NFL says no discussions on Chargers moving back to San Diego

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Addressing speculation last week about the possibility of the Chargers moving back to San Diego, the league provided a succinct answer when responding to ESPN.com.

"We are committed to and confident of the long-term success of the two teams in Los Angeles," NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in an email.

McCarthy added that there have been no discussions about the Los Angeles Chargers moving back to San Diego.

"The NFL helped them to try and get the deal approved in San Diego," said sports business consultant Marc Ganis, who works closely with the NFL on relocation issues. "It didn't happen. And as a result, I have not heard and do not envision anyone to try and force the Chargers to look at San Diego again.

"If the Chargers choose to on their own look at San Diego or someplace else, I'm sure the league, as it has done for other teams, would be supportive. But I have heard of no one that has or is considering trying to force the Chargers to re-look at San Diego."

A story in the The Athletic speculated that there's been conversations in the league office about the Chargers moving back to San Diego.

But Chargers owner and chairman Dean Spanos said last month that he's invested in Los Angeles long term.

"The transition is never easy," Spanos said. "It was a difficult decision, an emotional decision. But we're here. I'm looking forward to the future. Los Angeles has been great. The people have been great. It's a new chapter for us and we're moving on."

However, things have not gone smoothly for the Chargers. They started the season 0-3, losing in a similarly heartbreaking fashion as they have over the past three seasons.

There's a perception nationally that the franchise can't fill the 27,000-seat StubHub Center, even though they've had announced sellouts of 25,381 and 25,386 in the team's first two games (the Chargers don't count 1,200 comp seats and about 400 seats for those with physical disabilities that they can't sell toward that attendance number).

More concerning has been the number of opposing fans who have shown up, giving the StubHub Center the feel of a road game for the Chargers.

As FiveThirtyEight.com points out, the Chargers' issue in Los Angeles is part of a larger problem regarding the return of the NFL to the city.

According to that report, the Rams are on pace for the biggest season-to-season drop in average attendance of any NFL team in 25 years among teams that didn't change stadiums.

The Rams averaged 84,457 in their return to Los Angeles after a two-decade absence last season, and through two games at home, the team is averaging about 58,000 fans per game, down from last season by roughly 26,000.

"There were concerns before two teams were approved to go to L.A.," Ganis said. "There were quite a few owners who thought L.A. was a one-team market. There were other people who were convinced it was a two-team market, and I suspect those people have some second thoughts now. But this is being viewed as a generational decision, not a one- or two-year decision."

The Chargers remain committed to making things work in Los Angeles for a few reasons.

They've invested more than a million dollars in the team's new training facility at Jack Hammett Sports Complex and tens of millions in both the Hoag Performance Center and StubHub Center.

But ultimately the Chargers are working toward the opening of the new $2.6 billion Inglewood Stadium they will share with the Rams starting in 2020. The Chargers could start marketing season tickets as early as the end of this year but likely in 2018.

According to Forbes, the team's value rose 9 percent to $2.275 billion this year. However, the Chargers would have to pay a fee back to the league if they sold a portion of the team within the first 15 years of relocating to Los Angeles.

And on the off chance the Chargers would consider moving back to San Diego, where would they play?

The California Supreme Court recently ruled that citizens' initiatives now require a simple majority, not two-thirds, to pass at the ballot. That would have made the Chargers' citizens' initiative effort to raise taxes for a new stadium last year easier to pass. The Chargers received just 43 percent support by city voters.

However, the city of San Diego has not put forth any new stadium proposals to the league in order to bring back an NFL team.

Ganis points out that unlike other communities that lost teams and immediately began putting stadium deals together to attract another NFL team, there's been no such effort in San Diego.

"Where is San Diego in all of this?" Ganis said. "From everything that I've seen, they're nowhere. So it's a hypothetical discussion based on no activity within San Diego to step up.

"Compare and contrast to Houston, Baltimore and St. Louis. When those three communities lost their teams, they came together and put together stadium deals to try and attract teams. That hasn't happened in San Diego."