Raiders settle suits, will discontinue seat licenses

Updated: November 2, 2005, 8:35 PM ET
Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Raiders and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority announced a plan Wednesday to end nearly a decade of legal acrimony by dropping existing lawsuits and ending an unsuccessful seat licensing plan.

The so-called personal seat licenses -- part of a deal the team and authority worked out 10 years ago to bring the Raiders back from Los Angeles -- became a focal point of the team's fraud lawsuit against the authority that ended in 2003 with a $34.2 million jury award in the team's favor.

Both sides said Wednesday that it was time to put the lawsuits behind them and work to make the team as successful as other big NFL franchises.

"We came forward with everything we could to make everyone happy -- especially our fans -- and see if we can make this an economically viable organization,'' Raiders owner Al Davis said at a news conference overlooking the team's home field.

"There were a lot of people who said we couldn't turn this around -- but we did,'' said Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, the authority's chair. "Everyone did this for the good of the Raiders and the city.''

Previously, licenses were required to buy season tickets and cost between $250 and $4,000 depending on seat location. They will expire after this season.

Because games rarely sold out, fans who bought leftover tickets on game day wound up sitting next to other fans who had paid a premium for a right to sit there.

The license program, set up in 1995, was supposed to cover the $200 million in publicly financed bonds that paid for the expansion of what is now McAfee Coliseum, along with a practice facility and other enticements to lure the Raiders back after 13 years in Los Angeles.

The team claimed in its lawsuit that it was misled by the authority with the false promise that the stadium would sell out.

Davis testified during the trial two years ago in Sacramento County Superior Court that he was told by stadium officials that loyal fans in the San Francisco Bay area would buy 10-year licenses for season tickets, and luxury boxes would be snapped up by corporations.

The 2003 jury award for negligent misrepresentation was just a fraction of the $570 million to $833 million the team sought to compensate for lost ticket sales and diminished franchise value.

Under the new agreement outlined by Davis and City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, the Raiders will be responsible for their own ticketing and marketing operations, which were previously handled by the Oakland Football Marketing Association.

Two weeks after the last game of the 2005 season, the OFMA will be dissolved at the expense of the authority. Raiders fans had long complained about OFMA service, while employees complained they were understaffed.

Current license holders will receive first option to buy tickets for next season.

The way football revenue is allocated also will change under the agreement. The authority will receive all revenues from parking fees, which will increase by $15 over the next five years. The authority also will receive 15 percent of playoff game revenues, up from 12 percent.

"The past is now the past and we have five years to make the Raiders economically viable,'' Davis said. "We have to be able to compete.''

Davis said the Raiders ranked near the bottom in revenue among NFL teams, and he hoped the new agreement would allow the team to earn more money and attract more fans.

Since moving back to Oakland, the Raiders have made the playoffs only three times, losing its only trip to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season. The Raiders are 3-4 this season, in last place in the AFC West.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press