Are the Rams at home in LA?

The Rams have been one of the more mobile teams in the NFL in terms of relocation. The team has called three different cities home and has brought a Superbowl win to two of them. Despite their recent success, the Rams are still plagued with attendance issues and low ratings.

Los Angeles is a bustling sports town. LA County is home to over 10 million people. The list of professional sports teams calling LA home includes the Lakers and the Clippers (NBA), the Angels and the Dodgers (MLB), the Ducks and the Kings (NHL), the Chargers and the Rams (NFL), the Sparks (WNBA), and the Galaxy (MLS). With so many people and so many teams, it’s unusual that the Rams would be forced to rely on a silent count at their home opener after a Super Bowl-winning season. [1]

Map depicting LA sports teams – Sport League Maps

The lackluster welcoming of the Rams fanbase might be attributable to the team’s reluctance to stay in one spot. The Rams team began its life in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams. The team played in the AFL for a year before transitioning to the NFL. In 1946, the team made its first move to LA.[2] The Rams existed in LA for five decades after the move from Cleveland. During that time, the team experienced many ups and downs, but it consistently attracted many fans. [3] In 1995, the team made a move to St. Louis.

The Rams’ move to St. Louis was one of mixed emotions. For the City of St. Louis, the feeling was urgency. In 1988, the St. Louis Cardinals flew to Phoenix and left behind a city accustomed to professional football. St. Louis initially looked to expansion teams to fill the hole. The plan was to bait the team with a new stadium. Administrative issues doomed the plan, and the city missed out on the two teams. Freshly desperate from the loss, and now possessing a professional stadium with no team to occupy it, the city courted the Rams with an agreement to pay $20 million in relocation costs and over $35 million in additional debts held by the Rams. [4] For the majority owner of the Rams, Georgia Frontiere, the feeling was joy. Frontiere, the first woman owner of an NFL team, was ecstatic to bring an NFL team to her hometown of St. Louis, and the city would pay for the entire move to boot. [5] For the City of Los Angeles, the feeling was loss. For LA, 1995 marked the loss of both the Rams and the Raiders. At the time LA was (and still is) the second largest TV market in the country. Despite the numbers, within a few months, the city lost two prized teams[6] and faced uncertainty in the broadcasting market.[7]

The Rams’ return to LA was another emotional experience. The St. Louis stadium lease expired in 2014. In 2012, the Rams and St. Louis were $576 million apart in negotiations over a new facility. [8] The two sides entered arbitration to resolve the gap. The result was a binding ruling entitling the Rams to a top-tier stadium. As this process unfolded, Rams majority owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land in Inglewood, California. Negotiations failed despite a final offer for a billion-dollar stadium along the St. Louis archway, and the team reverted back to LA.[9] The NFL and the Rams later settled claims of bad faith, settling with the City of St. Louis for $780 million.

Rendering of St.Louis’ proposed stadium – HOK Network

Moving back to LA was met with high approval by the league and its ownership. The NFL heralded the Rams’ move back to LA as a “landmark opportunity.”[10] Stan Kroenke blamed St. Louis for having a difficult market, [11] building off statements he made in his relocation proposal. [12] In support of moving the team, Stan Kroenke submitted a statement of relocation claiming that the St. Louis game attendance was below market average, and declared there was fan support for bringing the team to Los Angeles based on limited market studies.[13] It is unclear if these claims are completely true.

Fan attendance in LA is not the most impressive. From 2016 to 2020, the team was consistently ranked in the bottom third in home attendance percentage.[14] The lackluster performance could be attributable to the Rams’ previous venue at the LA Coliseum. However, it does not explain why the Rams felt the need to limit ticket sales to 49ers fans in an NFC championship playoff game in a brand new stadium. [15]

The Rams have a mixed showing in T.V. viewership as well. Los Angeles is the second highest-rated TV market overall.[16] However, the Rams rank 29th in local viewership, in front of only the Chargers, the Giants, and the Jets (the Bills are ranked first). [17] During last year’s Superbowl, Cincinnati OH, Detroit MI, and Pittsburg PA were the top three markets in terms of ratings, with all three markets over 45% viewership per household. [18] Comparatively, the LA market had a rating of 36% of households tuning into the game. However, that 36% of households still represents 5x the number of homes in Cincinnati.[19] The size of the LA TV market makes it difficult to directly compare to smaller markets. It is clear that while the Rams may not dominate the ratings, their reach is still extremely broad.

The Rams move to LA should not be classified as unsuccessful. The team is fresh off a Super Bowl win and has a growing fanbase. The team has struggled with attendance and holding high ratings, but the team still reaches many people through the LA market. The team’s move history may have put a bad taste in the mouth of fans, but the Rams leadership is hopeful that winning will put that history behind them and energize new fans.[20] While the Rams struggle with fans now, another winning season might put the issue to rest.




[4] St. Louis Convention & Visitors Com’n v Natl. Football League, 154 F3d 851 [8th Cir 1998]

















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