Rams to London Logical Next Step for Kroenke
Published: Friday, November 2, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 00:11
American real estate magnate and sports capitalist Stan Kroenke had a lot on his plate this weekend: The owner of five major sports teams has to constantly battle jet lag, sleep deprivation and media attention.
Kroenke, who controls Arsenal as well as the St. Louis Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Colorado Rapids through his business empire, Kroenke Sports Enterprises, has holdings in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS and the English Premier League.
Keeping up with the events that impact professional teams located in three cities on two continents is a race against the clock, as one 36-hour period showed this weekend.
Early Saturday morning in North London, Arsenal avenged a mid-week UEFA Champions League loss by defeating Queens Park Rangers on a late-game tap-in by Spaniard Mikel Arteta. Across the Atlantic, the NHL cancelled all scheduled games for the month of November, a move expected to cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
While Avalanche players contemplated signing contracts abroad, the Denver Nuggets, a team many expect to compete in the NBA’s cutthroat Western Conference, prepared for their season opener behind new face of the franchise Andre Iguodala. And back in Britain, 84,000 fans watched the New England Patriots thump the Rams in the NFL’s annual London showdown.
Watching one of his teams lose in London must have been strange for Kroenke, as the Gunners — who finished third in the Premier League last season — have given the owner the most year-to-year success.
On Sunday, though, he looked on as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski made a mockery of his American football team. The Rams suffered their third straight loss, falling to 3-5 on the season and landing in the cellar of the NFC West.
Kroenke has seen this act before. His Rams finished last season with the worst record in football, and they’ve managed an astonishing average of just three wins per season since 2007. And concerns about Arsenal’s continuing viability as a winning team prompted him to declare on the club’s website: “The reason I am involved in sports is to win. … Everything else is a footnote.”
To a certain extent, fan devotion seems to go hand in hand with NFL success. The New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers — collective winners of four of the last five Lombardi Trophies — are backed by some of the league’s most fervent fan bases. St. Louis is far from ideal in that respect.
The Rams have long considered moving out of the Gateway to the West and into a market craving professional football. When you’re stuck in a slump, something needs to change — as the Oklahoma City Thunder can attest.
In 2008, the former Seattle Supersonics owners awarded Oklahoma City its first professional sports franchise, and the product has been far greater than could have ever been imagined — instant success, nightly sellouts and as much national TV coverage as the league schedule-makers could possibly fit in to 82 games.
For Kroenke’s Rams, the solution is similar — and painfully obvious. The owner has already established a connection with the London sports gallery. He just has to make the move across the pond. Call me crazy, but I can see it happening.
Many of Kroenke’s die-hard Arsenal F.C. disciples — over 60,000 pack Emirates Stadium for even the most inconsequential of matches — instantly become Rams fans. American football frenzy spreads like wildfire across England, and the NFL hires Faith Hill and Hank Williams Jr. to perform before the primetime season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams adopt a bright yellow alternate jersey — similar to Arsenal’s alternate yellow kits — and excitement engulfs London.
Everything coalesces perfectly as it did four years ago in central Oklahoma, and the Rams once again become a relevant franchise.
Kroenke’s lease on the Rams’ current stadium, Edward Jones Dome, ends in 2014. St. Louis is slated to return to London for regular season games in 2013 and 2014, a move looking more and more like the natural precursor to a permanent shift.
At this point, it all comes down to Stan Kroenke and the entrepreneurial genius that earned him billions. The Rams will toil in obscurity until they pack up their bags and book a direct flight to London Heathrow. The NFL is the last remaining major American sports league with all of its teams located in the continental United States.
The time for change is now.
Matt Bell is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business. FRESH OUT OF PHILLY appears every Friday.