In the last two years, both the Rams and Chargers have moved to Los Angeles – from St. Louis and San Diego, respectively. The two teams will move into the newly constructed LA Stadium upon its completion in 2020. For now, the Rams are playing in the LA Coliseum and the Chargers are calling the StubHub Center home.
The newly christened Los Angeles Chargers thought that playing in a small stadium would allow for an intimate introduction to fans before the move to Inglewood in three years. They play in a stadium slightly over half as big as the next smallest NFL stadium. In the four home preseason and regular season games since moving to LA, the Chargers have had exactly zero sellouts and zero wins.
The Rams returned to LA last season after a 20-year stay in St. Louis. While their return was initially met with enthusiasm from old fans excited to have their team back, interest has dwindled. This season, the Rams are playing in the LA Coliseum, which houses over 93,000 fans, making it the largest stadium in the NFL. Rams games are typically half empty.
In week two of the NFL season, the Rams and Chargers sold a combined 81,000 tickets. By comparison, USC’s college football team, which shares the LA Coliseum with the Rams, sold 84,000 tickets.
All this information goes to show one thing. LA sports fans aren’t into football – they’re into winning.
In an article in the LA Times, journalist Bill Plaschke makes the argument that the teams' attendance issues aren’t the fault of the fans, but of the owners. LA didn’t ask the NFL to bring a team – let alone two – back to town. Instead, the NFL has spent years searching for a way to get back into the LA market. Unfortunately, the two teams combined for abismal 9-23 record last season.
LA fans have never been afraid to abandon losing teams, even storied programs like the Dodgers and Lakers.
There are some positives that derive from this fact: the NFL’s attendance struggles in LA are caused by an aversion to losing, rather than an aversion to football itself. The Rams are off to a 2-1 start this season behind a promising young core and a new coach. The Chargers’ struggles last year were largely due to injuries and close losses – they lost 8 games by 8 points or fewer. If the teams can find a way to win, their stadiums may start to fill up.
Financially, it makes sense for the league to have a presence in LA, even if ticket sales are low. It is still one of the largest markets in the country. Additionally, building the new stadium certainly played a role in securing the city’s bid for the 2028 Olympics.
But the bottom line is that moving two teams to LA in two years was a mistake on the NFL's part. Fans in Los Angeles aren’t desperate for football and will only buy tickets if the teams are good. The Rams and Chargers better hope they can piece together a couple winning seasons or one of them may be leaving LA sooner than expected.