The NFL approved the Raiders relocation application on Monday, and the team will move to Las Vegas in either 2019 or 2020. The move means the Bay Area will turn into a one-team market for the first time since the Raiders were in Los Angeles.
New San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch was quick to begin the sales job for potential former Raiders fans. He is in Phoenix for the NFL owners’ meetings and chatted with NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche.
He made his quick initial pitch to Raiders fans, saying the team is open for business and they can hop on board for the 49ers bandwagon. It’s been a rough few years for 49ers fans, and the bandwagon cleared out as Jed York drove the team into the ground. However, the hiring of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan has brought back some semblance of optimism. It actually seems like the 49ers have a fully competent GM/HC combination in place. They could still struggle, but there is some fairly significant optimism in the fan base for the first time in a while.
The Raiders are sticking around for at least two more years, and possible a third before moving to Las Vegas. I think a sizable chunk of their fan base will remain loyal, in part because a lot of them are used to the team leaving, either from Oakland or from LA. And for the LA portion of the fan base, it is not that difficult to get over to Las Vegas on the weekend.
They will lose some of their current fans, but the real question is the next generation of Raiders fans. Really young kids now, and then kids that will be born moving forward. The NFL is reportedly leaving the door open for Oakland to get another team (expansion or relocation), but given the financial issues in play, I don’t expect something anytime soon. In that case, as new generations of fans come of age, will they end up primarily 49ers fans? If the 49ers rebuilding process does take positive steps, it will be interesting to see how the Bay Area dynamic changes with the Raiders no longer sharing the region.