Rams COO Kevin Demoff joined the show this morning to talk bout the Rams playing games in London and more. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here. For those of you who can't listen, the transcript is below courtesy of Intern Zac.
Tim: Many people are concerned, disappointed. I saw you on Fox 2, we played that live here on the show acknowledging that you’ve received a few angry emails and as you may have just heard from that caller, some people are excited about going to London to see the Rams play the Patriots. But, I think overwhelmingly in St. Louis this morning this feels like a warning sign for what the future may hold for the Rams stability in St. Louis.
Demoff: I think that, and I understand where that is coming from given the lease discussions, this is completely independent of the lease. This is part of our vision for continuing to grow the franchise both regionally and globally, and trying to make us a great franchise. And we view this as a positive for our young club to get exposure internationally and both nationally to be chosen by the NFL and it’s a chance to highlight St. Louis I know in the short term people are going to look at this and say ‘what does this mean?’ what it means is that we are going to continue to grow our franchise that is respected around the league, country and St. Louis. To us, this is an opportunity to make ourselves better and to find ways to grow our fan base and become a bigger and more relevant player in the NFL. It may not feel like that this morning and that may seem long-term, when the loss of a game is short-term, we get that. But we think this is a good thing in the long-term.
Jim: Kevin, let me first just say I appreciate the availability of you not running from this and willing to face it head on, but I’m having a hard time understanding how playing overseas and taking a game like the Patriots game that local fans want to see, and moving it overseas is a good way to expand your footprint in St. Louis. That’s the tough thing that I’m trying to figure out.
Demoff: Well, the best way to expand our footprint in St. Louis is to win games, become a better organization and to solve the lease situation, that’s the best way to expand our footprint in St. Louis. And, we need to figure out ways to continue to increase our revenue, increase our viability and things like this make us a greater player across the league. Now maybe we get more primetime games, we’re an upcoming team in the league’s eyes. The league is now invested in our future both in London and in St. Louis. And so, when we look at that, we think this is a tremendous opportunity. Plus, everything that St. Louis is doing as a community right now is about trying to expand internationally. Look at the china house, look at the lease and trade delegation with Indonesia. Everything is about growing into a global world, and we want to be a part of that.
Jim: The scary part is, I understand all that, and the league certainly has expressed interest in becoming international. So, if you’re a rams fan and the owner has a stadium over there and now the team is going to play a series of regular season games over there, you’re thinking, ‘OK, international means our team is moving.’
Demoff: And I think that is jumping to a conclusion that is not there. I don’t think anybody right now is picturing us moving to London, or this being part of that. Just in the same way that the teams that played there previously weren’t trying to move to London. The Buccaneers have played there twice, the Saints have played there, the 49ers play there, the San Diego Chargers, teams that have no desire to move play games in London. It is part of an international series over the next three years in which the league plans to host two, maybe three games in London. And, we wanted to be at the forefront of that movement because we thought it was best for the long-term interest for our franchise. But, I certainly do think people will say ‘Oh my god, Stan has a soccer team in London, they could be moving there.’ But, we look at this and we increase our dialogue with Arsenal and say, ‘How do we get Arsenal to come play an exhibition game in St. Louis now. How do we get them to reciprocate this trade and invest in our community?’ That’s the beginning of a long discussion, and when we found out that this week that we’d get a chance to play in London, we thought it was a tremendous honor. But, we’re just at the beginning of trying to figure out how we maximize it to our fans and to the city, but I do recognize that when some people wake up this morning and look at their email from us and say, ‘I don’t get it.’
Tim: The difference between the Rams and the teams you cited is that, with the exception of the Buccaneers, there isn’t another franchise that has an owner who has another franchise in London. And then secondly, none of those teams committed three straight years to play there. And the Rams, according to Bernie Miklasz via a tweet this morning, were one of the teams willing to sacrifice one of their local home games and go over to London. And putting those things together is what has the paranoia, I think at an all-time high at this particular moment.
Demoff: Well, look the paranoia, to be honest, I wish I could say that it is going to be dampened , but it’s going to be at an all-time high because of February 1st, and the negotiations with the city. And obviously, with both sides playing their cards very close to their chest. People are worried that if in three months we were to work out a deal on the lease, I don’t think people would say or be as worried about the future. We look at this at how do we make this franchise viable in the long-term. And obviously, our goal is to work with the city to help do that, but this is a way to that as well. Just because we were the team that was chosen, doesn’t mean we were the only team interested, I can promise you that. And, that’s why someone who looks at this may say ‘The Rams are the only team willing to do this.’ I can promise that is not true, there were many teams willing to do it. And that’s why we were thrilled that the league selected our proposal. But, I think paranoia is going to be high throughout St. Louis until something gets worked out with the lease. We’re smart enough to figure that out, and we’re smart enough to know that there’s not a lot we can do to combat that except to say that we want to be in St. Louis, but we also know that actions speak greater than words. And for two months we heard that because we didn’t make a decision on the coach we weren’t talking about that, but we were committing to losing and that was part of the plan to move. And we weren’t going to hire a good coach, and we wanted to lose, and I think people see that was baseless. And we hope that in time our actions prove that the paranoia is baseless as well.
Doug: Can you honestly tell fans today that there are no plans right now to move the Rams?
Demoff: I can tell you 100% that our focus is on winning in St. Louis in 2012 and building a winner in St. Louis for decades to come. We are not working with anything except trying to build a winning franchise here; and, obviously part of that is going through the lease discussions and making sure that we remain viable as a winner. And we’ve made a large investment in our time with the hiring of Coach Fisher, and the coaching staff and continuing to spend to the salary cap, but we’re always looking for ways to make sure that we can continue to put a great product on the field, and this is one of those ways. And we look at it, there’s only so much, we can’t go to St. Louis and say ‘Look, we want to raise ticket prices, we want to do all these things,’ not when we have played as badly as we have played. And, with our record on the field, we have made it harder on ourselves to grow our franchise; we’ll be the first to tell you that. When you go 15-65 over the past five years, there aren’t a lot of avenues to get people excited. But I would think that with the addition of Jeff Fisher, with what we plan to do with this team, with what should be a great coaching staff, we’re starting to make strides to become relevant again in the NFL, and if we can do that while still maintaining a cost competitiveness in St. Louis and really treating the fans well, people will start to see that larger plan over time. They are not going to see it today; I understand that, we all get that. But, the goal is to help them see it over time, and when we get this all resolved, we are committed to try and find a way to get the lease situation fixed, and we’re excited about what the city’s going to propose in February and where we can go, then we’ll start to move forward. But, in the grand scheme, I think this is a good thing for St. Louis, a good thing for our fans, and we’ll ask you for our trust and that, and I know right now we haven’t done a lot to show that trust, but we are working hard to earn that now.
Tim: I respect you for coming on doing this, and when you know based on the amount of emails you’ve gotten that this isn’t going over well. I just don’t see how it can be taken as a good thing, whether you want to talk about it short or long-term, especially for fans that are going to lose 12.5% of their home games over the next three years, and the downtown businesses who are going to lose 12.5%. And, I think we would agree that the most glamorous home game this coming here, the Patriots game, is the one that is gone in 2012, I don’t see it. I want to hear your explanation for it but I have a tough time buying into that.
Demoff: Well, I think that next year we have a lot of glamorous home games with the Packers, the Jets, the Patriots and we were excited about the 49ers game because they won 13 games this year. But, when you look at the schedule in advance, if I remember correctly I heard in November that people didn’t want to come to our games anymore, it kind of changes throughout the season. Obviously, we are working in way to make this relevant; I think it is an exciting thing for our season ticket holders, and for our fans nationally to go to this game. When you take away a home game, there’s going to be a piece of regret, and I don’t think there’s a lot you can do to change that. As far as the downtown businesses, the best thing we can do for downtown businesses is to make all of our games relevant, get a playoff game, to keep becoming a better franchise that can make our games a must-see destinations, we saw our attendance tail off at the end of this season because we were so bad. We’re looking at ways to get our fan base excited about the team, and if we are consistently competing for playoff appearances and if we’re playing good football, it will do a lot for this community. We saw what it did in 2010, when we were getting to the end and we were playing the 49ers and the Chiefs and those games were packed, and when we played the Eagles this season, that game was packed. But, our goal is to become relevant for all 17 weeks of the NFL season, to become relevant for bars and restaurants and when we’re on the road, and we think this team has a chance to be a draw across St. Louis and a national front for people to focus on. We are also looking at ways to maybe host a watch party at the Edward Jones Done and open it up for free and let fans come and watch and have a good party, and some of those things. There are a lot of creative solutions, and again we are at the beginning of this process, not at the end of this process. And as far as giving up something to get something, and we thought what we’d get from the NFL long-term, in terms of respectability, in terms of attractiveness, in terms of a greater stage to get our guys a trip to the Pro Bowl, making ourselves a more attractive franchise for free agents; there were a lot of positives and a few negatives, but we thought long-term, the positives outweighed the negatives.
Jim: Kevin, I understand going into negotiations, there are things you can and can’t say, and maybe you’ve said this in other ways, but I am a little paranoid right now. Can you say that a priority for this organization is to do everything within its power to stay in the city of St. Louis, are you prepared to say something along those lines?
Demoff: Look, we talk for three years every time the lease questions come up; we need to find a great solution for St. Louis. People look at us as the ones driving the ship, but I look at this as a bigger issue for St. Louis. What happens to Mizzou-Illinois? We want to get Final Fours back, we want to get Frozen Fours back, we want to compete for FIFA soccer events during the World Cup, we want to be able to host a bowl game, we want to be able to do a lot of things in the Edward Jones Dome, and we want a building that works for St. Louis 365 days a year, not just the nine or ten times a year that we play at the Edward Jones Dome. Our hope is that we can come to a global solution as a community on what is a respected building for St. Louis. And it’s not just about us, I know people want to make it all about us because we have the top-tier requirements, but we need to get a building that is competitive in the Midwest for events and that can put St. Louis on the map. When you see Kenny Chesney concerts going to Kansas City instead of St. Louis, when you see FIFA soccer going to Kansas City and Chicago, when you see a Super bowl in Indianapolis and when you see a Final Four in Indianapolis, all of those things, there is no reason that St. Louis shouldn’t be as competitive with Kansas City and Indianapolis and some of those places. And that’s how we view this, because that is what’s best for St. Louis; it’s not just about us.
Jim: Kevin, I just don’t care about Kenny Chesney, I just don’t want the NFL team to leave, and you’re not saying anything that makes me feel more secure that it’s not.
Demoff: Well, you know, we’re not going to come out and release discussion, saying what people want to hear and do something different. We obviously want to get the lease situation right, and we want to get a great situation for St. Louis, and we are excited about going through the process that starts in two weeks. It could be a very short process; it could be a very long process. I think it would be foolish for us to tip our hand. But, with everything we’ve done, we were the philanthropic organization of the year in St. Louis, the first time a sports team has ever done that. We consistently work to sell out all of our home games and get them on television even to our detriment. We’ve shown in every possible way when we’ve been asked how we are committed to St. Louis, we’ve shown that we are committed to St. Louis. And again, actions not words. I could come on here and say that ‘We’re going to stay. It’s going to be great, we promise.’ Those would be hollow; people would say that we just saying that now because that’s what we want to hear. What we want to have is to have a great dialogue with the city that leads to a great result in the end, and I’m confident that that can happen, I’m confident in St. Louis and we want to deliver a great product to our fans.
Doug: It seems naïve, maybe impossible for the CVC to make enough improvements to that dome to make it one of the top eight in the league. What do they have to do specifically to satisfy the Rams into signing a long-term lease in St. Louis?
Demoff: I just think that we’ve got to know that we are going to be competitive long-term in the NFL. Look, the top tier requirements are long, the city has a lot of creative people and they are excited about this too. I don’t want people to think that the city thinks this is a burden; they obviously want to look at ways. For people that have gone to the games, and I know we’ve talked about on this show, whether it is, you don’t get wireless service in the building, getting more fans into the stadium, getting fans in and out of the stadium faster. There are a lot of things that can make the fan experience better. Our sole purpose is on, and I know you guys have talked about this, from closet to closet having a great fan experience when you come to a Rams game, where you park, how you enter the building, the food in the building, the product on the field, that is something we can absolutely control. But, we’re excited about working with the city on all of these things. It’s not about saying that you have to hit this requirement, and this requirement and this requirement; it’s about getting a building that we know will make us a viable franchise in St. Louis for years to come. Our sole focus is building a winner on and off the field in St. Louis, it’s why we come to work every day, it’s one of the reasons that Jeff Fisher was so excited to come to the city of St. Louis, the passion of our fan base, the viability of this team and what it can be. And, everyone has a vision for what this team can be, and we’re starting to get to work on implementing that. We started by building a regional TV network during the preseason, to continue to grow our franchise beyond St. Louis. This is still going to be a mid-size market, that’s not going to change. How do we become a Green Bay Packers? Something where you grow beyond just your local fan base and that’s what we’re looking at.
Jim: Kevin, I understand about negotiations and you can and can’t say certain things, but can a few specifics about what improvements at the Dome specifically, about what you guys think could happen or should happen?
Demoff: No, we’re going to have some talks with the city coming up soon, and we’ve had some talks with them about this, obviously they are going through a process as well and they want a successful outcome just like we want a successful outcome. But I don’t think it helps the process right now to talk about specifics. When we get into swapping proposals, maybe that will be a better time to talk specifics, but this isn’t the appropriate time to talk about that.
Tim: We appreciate your time this morning on the show; we appreciate the civil discourse on the topic that obviously the three of us and most of St. Louis is concerned about this morning.
Demoff: I appreciate it guys and I do understand that some of our fans will look at this in a strange way, but I promise you that this is all part of a broader vision that will make this team viable and successful in St. Louis and we’re excited about our future here.
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