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Relocation? is covered? by league's rule book; The process for relocating an NFL team

The slow pace of lease negotiations between the Buffalo Bills, New York State and Erie County heightens fears among area football fans about the prospect of franchise relocation.

Any relocation of a team must be approved by three-quarters of the NFL's 32 teams. That means 24 teams must OK the move.

The league's relocation policy, which is a seven-page document, states that no club has an "entitlement" to relocate simply because it perceives an opportunity for enhanced club revenues in another location. League traditions do not favor relocations if a club has been well-supported and financially successful and is expected to remain so, the policy states.

In general terms, clubs are advised to consider the league's collective interests, which include league-wide television contracts, having strong and geographically distributed franchises, having quality facilities and having clubs in the country's most populated areas.

The league lists 12 specific factors that should be considered in a proposed relocation. The most important are:

*The extent to which the club has served the fans in its community, especially in the previous four years.

*Fan loyalty and support for the team.

*The adequacy of the stadium and the willingness of the community to remedy deficiencies in it.

*The amount of public financial support the team has received.

*The club's financial performance and its continued viability in the market.

Obviously, for any team playing in an older stadium – like Buffalo – a case for relocation could be made. In that case, the team's security in its market comes down to the ownership's willingness to stay put and the strength of the lease that binds the team to the stadium.

No relocation approval can be granted for a team that is in a breach of its current stadium lease.

Los Angeles is by far the biggest relocation threat to any NFL team. The NFL repeatedly has stated it would like to have not just one, but two teams eventually playing in the country's second largest metropolitan area.

New England Patriots influential owner Robert Kraft, the head of the league's broadcasting committee, has backed the idea of two teams in L.A. and also recently stated he'd like to see a team in London in 10 years.

Los Angeles has been working for two decades to build a new stadium, without success. However, if a new stadium were in place, it's hard to imagine the league owners turning down a bid to move a team to L.A.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com