From 2019, the Oakland Raiders, one of the NFL’s most recognisable franchises, will be making the move to southern Nevada, as the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Raiders relocation bid received 31 of the 32 ownership votes, although only 24 are needed to enforce the relocation.
The lone dissenting voice among NFL ownership was that of Miami Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross. Following the vote, Ross released a statement stating, “My position today was that we as owners and as a league owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted. I want to wish Mark Davis and the Raiders organisation the best in Las Vegas,” Ross said.
Raiders owner Mark Davis, had fought for several years to get the funding from California for an independent stadium, to ensure the football teams survival in Oakland, but had been repeatedly turned down by authorities. That decision ultimately settled Oakland’s footballing fate.
The Raiders are currently the only NFL franchise that shares a stadium with another professional sporting franchise, the MLB’s Oakland Athletics.
With the move to Vegas, the Raiders will be receiving a brand new 65,000 seat, domed stadium, that they will share will the University Of Nevada, Las Vegas. However, the stadium will not be completed until 2020, thus ensuring that the Raiders will remain in Oakland for at 2017 and 2018 at least.
In a press conference following the announcement, Davis even speculated that there was a possibility of playing the 2019 season in the Bay Area, “If they want us, we’d seriously consider it,” Davis told ESPN.
The decision was received with anger and disappointment among many in the Oakland area. It was a sentiment that Davis addressed during his press conference, as he tried to mollify Oakland fans and yet remain excited and optimistic for the future.
“I have mixed feelings; it’s very bittersweet. I understand [Oakland fans] will be angry and disappointed. Raider Nation is the greatest fan base in the world and we’re going to build something to make them proud,” Davis said.
“But I also want them to give as much support to the team as possible as we attempt to bring a championship to the Bay Area,” Davis said.
“My father always said, ‘the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,’ and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness,” Davis said.
Head Coach, Jack Del Rio speaking to ESPN’s Ed Werder said, “”My emotions are mixed. While I’m sad for family, friends and fans in the Oak area, I also recognise the tremendous opportunity going forward for our organisation.
“That being said, my mission remains the same. To lead this team here and now. Players and coaches need to understand their defined roles. We all need to bring positive energy every day as we focus on things that we control,” Del Rio said.
It’s not hard to sympathise with local Raiders fans in this situation. With a team that has struggled enormously since its last Super Bowl appearance back in 2003, including only a single playoff appearance, three months ago. This long suffering fan base finally succeeded in finding a franchise quarterback, Derek Carr, who had a MVP calibre season in 2016.
Despite a broken leg for Carr in December, that prematurely ended their season. The future for the Oakland Raiders appeared bright and prosperous. Now there’s a certain feeling of dejection that has infected Bay Area fans, success that was for so long prophesied and promised will be viewed and celebrated in another American city. Make no mistake, the move was motivated by financial reasoning, NFL owners despite swimming in an ocean of cash, wanted the 32nd most financially viable footballing franchise to abandon its base in search of greater fiscal returns.
Owners and fans of the other 31 franchises, even those with a storied and successful history had better hope and pray, that the same fate doesn’t befall them whilst the NFL moves to fill its coffers with every last cent.