By HOWARD FINE
For many cities seeking a National Football League team, civic efforts are unified and directed to NFL owners, who make the ultimate decision. No thought is given to selling the idea to local media and fans they're already rabid supporters.
Such is not the case in L.A.
The Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission is holding a football conference on July 30 at the Loews Beach Hotel in Santa Monica.
The purpose of the all-day, invitation-only conference?
To convince local media and fans that having a pro football team is actually something desirable.
"There is a major misperception about the politics and the process involved in bringing a football team to the city," said Kathryn Schloessman, president of the Sports and Entertainment Commission. "We've been without football for three years now, so the media are beginning to assume that the fact a team is not here yet means that the NFL does not really want a team here."
But Los Angeles sports management consultant David Carter said the media merely reflects a more jaded public that saw the Raiders and Rams leave the region in the space of a year.
"In other communities, the press might be willing to help manufacture the interest in football that is needed to draw a franchise," Carter said. "But not in L.A., where our press is a little more cynical about the whole process after seeing the two football teams leave."
Even if the intended audience does show up and is receptive to the information being presented, chances are slim that the conference will lead to any concrete progress on L.A. obtaining an NFL team, sports industry experts said.
"At the end of the day, this conference won't address the key issue at the center of the debate, which is the whole issue of where it's best for an NFL team to be," said Mark Rosentraub, a professor and associate dean at the University of Indiana, who has followed the siting of NFL football franchises. "So you'll still have the same divisions and all the sniping that has been going on up to now continuing after this is over."
Indeed, the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission is explicitly avoiding the issue of which L.A. stadium proposal is best.
"We want to demonstrate to the NFL that L.A. wants a team," said Schloessman. "We would like to see a unified front at some point, but that's not our goal right now. We don't want to play sites off each other."
Even so, City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the main booster of the Coliseum site, is a participant in one of the panel discussions. Representatives of the other two contending sites the Carson industrial site backed by Michael Ovitz and a site at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station near Irvine do not have any official role at the conference.
Two key National Football League officials are scheduled to participate in the conference: Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers and chairman of the NFL's Stadium Committee, and Roger Gooddell, NFL senior executive vice president in charge of stadium and league development.
Richardson's role is something akin to moral support.
"It took Jerry Richardson almost seven years to bring a football team to Charlotte and that's one of the reasons why we invited him, to explain why it can take so long," Schloessman said.
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