It has been more than twenty years since the Los Angeles market lost both of its NFL teams at the end of the 1994 season. In the intervening years numerous owners of NFL teams have floated the idea of moving their teams to the City of Angels. A generation of sports fans in the Los Angeles area has grown up without a local pro football team to call its own.
That may change in the coming months as one or more franchises receive NFL approval to move to Tinseltown.
The Oakland Raiders have been at the forefront of all the permutations of the NFL’s return to LA:
- Plans for “Coliseum City” with new football and baseball venues have evaporated. The Silver and Black have nothing cooking in Oakland
- Owner Mark Davis has repeatedly negated the option of moving to Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers in Santa Clara, which is 35 miles from their training facility in Alameda
- The Raiders partnered with the San Diego Chargers on a shared football stadium in Carson, which is 383 miles from Oakland
- And the Raiders became the second team in on the stadium planned by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke in Inglewood, which is 371 miles from Oakland
A second move to the southland could be coming.
A quick look at some of the dynamics at play in the Los Angeles market make the reasons for a Raiders run readily apparent:
- The Los Angeles market is comprised of seven counties with a total population of over 14 million adults (only the New York market with over 16 million adults is larger)
- Los Angeles County is the largest populated county in the US with nearly eight million adults, more adults than the entire Chicago market -- the nation’s third largest market
- Los Angeles’ non-white population (over eight million adults) is the largest of any market in the nation, with a minority population comprising almost 60 percent of the market’s total adults
Los Angeles, though, has demographic challenges in luring back an NFL team. LA-market adults are:
- 27 percent less likely than the typical US adult to be very interested in the NFL
- 24 percent less likely than the typical US adult to be very or somewhat interested in the NFL
- 15 percent less likely than the typical US adult to have any level of interest in the NFL
None of these figures are surprising given the size and complexity of the Los Angeles market, especially considering the fact that the market has had no team of its own since the Clinton Administration. Still, Los Angeles remains a primary focus for the NFL because of those 14 million adults and their highly disposable income.
Looking at the same interest level numbers above, there are:
- 2.8 million Los Angeles adults very interested in the NFL (more adults than live in either the San Diego or St. Louis markets)
- 4.9 million Los Angeles adults very or somewhat interested in the NFL (roughly the same number of adults who live in the Houston market -- the nation’s 10th biggest market)
- 7.2 million Los Angeles adults have some level of interest in the NFL (slightly smaller than the nation’s third-largest market, Chicago, and about one million more adults than live in the nation’s fourth-largest market, Philadelphia)
How do adults in Los Angeles compare with the nation’s other large markets in terms of high levels of interest for the NFL?
- Los Angeles: 20 percent of adults are avid NFL fans
- New York: 22 percent of adults are avid NFL fans
- Bay Area*: 24 percent of adults are avid NFL fans
- Chicago: 31 percent of adults are avid NFL fans
- Philadelphia: 32 percent of adults are avid NFL fans
*The Bay Area includes San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
So we see among the nation’s largest markets that Los Angeles is not alone. New York and the Bay Area, both of which have two NFL teams each, are both less likely to have avid fans among their populations. Larger, more diverse markets have a harder time sticking out when it comes to avid interest in the NFL than smaller more homogenous markets.
Let’s focus on those nearly three million avid fans in the Los Angeles market. How do they compare with the general population of avid NFL fans across the nation? Avid fans in Los Angeles are:
- 12 percent more likely to fall into the 18–34 age group
- 16 percent more likely to fall into the men 18–34 age group
- 51 percent more likely to make household income of $250,000 or more
- 12 percent more likely to have a college degree or higher
- More than twice as likely to be of Asian descent
- More than twice as likely to be of Hispanic descent
Avid fans in Los Angeles skew slightly younger, with higher incomes, better education, and are more ethnically and racially diverse than the typical avid NFL fan.
If returning NFL football to Los Angeles was easy, it would have been done already. It will take a number of constituencies working together to overcome these significant challenges:
- The complex politics of the NFL and team owners
- The politics of the cities and their elected leaders
- The complexity of building of a multi-billion dollar stadium
- The two- versus three-team solution: It is doubtful that there will be three teams playing in two stadiums (Carson and Inglewood)
- Two stadiums in the LA Basin: The NFL won’t let this happen
- Vacated cities Oakland, St. Louis and San Diego: What happens to them? Will they be in the same position as LA is now, without an NFL team for decades to come?
Los Angeles continues to provide a tempting location for the NFL, even 20 years after it last played home to pro football. Given the attractive profile of fans in the Los Angeles area and the sheer size of the Los Angeles market, it will not be long before pro football returns.
Will the Silver and Black go back?