On Monday, the Rams Executive Vice President /Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff delivered a statement to the local media at ContinuityX Training Center that the organization had withdrawn from the last two years of a three year international series agreement with the NFL and the United Kingdom. The Rams will play the New England Patriots this fall in London’s Wimbley Stadium, but the following years of 2013 and 2014 have been voided and the Rams will return those home games back to the Edward Jones Dome.
This leads me to ask the question…why? Six to seven months ago the portrait painted by the Rams and the NFL was that the excitement was bubbling over for the Rams to play overseas. What changed? Didn’t the Rams brass take a look down the road and work through scenarios of the ‘what ifs?’ Didn’t they take a look at the big picture and foresee the backlash from the fan base? Didn’t they anticipate how a London trip would look with the negotiations ongoing with the CVC?
When Demoff was asked about the NFL’s thoughts on the Rams backing out he explained, “I think it was difficult in the sense that it’s not an easy topic to broach with the league. But I think the league is working with us on the stadium issues as well as we move forward in the first tier process and I think everybody understands the importance of making sure that we’re doing the right things in moving the lease process and the first tier process forward. And so because of that we’ve had good conversations with them. Obviously we’ve spent a bunch of time with them preparing for this year’s game. The good news is there’s a lot of interest from a lot of different teams about participating in International Series. There are a number of teams that applied to participate in the series in the fall and I know that they’ve been in contact with those teams. I’m sure they’ll find a suitable replacement if that’s the direction they want to go. I know they mentioned today in a statement they’re looking at adding maybe a second game in 2013. There are a lot of teams that want to play abroad, there are a lot of teams that want to grow their brand globally just as we did and I’m sure they’ll find a great replacement. We’ll be excited to play there this year and do our part as part of the series and then we’ll look to when we can participate on more solid footing.”
The Rams and the CVC are engaged in a major game of checkers, the question is who will be crowned king? The Rams submitted plans that cost $700 million while the CVC’s proposal came in at $124 million. Despite the differences, the two sides continue to talk, “I think one of the things, and we say this all the time, we have a very good day to day working relationship with the CVC,” Demoff said, “and the solution we came up with in January I think was one that benefitted them long term. It gave them the ability to get into the Edward Jones Dome on non-Rams events for years to come on weekends we’re not playing there. That’s good for St. Louis. I don’t think there was anything that both sides looked at back in January that didn’t make sense long term for the building and for the community.”
No one knows what the arbitrator will decide when meeting with both the CVC and Rams’ brass. What we do know is Rams’ fans will get back the lost home games for those two years. Downtown hotels, restaurants and sports bars won’t lose business and Edward Jones Dome workers will be busy on the two home games now returned to St. Louis. The CVC must play their cards just right, because reality is that Los Angeles is still an option.