When Tim Leiweke, president/CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which is trying to build a stadium and bring the NFL back to Los Angeles, said he spoke to five teams about relocating, the Bills were not mentioned. But there is plenty of reason to believe that when an NFL franchise returns to L.A., it could be the Bills.
Owner Ralph Wilson's position has never changed — the team will go to the highest bidder after he dies. While he has expressed his desire for the Bills to stay in Buffalo, it will be out of his hands.
To keep up with the rest of the NFL in profits and to overcome a small TV market, cheap tickets and a declining population, the Bills already have had to expand their brand, which includes selling games to Toronto.
CEO Russ Brandon discussed the team's future with multiple media outlets on the heels of the unveiling of new uniforms, pushing the Bills' regionalization in Ontario, Canada and Rochester, N.Y.
"Back 5-10 years ago, no one thought we would sell 160 suites, that we would sell 188 suites in the new NFL, so to speak. We were able to accomplish that by regionalizing," he said.
"We are very happy in Buffalo and we are focused on Buffalo," Brandon added. "Our focus is right here in Buffalo — point blank, period."
One key in the Bills' future lies in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The stadium's lease with Erie County is up at the end of 2012. Brandon said he has talked with Chris Collins, the county executive, about the lease, but he said that not much could be done without a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The buyout of the lease is reportedly very low.
The proposed new CBA is expected to require teams to spend most of the salary cap, something that could hurt small-market teams like the Bills. Combining all the economic factors going against Buffalo, a move to L.A. makes sense, where regionalization isn't necessary and the TV market is huge.
Another thing to consider is the AEG group wants to not only build a stadium but also put up the money to own the team and bring it to L.A. The Bills, unlike the Vikings, Chargers and Rams, will be up for sale sooner than later, as Wilson is 92 years old.
The Bills do have one of the NFL's most dedicated fan bases, a history of success (though not recently) and they are showing signs of improvement on the field. But the way we hear it, that might not matter when the team gets a new owner, and that the Bills are a very viable candidate to relocate.
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