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Disney chief to push Chargers, Raiders LA project, as cities make their case

The company behind the proposed stadium designed to house the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders in the Los Angeles market has hailed the “game changing” appointment of Disney chairman and chief executive Bob Iger, as San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis yesterday (Wednesday) fought to retain their NFL American football franchises.

Carson Holdings, a joint venture formed this year by the Chargers and Raiders, has named Iger as its non-executive chairman. The City Council in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson in April unanimously voted to approve plans for the construction of a new $1.7bn (€1.6bn) stadium that could accommodate the proposed return of the Chargers and Raiders.

Iger’s appointment to oversee their bid under a five-year contract is seen as a bold move by the Chargers and Raiders to bolster their position against the rival Inglewood stadium project backed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Iger heads one of the most successful entertainment companies in the world and Disney also owns sports broadcaster ESPN, an NFL rights partner.

“Should the owners approve the move, Los Angeles will proudly welcome two incredible teams to our community and build a stadium worthy of their fans,” Iger said in a statement. “LA football fans will enjoy unprecedented access to games during the season, in a state of the art stadium designed to deliver the most entertaining, exciting and enjoyable experience possible.”

The appointment will not impact Iger’s job at Disney, and the contract between the two allows Iger to rescue himself in situations of conflict of interest. Iger will take a nominal salary of $1, but the agreement will allow him to take a small stake in either team if he wishes, although this cannot be activated while he is in place at Disney, where he is currently contracted to the end of 2018.

“Bob Iger's inclusion as the chair and the visionary force behind the Carson project is a game-changer,” Carmen Policy, executive director of Carson Holdings, told the Los Angeles Times newspaper. “We now have the kind of leadership and expertise that should calm any concerns about any NFL teams going into L.A. and getting off on the right foot and pursuing the right course.

“And certainly if you're going to do two teams it really lends a layer of talent and experience, plus unbelievable know-how to the whole effort. Who could we get better to guarantee fan experience than the man who runs the happiest place on earth?"

Meanwhile, the three cities bidding to hold on to their NFL teams made “thorough and impassioned” presentations to the league on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press news agency. Officials from Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis spoke to the league's Los Angeles, stadium and finance committees – all three of which play some role in a potential relocation.

“This was an important day and the passion of the cities came through,” Eric Grubman, who is leading the league’s Los Angeles project, said. “The fans spoke in a very powerful way (at public forums in late October) and this was the opportunity for city leadership to speak with the passion they have directly to the owners.”

The AP said the league has set a special meeting in Dallas on December 2 at which substantial steps could come, including bringing forward from January the deadline for application to relocate. But Grubman and several owners have indicated no timetable has been formalised and that a vote on relocation could come in February or March or beyond.

A project needs the backing of 24 of the NFL’s 32 team owners to be successful. Grubman added that among team owners there has been "a common discussion of, 'this is a really tough judgment to make.'"

All three teams have ties to Los Angeles. The Rams called the area home from 1946 to 1994, while the Raiders were in the region from 1982 to 1994 before both teams relocated. The Chargers played their inaugural 1960 season in Los Angeles.