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Might the Chargers move to London? The NFL says maybe, the team says no way

NFL London

(Photo by Martin Leitch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

From the very start, the idea of the Chargers moving to Los Angeles from San Diego seemed totally illogical, a plan hatched out of desperation more than common sense.

Sure, the team would eventually share residency with the Rams in a deluxe, billion-dollar, state-of-the-art facility. But what would ultimately become of the Chargers franchise a few years after being separated from its fan base?

The truth is, the Chargers have not been welcomed in Los Angeles. While the Rams get to bide their time at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Chargers have been relegated to a soccer stadium – the Dignity Health Sports Park – that seats less than 29,000.

And what about the hometown welcome? We know Los Angeles is a Rams town and always will be. The Chargers are like the NBA’s Clippers, an unwanted guest who gets the small towels and drafty bedroom.

One question: Are the Chargers fans in Los Angeles? We haven’t seen signs of an outpost. So what is the team and the league to do, now that they’ve likely come to understand the Chargers might likely wither away in their adopted new home.

Well, the NFL has already been thinking about this problem and is said to be considering a totally out-of-the-box solution that might alleviate the Chargers problems while creating a new marketplace for the league.

According to a report in The Athletic, the NFL is toying with the idea of moving the Chargers to London. Not today. Not tomorrow. But someday.

On Tuesday, Chargers owner Dean Spanos emphatically denied the story.

“It’s total f—— b——-, OK? We’re not going to London,” Spanos told reporters. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re playing in Los Angeles. This is our home. This is where I’m planning to be for a long f—— time. Period.”

Perhaps. But supposedly, league owners recognize by establishing a full-time residency in Great Britain they would not only solve the Chargers problem but open a new business vista certain to generate billions for the league.

Last Sunday, the league completed its regular-season schedule of games in London when the Carolina Panthers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game was attended by 83,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.

The league has been playing games in London for 17 seasons and according to the NFL, it’s sold more than two million tickets and experienced a rush of merchandise sales and television ratings. The league now believes all of the necessary elements are in place to support a franchise in the city.

“Some (owners) would be happy …” a high-ranking NFL official told The Athletic. “But all of them (are concerned) about them in L.A. So I think they would get (support).”

Apparently, there is a lot the NFL can do to help facilitate the move, beginning with the transfer of the team’s $650 million relocation fee to London. The team would also be allowed to switch divisions, perhaps with the Houston Texans, and play in the AFC South to help lessen travel demands.

One of the big problems the Chargers currently have is they still have no idea how many of their fans in San Diego will be willing to trek to Los Angeles for games, let alone invest in season tickets. The league is concerned there won’t be enough support from Los Angelenos to help the Chargers survive.

This has all created a massive headache for the league, one which could have been avoided if it spent more time considering whether Los Angeles had the capability to equally support two teams after going without even one since 1994 when the Raiders returned to Oakland the Rams moved to St. Louis.

The Chargers are not moving back to San Diego; there’s no chance of a new stadium being built. So where would they go if the experiment of neighboring with the Rams, like the Giants do with the Jets in New Jersey fails miserably?

Los Angeles Chargers

(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

The Athletic pointed to last Sunday as a great example of what could be in store.

While the Panthers and Jags were playing to a sellout in London – 25 of the 28 London games have attracted at least 83,000 – the Packers were at the Chargers and most of the seats were gobbled up by Green Bay fans due to the lack of interest in Los Angeles.

“The current path they are on will not yield results in the foreseeable future,” an NFL source told The Athletic. “They need to consider something to shake up their franchise. This would give them a major international market and the chance to shine.”

Of course, there would be many logistical and practical problems surrounding any move of an NFL franchise to London, including how to schedule a team to minimize travel back-and-forth to the United States.

The U.S. and England would have immigration, taxation and visa issues to address. The league would also need to convince players on the impacted team that living overseas could be beneficial. It might have to compensate London-based players with a stipend to satisfy concerns.

Until recently, all the talk about the NFL in London seemed to center on the Jaguars moving there since their billionaire owner, Shahid Khan,  does

“I think the one tough thing, and maybe the one thing I’d struggle with it now, is when you have a family,” said Rams quarterback Blake Bortles, who played for the Jaguars. “You have kids, so do you take the family over there? Stuff like that. Where do they go to school? How does the tax thing differentiate between there and the U.S.? So things like that are all the little intricacies that go into it. But I think it would be one of those situations where some guys would love it and some guys would hate it.”

Now the momentum seems to have shifted.

Of course, Sunday games in London would start at 6 p.m. or 9 p.m. locally to accommodate Fox and CBS. And because of the time difference, no Monday, Thursday or Sunday night games could be played at the venue. But the league could live with that.

So what will the NFL decide to do with the Chargers? Our guess is its busy right now figuring out how everything would work if the team is moved, just in case the dream in Los Angeles turns into a nightmare.