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Raiders settle suits, will discontinue seat licenses

11/2/2005 - Oakland Raiders

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.