In the days before the climactic Tuesday NFL owners meeting in Houston, I predicted the Rams project in Inglewood would prevail and the Chargers would join them there. I wasn’t the only one who did that.

I made the point that Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plan to persuade the NFL to block a move like that had failed.

I’m not quite sure how wrong I was. The Chargers did get that spot in Inglewood — they can be equity partners with the Rams in what’s being touted as the greatest NFL stadium ever conceived.

But Chargers owner Dean Spanos was clearly and deeply disappointed. His demeanor indicated he had great hopes his plan for Carson — developed with the Raiders and later with Disney CEO Bob Iger — would win approval.

I thought that they would have anticipated this outcome, planned for what they would demand and then, if they got it, take it. Apparently they still have a lot to work out.

The chair of the Republican Party of San Diego, Tony Krvaric asked if I had egg on my face.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

The mayor’s political adviser, Jason Roe, claimed triumph. “This is what victory looks like,” he tweeted with a screen shot of the news on television.

But if the outcome of the meeting was a defeat for Spanos, I hope to someday have similar defeats.

Spanos now has successfully convinced his colleagues that he has done all he can to get a stadium in San Diego, satisfying their rules for being allowed to leave a home market. He was given first right of refusal to move to L.A. and he has a spot at the new Inglewood stadium. He doesn’t have to be a tenant there if he doesn’t want to be. He can raise money and be a partner with Kroenke.

Right now, he’s working on that deal and he’ll surely come to some terms. If they’re good, he’ll take it. If he’s unsure, the city essentially pays the Chargers to play at Qualcomm Stadium and he can stay here for another year to decide.

Already, San Diego officials are talking about enhancing the deal they’re offering him.  And the NFL owners offered him another $100 million grant to close a deal in San Diego — not a loan, straight cash to bridge the gap between what he has and what the public officials are willing to put up for a stadium here.

Some defeat!

Last year at this time, the mayor was just announcing his creation of a task force to decide where a stadium should be and how we would pay for it. Spanos was so disgusted with what he perceived as a slight and another delay, he managed to provoke a mobilization of the city and county unlike anything we’ve ever seen. And now, a year later, and millions in tax dollars spent, the mayor and a county supervisor have produced a stadium plan that they are openly willing to scrap to bend to whatever other wishes Spanos might have. Their only demand is that he talk to them.

Faulconer expressed almost complete flexibility. I say “almost” because he stopped short of saying the city would be willing to offer Spanos more money, and Faulconer is still insisting the voters get final say on any deal.

But Faulconer used to also insist that Spanos commit to San Diego for years in order for Faulconer to justify exploring options downtown for a stadium. No more. Faulconer would not lay that demand out again in his press conference Wednesday.

“As you know, there’s some real challenges to a downtown site. We don’t own the property, you need to move the busyard. It’s going to require a lot more time, and likely a lot more money,” Faulconer said. The Chargers would not only need to show a willingness to go through that.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith was only slightly more demanding.

“If the Chargers want to pursue downtown, we’re happy to speak with them. Since it’s going to take multi years to get a lot of these things done downtown, we can’t put our city in a position of where we don’t know if the Chargers are staying while we implement the plan,” Goldsmith said.

Thus, Spanos finds himself in a strong position. He can get back to the table here and they’re practically begging him to demand more concessions of them. If he still isn’t happy with what he gets, he has a path to Inglewood waiting for him.

The NFL itself is ready to help San Diego pull a deal together and it seems clear that if Spanos and San Diego get on the same page, then time doesn’t have to be such a pressure point. In fact, the resolution the NFL owners agreed to says a committee of owners can decide to give Spanos a second year to keep his spot in Los Angeles before they hand the opportunity over to the Raiders.

What’s more, Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Rams, cannot sell naming rights, corporate suites or personal seat licenses in his new Inglewood facility until another team agrees to join him there or until 2017. So he has some remaining incentive to work in good faith with Spanos, and quickly.

Spanos may have lost a contest Tuesday. But in the elite, isolated world of NFL economics and power, even after a so-called defeat, he’s far better off than he was Monday.

As for the mayor, no, the city has not lost the Chargers yet. Perhaps it was because of the mayor’s strategy. But Spanos got the go-ahead to move. The choice is now his. And they’re willing to do a lot to make him choose San Diego.

Forgive me for not being entirely clear who really won this round.

    This article relates to: Chargers Stadium, Land Use, Must Reads

    Written by Scott Lewis

    Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently breaks news and goes back and forth with local political figures. Contact Scott at or 619.325.0527, and follow him on Twitter at @vosdscott.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    Scott,if you think there was ever any chance Spanos would not have been given permission to move, just recheck some of the things NFL suits have said about the Q.No more Super Bowls, disgrace, decrepit, etc.  Spanos would have us believe he lost, and I agree with him in a sense. At Inglewood, whatever Kroenke agrees to, you can bet the Chargers will be numero dos.  At Carson, they had a chance to be the lead partner because Marc Davis is even more “destitute” than Spanos.

    And how would you like Donald Trump for a business partner?  With Kroenke, Spanos will have sleepless nights wondering what Kroenke will come up with next.  Remember, this is, in effect, a trust fund baby, a guy who never had to look for and hold a real job, and it explains his chronic indecisiveness.  Check out his resume’ in Wikipedia.  He must be terrified of Kroenke.

    This decision gives San Diego a lot of leverage if Faulconer will use it, assuming we really want this sorry excuse for an owner.  Let’s put THAT to a vote.

    Richard Tanner
    Richard Tanner subscriber

    Watch out San Diego,  our Mayor is not qualified to negotiate at his level.  He continues to spend our funds to get something he believes is an agreement.  The NFL owners are a very tough group and our Mayor thinks he can outsmart them.  Not going to happen. A fair deal is in the eyes of the one who gets the money and the way the Mayor is going that will not be San Diego.  He promised a vote, well where is it.  Just because he believes he can use funds to promise money to NFL, he is wrong.  If I were going to negotiate with NFL owners I sure would not hire the Mayor and City Attorney.

    Kenneth Thygerson
    Kenneth Thygerson

    By the time this issue reaches a negotiated settlement between Spanos, San Diego pols, and Krone, the nation's economy will be much weaker than is it today.  The tax money inflow into San Diego will have peaked, pension requirements will rise as stock prices continue to fall, and demands for infrastructure improvement will increase as El Nino destroys more public assets. Spanos will go to LA if its still available.

    Time to move on.

    Bob Stein
    Bob Stein subscriber

    Our civic manipulators have been telling us (for years) we can’t have a vote on public financing for a stadium until there’s a plan on which to vote.

    Now we have a plan. 

    It’s been printed in a glossy brochure; made into a PowerPoint; published in the Union-Tribune; presented in New York, and is the basis by which the NFL decided what to do with the Chargers earlier this week.

    The plan says we the people will give $350 million of our money to build a stadium.

    Even his emptiness, our mayor, has repeatedly said he will not support spending more than that amount -- $350 million is, apparently, the limit.

    So what are we waiting for?  Let’s vote, at least on the limit.

    Surely, each side wants to know where they stand; each wants an end to the wasteful and acrimonious negotiations, or as Goodell clearly put it, “certainty.” Let’s give it to them.

    You’re an insider Scott.  We read your site for insight we can’t get elsewhere.  What’s going on? Why are we still getting back peddling, side stepping and shucking and jiving from our civic cheerleaders when it comes to a vote, which they’re now claiming can’t happen at least till November?

    I’m not asking for a Jan Goldsmith rendition of the technical hurdles. That’s his smoke and mirrors. I’m asking for commentary on the politics: What’s Faulconer scheming?  Whose interest is he protecting and why?  What does he know about how a vote will go that he isn’t saying? 

    Curiously, Faulconer “vowed” in his speech last night to pursue a ballot measure to expand the San Diego Convention Center on the waterfront, saying a lawsuit holding up the project is costing the local economy tens of millions of dollars.

    Gee, you’d think a guy with this much interest in the financial welfare of San Diegans would be screaming for a stadium vote, if not personally tallying votes door-to-door.

    bgetzel subscriber

    Actually, Spanos is in a tough position! First, cracking a deal with Krone will not be easy, as the man is a shark. Kronke holds all the cards in a negotiation and he knows it. Secondly, by all accounts, Angelinos appear to have an allegiance to the Rams, and the Chargers would have to compete in ticket sales against that, even if they can make a deal in L.A. The Chargers San Diego alternative has major risks. If the Chargers wait for a Stadium vote here, the Rams would be playing in L.A. for at least a year by that point, further building up fan allegiance. Going to L.A. in 2017 or 2018, after a failed San Diego vote (which is likely) or lawsuit (even more likely)), could be disastrous for them. Thus, the likely scenario is for the Chargers to crack a not so lucrative deal ( relatively, as everyone makes money in the NFL) with Kronke within the next 6 weeks, thereby facilitating their move in time for next season. Good Night and Good Luck!

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    @bgetzel What sort of deal do you have in mind? LA is totally out of Spanos' spending comfort zone.

    bgetzel subscriber

    @Dean Plassaras @bgetzel

    That is a problem, and Kronke is no pushover. However, if the Chargers chose SD, and the voters do not support the deal or there is a lawsuit to stop the stadium, Spanos is in pickle. My guess is that he will strain to raise the cash required for the L.A. deal, rather than risk nowhere land in San Diego. 

    Stanton subscriber

    Spanos has zero leverage in any future negotiations with the city and people of San Diego. It's over. Any remaining Charger games at Qualcomm will be home games for the visitors.

    Edward Moretti
    Edward Moretti

    Spanos got $100 million to stay in San Diego. He lost the opportunity to get filthy rich, that went to Kronke. Goldman Sachs is gone. Why be a tenant or, worse, owner of only the stadium? Aren't you the one always telling us how stadiums are not profitable? Spanos is coming back to the negotiation table and pretend he has all the leverage. He doesn't. He knows it, the Mayor knows it and, no matter your propaganda, the fans know it. As I've said since the beginning, the Chargers are staying. Stop the spin and deal with it.

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    The NFL hosed Spanos in two separate and distinct ways: 1. They(NFL) killed Carson for good and 2. established the entry (relocation) fee to LA to $550 Mil. To speak of a Spanos LA option is not serious talk. Spanos is trapped in SD.

    To say that "Spanos is in strong position" means you have no clue about negotiations. 

    Dan Jones
    Dan Jones

    Regardless of who won this round, please tell me you aren't concerned about anything that comes out of Tony Krvaric's mouth.  That's pure comedy right there.

    Erik Bruvold
    Erik Bruvold subscribermember

    Another good piece from Scott.  Just some clarity/additional details.  The resolution said the chargers have to let the league know by annual meeting (right around March 20) where they will be playing in 16-17.  Given the lead time required to market tixs and to figure out details for 10 additional Sundays somewhere in LA I think it fair to predict that we will have a clear signal of which way the winds are blowing well within 4 to 6 weeks.  Plus the Chargers will want to let free agents know (I believe the window opens March 1) where they will be playing.  Given all the above, unless Kronke asks for the moon they are gone.

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    @Erik Bruvold Spanos said that he only wants to be an equal partner w/ Kroenke in LA. Kroenke's present stadium design per the LA Times is estimated to be $2.6 Billion. To be an equal partner Spanos must pay 50% of the cost or $1.3 Bil. + the relocation fee of $550 Mil. Such amount would place Spanos out of LA contention.

    Grammie subscribermember

    Scott, you may not be able to tell who really won this round, but why do I have this sneaky feeling that the tax payers will end up being the losers? 

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Grammie We already are, because of decisions made long ago by politicians long gone.  We're actually paying the Chargers to play in a stadium we own and maintain, and if they leave (and I hope they do), the taxpayers are stuck with a stadium with tens of millions of deferred maintenance and over 40 million owed on the ill-conceived and poorly executed remodel.  We either decide we don't want pro football and eat these dollars, which I can personally live with just fine because they are finite, not pie in the sky.  Or, we can find another team if the Chargers leave.  If there's a third option, let me know.