Monday 24 April 2017

Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas approved by NFL owners

Aldon Smith playing for the Raiders. Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Aldon Smith playing for the Raiders. Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Liam Blackburn

Las Vegas will be home to an NFL franchise after the league's 32 owners approved the relocation of the Oakland Raiders.

One of the United States' most colourful and storied teams will become the first to play in Sin City, an area previously viewed somewhat dimly by the NFL's hierarchy due to its association with gambling.

The Raiders will remain in Oakland, where they share a stadium with major league baseball team the Athletics, in 2017 and 2018 before relocating, as the Rams and Chargers - now in Los Angeles - have done in the past two years.

It is not the first time the Raiders have upped sticks, they did so in going from Oakland to LA in 1982 before returning 13 years later under Al Davis' ownership, but they are breaking new ground in bringing the NFL to Nevada.

The only other major sporting franchise in Las Vegas is the NHL expansion team the Vegas Golden Knights, and their inaugural season will only begin later in the year.

The city's attraction for the Raiders is the promise of a state-of-the-art new stadium, with $750million (£609million) in public money pledged towards its construction.

Owner Mark Davis has been seeking an upgraded home for his team and the Raiders had tried to return to LA just two years ago.

"My father always said, 'The greatness of the Raiders is in its future'," owner Mark Davis said at a press conference.

"And the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness."

Unlike the Rams and Chargers, there will be no instant move for the Raiders, meaning they will continue to play at the Oakland Coliseum next season, with the option to stay the following year and possibly in 2019 too while their new Vegas home is erected.

How well they will be received over that period by the disgruntled locals they are leaving behind remains to be seen - though Davis has promised to refund season-ticket deposits this term - and the team's quarterback Derek Carr expressed his mixed feelings in a post on Twitter.

"As I sit here and see a vote that takes the Raiders to Las Vegas, I am overwhelmed with emotion," he said.

"I don't know how we should feel. I feel the pain of our fans in Oakland. I also see the joy on the faces of our new fans in Las Vegas. As players, we will show up and give everything we have.

"We will compete and we will do our best to bring a championship to the entire Raider Nation. While I am from California and would have loved playing in Oakland my whole career, I understand the business side of the NFL."

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