ANAHEIM — Hockey and now baseball, so why not football too?
Tony Tavares, Disney Sports Enterprises president, said Disney has not ruled it out. But National Football League rules prohibit such a venture for two reasons: The league does not allow cross-ownership of sports franchises and requires that football be the primary purpose of any corporation buying a franchise.
The NFL remains flexible, however. A year ago it gave conditional approval to H. Wayne Huizenga to buy the Miami Dolphins, although he already owned the Florida Marlins and the Florida Panthers.
Huizenga runs the Dolphins, but the league maintained the right to force him to sell the team unless it revises its rules before a mid-1997 deadline.
Most NFL observers believe that the league will not address the cross-ownership and corporate issues before that time but will eventually approve the needed changes in its rules.
"I would be one who would want the change in corporate ownership," said John Shaw, St. Louis Rams president. "I would think that would be in the best interests of the National Football League."
The NFL has indicated a willingness to place a National Football Conference team in Southern California sometime in the next three years to replace the Rams, who recently gained approval to leave Anaheim.
"I think the move made by Disney with baseball has got to be positive reinforcement for the Orange County area," said Frank Bryant, who will be working with the newly formed NFL Booster Club to bring football to Orange County. "I think there was an opinion elsewhere that this was an area that did not support professional sports. But this can only help to change that opinion."
But why did Disney choose the Angels over football?
"Something was for sale," Tavares said.
Georgia Frontiere, Ram owner, had been approached previously by Disney but steadfastly refused to discuss selling her team.
Leigh Steinberg, one of the Save the Rams organizers, told league owners Orange County would support an NFL team and said he could produce a long list of buyers willing to make a go of it with the Rams here.
"Disney was never given the opportunity with Mrs. Frontiere that Mrs. Autry has given them," Steinberg said. "I think you will see now that the so-called stadium problem will not be a difficult problem for Disney and the city of Anaheim. They obviously have a close relationship.
"Disney knows, as the NFL should know, that the proximity of Disneyland, the Convention Center, The Pond and prospectively a new baseball and football stadium creates one of the most exciting entertainment corridors in the country."