Relocation of professional sports teams

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Relocation of professional sports teams occurs when a team owner moves a team, generally from one metropolitan area to another, but occasionally between municipalities in the same conurbation. The practice is most common in North America, where a league franchise system is used and the teams are overwhelmingly privately owned. Owners who move a team generally do so seeking better profits, facilities, fan support, or a combination of these.

North America[edit]

Unlike most professional sport systems worldwide, North America does not have comprehensive governing bodies whose authority extends from the amateur to the highest levels of a given sport. North American sports generally do not operate a system of promotion and relegation in which poorly performing teams are replaced with teams that do well in lower-level leagues.

A city wishing to get a team in a major professional sports league can wait for the league to expand and award new franchises. However, such expansions are infrequent, and generally limited to a narrow window in time. Many current owners believe 32 is the optimal size for a major league due to playoff structure and ease of scheduling.[citation needed] As of 2021, each of the major leagues has between 30 and 32 franchises. The National Hockey League (NHL) has expanded to 32 teams, with the Vegas Golden Knights having become the league's 31st team in 2017 and the Seattle Kraken becoming the 32nd team in 2021.[1][2]

In past decades, aspiring owners whose overtures had been rejected by the established leagues would respond by forming a rival league in hopes that the existing major league would eventually agree to a merger; the new league would attain major league status in its own right; or the established league was compelled to expand. The 1960s American Football League (AFL) is perhaps the most recent example of a successful rival league, having achieved each of the three goals listed above in reverse order. However, all major sports have had a rival league achieve at least some of these goals in the last half of the 20th century. Baseball's proposed Continental League did not play a game, but only because Major League Baseball (MLB) responded to the proposal by adding teams in some of the new league's proposed cities. The American Basketball Association (ABA) and World Hockey Association (WHA) each succeeded in getting some of their franchises accepted into the established leagues, which had both unsuccessfully attempted to cause their upstart rivals to fold outright by adding more teams.

However, the upstart leagues owed their success in large part to the reluctance of owners in the established leagues to devote the majority of their revenues to player salaries and also to sports leagues' former reliance primarily on gate receipts for revenue.[citation needed] Under those conditions, an ambitious rival could often afford to lure away the sport's top players with promises of better pay, in hopes of giving the new league immediate respect and credibility from fans. Today, however, established leagues derive a large portion of their revenue from lucrative television contracts that would not be offered to an untested rival. Also, the activism of players' unions has resulted in the established leagues paying a majority of their revenues to players, thus the average salary in each of the big four leagues is now well in excess of $1 million per season.[citation needed]

Under present market and financial conditions, any serious attempt to form a rival league in the early 21st century would likely require hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars in investment and initial losses,[citation needed] and even if such resources were made available the upstart league's success would be far from guaranteed, as evidenced by the failure of the WWF/NBC-backed XFL in 2001 and the UFL from 2009 to 2012.[citation needed] The current major leagues have established lucrative relationships with all of the major media outlets in the United States, who subsidize the league's operations because their established fame ensures strong ratings; the networks are far less willing to provide such coverage to an unproven upstart league, often requiring the upstart league to pay the network for those leagues to be covered.

Therefore, as long as leagues choose not to expand and/or reject a city's application, the only realistic recourse is to convince the owner(s) of an existing team to move it (or convince a prospective owner to purchase a team with the intent of moving it). Owners usually[citation needed] move teams because of weak fan support or because the team organization is in debt and needs an adequate population for financial support or because another city offers a bigger local market or a more financially lucrative stadium/arena deal. Governments may offer lucrative deals to team owners to attract or retain a team. For example, to attract the NFL's Cleveland Browns in 1995, the state of Maryland agreed to build a new stadium in Baltimore and allow the team to use it rent-free and keep all parking, advertising and concession revenue. (This move proved so unpopular in Cleveland that the move was treated as the Baltimore Ravens being awarded an expansion franchise, and the Browns name and their official lineage would remain in Cleveland for a "reactivated" team that rejoined the NFL three years later.) A little more than a decade earlier, the Baltimore Colts left for Indianapolis (NFL owners voted to give Colts owner Robert Irsay permission to move his franchise to the city of his choosing after no satisfactory stadium would be built).

Moving sports teams is often controversial. Opponents criticize owners for leaving behind faithful fans and governments for spending millions of dollars of tax money on attracting teams. However, since sports teams in the United States are generally treated like any other business under antitrust law, there is little sports leagues can do to prevent teams from flocking to the highest bidders (for instance, the Los Angeles Rams filed suit when the other NFL owners initially blocked their move to St. Louis, which caused the NFL to back down and allow the move to proceed). Major League Baseball, unique among the major professional sports leagues, has an exemption from antitrust laws won by a Supreme Court decision but nonetheless has allowed several teams to change cities. Also recently, courts denied the attempted move of the team then known as the Phoenix Coyotes by siding with the NHL, which claimed that it had final authority over franchise moves.

Newer sports leagues tend to have more transient franchises than more established, "major" leagues, but in the mid-1990s, several NFL and NHL teams moved to other cities, and the threat of a move pushed cities with major-league teams in any sport to build new stadiums and arenas using taxpayer money. The trend continued in the 2000s, when three National Basketball Association (NBA) teams moved in a seven-year span after there were no moves at all in the 16 years before it. Critics referred to the movement of teams to the highest-bidding city as "franchise free agency."

Australia and New Zealand[edit]

The two major professional sporting leagues in Australia are the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL). Both competitions were originally based in one city (Melbourne and Sydney respectively) and expanded to a national level, and through that process, there have been team moves, mergers and closures in both leagues. The clubs are owned by members, not privately, but the North American franchise model exists, which means entry to the league is restricted. The hybrid model has meant that the leading promoter of moving is the league itself, trying to grow the football code by encouraging poorly performing clubs to move interstate.


In Europe, moves are very rare[citation needed] because of the different relationship between clubs and their league in the European system of professional sports league organization. The practice is considered anathema.[3] In most European sports, teams can be relegated from their current league to a lower one or promoted to the one above.

Latin America and the Caribbean[edit]

Team moves in Latin America occur very rarely for the established teams with established bases. Smaller teams, either small team from large agglomerations or provincial teams with little or no fan base frequently move in search of a larger market and/or more affordable facilities, as frequently, there are only large complexes available with a necessity to groundshare with a larger club. The practice is considered anathema.[3]


The first move of a first division football team was in 2010. Grêmio Barueri moved to Presidente Prudente, becoming Grêmio Prudente, only to return as Grêmio Barueri in the middle of 2011.

Esporte Clube Dom Pedro II,[4] named after Pedro II of Brazil was founded on February 22, 1996, in Guará. The club moved to Núcleo Bandeirante in 2009, and it was renamed to Esporte Clube Dom Pedro Bandeirante. On November 1, 2016, after achieving promotion back to the first division of the Campeonato Brasiliense, the club changed its name to Real Futebol Clube and moved to Brasília. Ahead of the 2020 campaign, the club again changed name to Real Brasília Futebol Clube.

Guaratinguetá Futebol on October 15, 2010 announced its move from Guaratinguetá to Americana,[5] and their change of name to Americana Futebol. On November 28, 2011, after more than a year in Americana, the club's administrator, Sony Sports, announced the team's return to Guaratinguetá to compete in the 2012 Campeonato Paulista and other competitions, as Americana city and its main stadium, Estádio Décio Vitta was not able to support the club and the city's club, Rio Branco, and also because most of the supports of the club live in Guaratinguetá.[6]

In other sports, such as volleyball, basketball or futsal, moving is more common, although it does not occur frequently.


  • Badminton F.C., was a football club based in the city of Santiago, until 1969, when they moved to Curicó, before folding in 1972.
  • C.D. Green Cross, founded on June 27, 1916, were a sports club based in the city of Santiago until 1965, when they moved to Temuco and merged with the local football team Deportes Temuco. The combined team were known as Green Cross Temuco until 1985 when the club adopted its current name.


In Colombia historic teams from first division are rarely moved, but newer teams created in second division are often moved from city to city looking for a responding fan base.

Costa Rica[edit]


  • Real Maya were founded on April 7, 1985. They played in first division for many season under many different names, Real Maya being the most used. In the 2002/2003 season they took the place of Real Comayagua.[16] They were named Real Patepluma and moved to Santa Bárbara for their final two seasons in the top tier of Honduran football before being excluded from the league.[17]


Hazard United, founded in 1985 in May Pen, moved in 2001 to Clarendon and renamed itself Clarendon United. JFF regulations stipulated that each club have stands to seat at least 1,500, which Clarendon lacked. So the team moved again, to St. Catherine and began to use the Ferdi Neita Sports Complex. Initially, Clarendon and the St. Catherine football club agreed to share the stadium. In 2002, St. Catherine suggested Clarendon change its affiliation to become a St. Catherine team, as the club's name was not locally identifiable and the club itself was only slowly gaining followers. Instead, Clarendon moved in 2003 to Portmore and renamed itself Portmore United.[18] The club has since won four Premier League titles.


Liga MX has a relegation system but its teams have some territorial rights recognized, perhaps due to U.S. influence as many league matches are aired in the U.S., where only traditional top-flight teams are perceived to most effectively reach the immigrant fan-base.


In Peru several teams have had to use already built large stadiums, including ones in the interior of the country, to be able to participate in Peruvian Primera División; this includes several teams from the capital, Lima, who have not been able to establish fanbases in their districts due to the required moves.



Team moves in Asia are done according to the type of sport played and/or the predominant style of league organization, as well as individual economic circumstances. For instance, in Japan there is a difference between Nippon Professional Baseball which is run like MLB, and the J.League which is run like European football leagues.

Club moves are also common when an amateur or semiprofessional club tries to acquire its own facilities to become a professional club, and no money and/or space is available to build their own in a long-established location.


Team moves in China are very common. Although China has a European-style promotion and relegation league system, the teams themselves are North American-style franchises, which means the teams are overwhelmingly privately owned and therefore more prone to moving. Owners who move a team generally do so seeking better profits, facilities, fan support, or a combination of these. There are neither rules regarding moves nor many established fan bases, outside a handful of top teams.

Hong Kong[edit]




Association football[edit]

The J.League is run similarly to European football leagues. In contrast to the baseball league it has allowed only a few teams to move out of crowded or unprofitable markets:


Nippon Professional Baseball is run in similar fashion to MLB and has moved several franchises out of crowded markets. Moves also happened when the teams changed ownership (which also sometimes involved changing the team name).




South Korea[edit]

Association football[edit]

Football club moves were frequent in the 1980s and 1990s. South Korea has three national tiers, but as in the North American system, there was initially no promotion or relegation between them.

There were three professional football clubs Ilhwa Chunma (currently Seongnam FC), LG Cheetahs (currently FC Seoul), Yukong Elephants (currently Jeju United) in Seoul by 1995. However, due to K League's decentralization policy, these three clubs were forced to move to other cities in 1996, changing their name in the process. These moves are done under the accord that if any of these teams build a football specific stadium in Seoul, they can return there, of which two clubs took advantage of. As a result, the following moves occurred:

Other sports[edit]

In South Korean major professional sports such as Korea Professional Baseball, Korean Basketball League, V-League, moves were common.

In ice hockey, Mando Winia were a team based in Mok-dong, Seoul, which moved to Anyang, Gyeonggi in 2005 and became Anyang Halla.



South Africa[edit]

In South Africa most football clubs are privately owned, and club moves are relatively common. Several clubs, including top division Premier Soccer League clubs have moved and taken on new identities. There are many other cases of South African moves. The ease of selling and buying of club licences make moves common and sometimes difficult to determine what determines whether a new club represents an existing one that has moved or an entirely separate new entity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rosen, Dan (June 24, 2015). "Board of Governors OKs start of expansion process". NHL Enterprises, L.P. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  2. ^ Muir, Allan (July 21, 2015). "NHL expansion bid results disappoint league, leave Seattle out in cold". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Stefan Szymanski. National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World plays Soccer. p. 130.
  4. ^ Rodolfo Rodrigues (2009). Escudos dos Times do Mundo Inteiro. Panda Books. p. 45.
  5. ^ (in Portuguese) Guaratinguetá oficializa mudança para cidade de Americana – (October 15, 2010)
  6. ^ "É Oficial! Americana volta para Guaratinguetá" (in Portuguese). Futebol Interior. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  7. ^ "Itagüí - Historia".
  8. ^ ""Las Águilas Doradas fueron expulsadas de Itagüí", Fernando Salazar" ["The "Golden Eagles" were expelled from Itagüí", Fernando Salazar]. Win Sports. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  9. ^ "De manera unánime, la DIMAYOR autorizó a Águilas Doradas jugar en Pereira" [Unanimously, DIMAYOR authorized Águilas Doradas to play at Pereira]. Win Sports. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  10. ^ "Águilas ya tiene 'nido': jugará en Rionegro". (in Spanish). March 18, 2015.
  11. ^ "Centauros ya no es de Villavicencio y ahora es de Popayán" [Centauros is no longer from Villavicencio and now it is from Popayán]. Antena 2. Archived from the original on March 9, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
  12. ^ "Historia". Archived from the original on January 21, 2015. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
  13. ^ Alejandro Fonseca Hidalgo (January 12, 2010). "Otro nombre y mismas deudas" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on August 28, 2010. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  14. ^ Brujas es un hervidero Trasladarse de Nicoya a Escazú aumentó penurias a jugadores Nación (in Spanish)
  15. ^ Brujas a Desamparados Nación (in Spanish)
  16. ^ Honduras 2002/03 – RSSSF
  17. ^ Honduras 2003/04 – RSSSF
  18. ^ Portmore United move ahead Archived 2005-03-18 at the Wayback Machine – Jamaica Gleaner
  19. ^ "ISL: Delhi Dynamos relocate base to Odisha |". Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  20. ^ تيم فوتبال بزرگسالان پاس رسما به همدان انتقال يافت؛ (in Persian). ISNA. Archived from the original on 11 June 2007. Retrieved 9 June 2007.
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  23. ^ Ferer, Cindy (February 6, 2018). "Kaya Futbol Club chooses Iloilo as its new home court". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  24. ^ "Kaya FC is now Kaya FC–Makati, makes UMak its home stadium". Una Kaya. January 11, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  25. ^ 군경기단체 국군체육부대로 통합 팀 명칭 상무, 마스코트는 불사조로 (in Korean). Dong-a Ilbo. January 11, 1984.
  26. ^ 육,해,공 3군통합 스포츠팀 상무 창단 (in Korean). Maeil Business Newspaper. January 12, 1984.
  27. ^ "Hellenic Football Club on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on April 30, 2022.[user-generated source]
  28. ^ Dawid Van Lill (2004). Van Lill se Suid-Afrikaanse trivia. LAPA Uitgewers. ISBN 9781868729272. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  29. ^ "Platinum Stars club history". Archived from the original on June 10, 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2010.

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