Imagine if, one day, Tottenham were to leave their home in London and relocate to make themselves Bristol Hotspur. There would be outrage; there would be anarchy; there would be rioting on the streets. This sort of relocation just does not happen in the UK but, to our neighbours across the pond. It is an issue that plagues sport in an all-too-common manner.
Last year the St Louis Rams moved back to Los Angeles, leaving a gaping economic and cultural hole in Missouri’s capital. More recently, the San Diego Chargers have also relocated to the City of Angels, while the Oakland Raiders have filed paperwork for a move to Las Vegas.
Although these moves are not unexpected – and, in the cases of the Chargers and Rams, seeing a return to their ‘home’ cities – these actions reek of disrespect and greed.
San Diego had been the home of the Chargers for over 55 years, a period which had seen them challenge for titles, establish a loyal local fanbase, and, most importantly, become an integral part of the community. These attributes however were not enough for the owner of the franchise, Dean Spanos, who – despite what he might say – has been driven by sizeable economic gains that come with playing in a more recognisable market. This is already apparent as Chargers players have since appeared on the nationally broadcast Jimmy Kimmel show.
These advantages are limited to a few with large stakes in the franchise, and instead act as a slap in the face to the loyal fans – some of whom have followed the team since its incarnation.
As a fan myself, I can empathise with the anger that has seen San Diegans burn memorabilia, protest outside the team’s training facility, and even the moving companies refusing to offer their business to the organisation.
The Chargers’ move fails to recognise the consquences experienced by both fans and the city as a whole, as it loses a staple of the local community, and a much needed economic boost.
‘Loyalty’ is a word so often used in sport, and one so often lauded by fans, players, and coaches, but appears to be notably lacking from the vocabulary of the owners.
San Diego will not be the last city subjected to such remorse, as money continues to drive the major American sports leagues, but at least someone is profiting from it. It is just a shame that the owners are the ones who need it the least.
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Beall