KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The relocation of Monday night's game between the Chiefs and the Rams to Los Angeles from Mexico City due to issues with the field at Estadio Azteca delivered a setback toward the NFL's efforts to expand it's fan base south of the border, according to Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt.
“I certainly don't think it's a positive for the league,” Hunt said. “Mexico's been a central piece to our efforts to grow the game internationally. Obviously the NFL has a lot of fans in Mexico because of the proximity to the United States.”
Hunt said he had looked forward to the game as an opportunity for both the NFL and his franchise to expand its footprint to a new audience. Stadium officials reported tickets for the game sold out in the 87,000-seat stadium
“It was a great opportunity for us to get to grow our fan base down there, and it's just not going to happen this year,” Hunt said.
Hunt said player safety ranked was “100 percent” the reason for the relocation of the game to Los Angeles. He said he became aware of potential issues with the turf approximately two to three weeks ago. Consultants from both the NFL and the Rams traveled to Estadio Azteca in an effort to rehabilitate the field before league and stadium officials pulled the plug.
“The decision was made by the league in conjunction with the stadium officials that the field was not in condition to host the game,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the league is used to replacing damaged fields in quick turnaround times for events such as the Super Bowl, but the blend of synthetic and natural turf on the stadium's field made that impossible.
“You can't just tear it down and put sod down like you can with a grass field,” Hunt said.
Despite the relocation of the game to Los Angeles, Hunt indicated he would have no concerns, however, with his team planning another trip to Mexico for a game in the future.
“I hope we will have an opportunity to play down there, as I said I was looking forward to the opportunity for the organization,” Hunt said. “The league is going to be in Mexico next week meeting with our partners down there to talk about the future of the game. Certainly the hope is that we'll be able to play more games down there."