadium.

Perhaps because of that — and, of course, the years of underachieving on the field — the Raiders have serious attendance issues, ranking last in the league last year despite their best season in decades.

But new stadiums are expensive.

When the Rams’ new home — which they’ll share with the Chargers — opens in 2019, the final bill is expected to come to $2.66 billion. The host stadium for next year’s Super Bowl, the Vikings’ US Bank Stadium, came in at over $1 billion after opening last season.

So it doesn’t help that Davis, who inherited the team from his father Al, is among the poorest owners in the NFL.

Don’t let your heart bleed for Davis too much, he’s still worth an estimated $500 million.

But, when you compare that to Stan Kroenke of the Rams (and Arsenal) fame, and who has an estimated net worth of $7.6 billion, you see why the Raiders owner is reluctant to pony up too much of his own cash.

Schaaf should probably be lauded for refusing to offer the Raiders taxpayers money to build their new stadium while, at the same time, you can also understand why Clark County is willing to hand over €750 million raised through a new hotel tax.

Vegas have been hoping for an NFL team for a long time and, after years of false starts, it finally seems like it is about to happen.

The twist here is that the Raiders are unlikely to depart Oakland for two years, putting them in a weird limbo where their head is in one city but their heart in another.

However, their parting gift to the city that doesn’t want to pay to keep them could well be a fourth Super Bowl.

Having earned their first playoff berth in 14 years last season — when Derek Carr’s broken leg scuppered what was a real shot at a deep run in the postseason — many believe the Raiders are just a few pieces away from a Vince Lombardi trophy.

Their pending move could spur them on, or it could prove to be a massive distraction for a relatively young team.

For that reason, Vegas is a massive gamble for the Raiders.

However, after years of mismanagement on and off the field, the team have turned things around lately and are taking the right decisions more often than not.

So why not bet on the silver and black?

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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