Major sports franchises are a big deal; there’s really no arguing with that. Many of them are worth well over $1 billion, and with every new media rights deal signed or mammoth stadium built, they grow even more valuable.
So when these huge corporations of sport relocate to a new city, the move has all sorts of implications on the economies of both the city they’re leaving and the city they’re joining—while also impacting both fans and the teams themselves as well as their sports betting odds.

Key Takeaways

  • Austin, Texas, was the city deemed most worthy of a professional sports team by both NFL (22%) and NBA fans (17%).
  • More than 1 in 4 sports fans did not want the NFL to expand outside the U.S.
  • Forty-one percent of sports fans felt teams that relocate to a different city lose their identity.
  • Nearly one-third of fans felt the Raiders had lost their identity after moving to Las Vegas, the most to feel this way about any relocated team.

It shouldn’t be surprising that there are strong opinions about franchises moving and the cities they end up in. We surveyed 1,000 sports fans to find out which cities were deemed most worthy of receiving a franchise, which teams they thought should consider relocating, and just what a move would mean to fans of those teams.

To dig a little deeper, we also looked at how relocations that have already happened have impacted both fans and franchises. Read on to find out what we discovered.

Which Cities Deserve a New Franchise?

The introduction of any major sports franchise would be a big change and a major event for any city.

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Some metropolises, such as New York City, boast a number of teams but also economies so massive that even a multibillion-dollar-per-year franchise like the Yankees is not a major contributor to the overall GDP.

You couldn’t say the same about dropping a franchise in, say, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a population of less than a quarter of a million people.

Nevertheless, the city deemed most deserving of both an NFL and an NBA team was Austin, Texas, a city that already houses one of the top 10 biggest college football stadiums in the country.

Photo: BetUS

Birmingham ranked second in terms of cities most deserving of an NFL team, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since the University of Alabama has done its fair share of winning football championships at the college level. Presumably, the state has plenty of appetite for more football. Additionally, sports fans didn’t think Las Vegas should be the only vacation destination to get its own franchise; 14% wanted the NBA to head to Hawaii. Imagine if LeBron James had swapped South Beach for Waikiki Beach instead of ultimately ending up with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Should They Stay or Should They Go? 

Although Buffalo Bills fans are known to have one of the rowdiest and most dedicated fan bases in the NFL, their team was voted No. 1 in terms of franchises that should relocate.

Perhaps the rest of the country doesn’t find their antics quite as entertaining as they do over in Buffalo.

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Right behind them is a relatively new franchise to the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals. Despite seeing star power over the years from players like Larry Fitzgerald Jr. and now the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Kyler Murray, the Cardinals play in a city that’s more famous for being a venue for championships, rather than a home of champions. Only two cities had teams from both the NBA and the NFL make the list. These were Los Angeles and Atlanta, which host four franchises that have coincidentally never won championships for their cities. In fact, the only time the Atlanta Hawks have ever won a championship was when they were based in St. Louis, highlighting the potential impact of relocation on team success.

But a lack of championships was certainly not the only reason sports fans had for moving teams, especially considering how many titles franchises such as the Celtics and the Bulls have. In the case of the New York Jets, perhaps fans would rather they relocate to the state they’re named for rather than playing across the border in New Jersey.

The Perks of the Franchise

Professional sports have the unique ability to bring cities together in support of their team. A community rallying around a common cause and emerging victorious culminating in a big parade—that’s the Cinderella story for every franchise.

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Eighty-eight percent of fans surveyed felt that major sports franchises positively affect the cities they are located in. Specifically, more than half of our respondents answered that they believe franchises create jobs, increase tourism, and boost both economic growth and business opportunities as well as civic pride.

This doesn’t appear to be the consensus of economists, however, who largely agree franchises don’t have much of a measurable impact on the economy of their host city. Many cities find themselves investing heavily in stadiums that don’t always produce as much revenue and benefit as expected. In fact, even the most successful stadiums can still cost the cities that host them millions of dollars a year.

This could be why approximately a quarter of sports fans disagreed with the concept of sports team relocation.

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While some early risers on the East Coast may have enjoyed the novelty of the NFL’s London games over the years, 27% of our respondents did not want the NFL to officially expand outside the U.S.

One Town, One Team

Breakups are never easy in any context, but at least in the case of a team leaving its fan base behind, they do get some distance.

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A rabid fan base is a badge of honor for any sports franchise, and the feeling goes both ways. It’s no wonder nearly 9 out of 10 sports fans answered that their local sports teams are important to them. Both the NFL and NBA have seen at least three franchise moves since 2000, and they have all left behind cities full of fans. Some take the news better than others, but 21% of sports fans said they’d no longer support their home team if they left town—while 43% would actively root for them to lose.

This seemed to be the experience for many St. Louis fans after the Rams left town in 2017 for Los Angeles. The people of Los Angeles must have loved the idea, however, if they’re anything like the 75% of our respondents who answered they’d root for a new sports team in town if they didn’t have one already.

New Year, New Look 

It would be difficult for any franchise to maintain the same sort of culture in a completely different place. Overall, fans feel the Las Vegas Raiders have suffered a loss of identity more than any other relocated sports team—possibly because you’ve never heard someone say “What happens in Oakland, stays in Oakland.”

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There is a pretty stark difference between the iconic “Black Hole” fan section, famous for their painted faces and wild outfits, and the new nightclub in the Raiders’ Vegas stadium, complete with two DJ booths. Right behind them on the list, with their improved suntans, are the Los Angeles teams.

While San Diego is relatively close to Los Angeles, sports fans thought it was still a big identity change for the Chargers. They felt even more strongly about the change for the Rams, who now have a much higher likelihood of spotting a Kardashian at their games than ever before.

Here They Go Again

Major sporting franchises have been moving cities for decades and likely won’t stop now. With several relocations taking place in major sports over the last few years, we’ve seen with our own eyes what it looks like for a team and a city when a move happens. While it seems the economic impact of hosting a franchise is not as significant as one might have thought, perhaps the social impact is more measurable with an overwhelming majority of sports fans answering that their teams are important to them.

Professional sports have long been a way to bring people together to rally around a common cause and see their team through good times and bad. If sports are what make you tick as well, look no further for a place to call home than BetUS. At America’s Favorite Sportsbook, you’ll be able to get in on all the NFL Odds & NBA Odds from the comfort of your own couch. Visit our Online Betting Website today for more information.

Methodology and Limitations

For this campaign, we surveyed 1,000 sports fans to explore their sentiments on sports teams relocating to different cities. Among them, 62% were men, 38% were women, and less than 1% identified as nonbinary; These percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed. To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question.

These data rely on self-reporting by the respondents and are only exploratory. Issues with self-reported responses include but aren’t limited to exaggeration, selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and bias. All values are based on estimation.

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