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Tagliabue to Suggest 'No' Vote on Ram Deal : Pro football: It seems more likely that owners will accept piece of the pie in proposed move to St. Louis.

March 10, 1995|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Paul Tagliabue, NFL commissioner, will notify all 30 clubs today that he is recommending a vote against the Rams' proposed move to St. Louis, a league source who spoke to the commissioner said.

However, it is a recommendation that sounds much like a bargaining chip.

The source said the recommendation was not final and could be changed during the league meetings next week in Phoenix.

"The recommendation is being made now because the league rules call for it to be made now," the source said. "The recommendation could change during debate. And the owners could certainly overrule it."

If eight of the 30 owners followed Tagliabue's recommendation, the Rams' move would be blocked. Considering Tagliabue's popularity, that sort of result could easily be reached.

However, the Rams will be given a chance to sway other owners by promising to pay a relocation fee--as the then-St. Louis Cardinals paid in 1988 for moving to Phoenix--while offering them a cut of the $70 million raised in permanent seat licenses. The PSL money, paid by fans for the right to buy season tickets in St. Louis, falls outside the normal boundaries of revenue sharing.

If the commissioner recommended a yes vote today, owners would lose all leverage in their hopes of collecting these fees.

"It's all about money," one team executive said.

Reports that the league wants Ram owner Georgia Frontiere to sell the team, or is worried that the sole remaining owner in Los Angeles would be Al Davis, apparently are untrue.

"The recommendation is being made on the basis that the league's interests are best served by having two teams in the Los Angeles area, period," the source said.

But that fear is expected to be eased next week when it becomes clear that Los Angeles, if it loses the Rams, will be the leading candidate for an expansion team in four or five years.

"While we are losing a big market in the short run, we are gaining a lucrative expansion market in the long run," one executive said. "As long as Georgia owns the team, the perception is that it will not succeed in Southern California."

Also working in the Rams' favor is that by opposing relocation, owners hoping for better stadium deals lose leverage with their local city officials.

"The commissioner's recommendation is very important, but teams are also going to look at it selfishly," said Jim Miller, executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints.

Owners are also worried about lawsuits, which are certain to be filed by both the Rams and the St. Louis group if the move is denied. The league lost a similar suit filed by Davis when he moved the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982.

Lawyers have said that under such conditions, the Rams would return to Los Angeles for the 1995 season while the case is in court. If the issue were decided in their favor, they would move to St. Louis in 1996 while collecting millions in damages from the league.

Remaining on the outskirts is the Committee to Save the Rams.

The league does not seem interested in the group's involvement and has not invited it to the meetings next week. But owners have admitted to being influenced by the contention that Frontiere purposely ran the team into the ground before asking to move.

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