Relocation of professional sports teams

Relocation of professional sports teams

Relocation of league franchise system is used and, as the teams are generally privately owned and operate according to the wishes of their owners, the practice much more common there than it is in other areas of the world where sporting teams are often identified with a specific location. Moving of teams is more commonplace among less established teams with small or non-existent fan-bases. Reasons for relocations are commonly motivated by either problems with finances, problems with inadequate facilities, lack of support or due to the wishes of the owner or owners; in most cases it is a combination of some or all of those problems.


  • Franchise relocations in North America 1
    • Background 1.1
    • List of relocations 1.2
      • Major League Baseball 1.2.1
      • National Basketball Association 1.2.2
      • National Football League 1.2.3
      • National Hockey League 1.2.4
      • Arena Football League 1.2.5
      • Major League Soccer 1.2.6
      • United Soccer Leagues 1.2.7
      • Women's National Basketball Association 1.2.8
      • Women's Professional Soccer 1.2.9
      • Canadian Football League 1.2.10
  • Team Relocations in Australia and New Zealand 2
    • AFL 2.1
      • Major Interstate Relocations and Mergers 2.1.1
      • Minor Relocations 2.1.2
      • Home Ground Only Relocations 2.1.3
      • Secondary Interstate 'Home's 2.1.4
    • A-League 2.2
    • NRL 2.3
  • Team Relocations in Europe 3
    • Armenia 3.1
    • Austria 3.2
    • Azerbaijan 3.3
    • Belgium 3.4
    • Cyprus 3.5
    • Czech Republic 3.6
    • Estonia 3.7
    • Georgia 3.8
    • Germany 3.9
    • Greece 3.10
    • Italy 3.11
    • Ireland 3.12
    • Latvia 3.13
    • Lithuania 3.14
    • Moldova 3.15
    • Netherlands 3.16
    • Norway 3.17
    • Poland 3.18
    • Romania 3.19
    • Russia 3.20
    • Slovakia 3.21
    • Spain 3.22
    • Sweden 3.23
    • Switzerland 3.24
    • Turkey 3.25
    • Ukraine 3.26
    • United Kingdom 3.27
  • Team Relocations in other parts of the world 4
    • Brazil 4.1
    • China 4.2
      • Basketball 4.2.1
      • Football 4.2.2
    • Colombia 4.3
    • Costa Rica 4.4
    • Hong Kong 4.5
    • Japan 4.6
      • Baseball 4.6.1
      • Football 4.6.2
    • Kyrgyzstan 4.7
    • Lebanon 4.8
    • Mexico 4.9
    • Peru 4.10
    • South Africa 4.11
    • South Korea 4.12
      • Association football 4.12.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Franchise relocations in North America


Unlike most professional sport systems worldwide, sports organizations in North America 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. North America does not have comprehensive governing bodies whose authority extends from the amateur to the highest levels of a given sport. Unlike in other countries, where one may invest in a local lower-level club and through performance see that club rise to major league status, the only three ways a North American city can host a major league sports team are through league expansion, forming/joining a rival league, or, most commonly, buying an existing league franchise and relocating it.

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, as of 2015 each of the major leagues has 30 or 32 franchises. Many current owners believe this is the optimal size for a major league, and with the possible exception of the National Football League (NFL)'s desire to return to Los Angeles, North America's second largest market, and the possible expansion of the National Hockey League (NHL) to 32 teams,[1][2] none of the major leagues are believed to be imminently considering expansion. In fact, Major League Baseball (MLB) actually considered contracting the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins in 2002, which would have taken effect in the 2007 season, until the baseball players union sued MLB to prevent the dissolution of the teams. In the end, nothing happened to the Twins, who had the issue leading to their possible contraction, a new stadium, resolved with the opening of Target Field in 2010, while the Expos relocated to Washington, D.C. to become the Washington Nationals in 2005.

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 will eventually agree to a merger, the new league will attain major league status in its own right and/or the established league is 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 responded to the proposal by adding teams in some of the proposed CL 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, these 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 on sports leagues' former reliance primarily on gate receipts for revenue. 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.

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, 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. Not even at any point since the start of the 1980s have any of the established leagues so much as added expansion teams while a rival was operating (or establishment of a rival league was being seriously considered). Therefore, so 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 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, while the Browns name and their official lineage would remain in Cleveland for a "reactivated" team that re-joined 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).

The relocation of 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 that relocation to proceed). Major League Baseball, unique among the major professional sports leagues, has an exemption from antitrust laws won through a Supreme Court decision but nonetheless has allowed several teams to change cities. Also recently, courts had denied the attempted relocation 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 relocations at all in the 16 years before it. Critics referred to the movement of teams to the highest-bidding city as "franchise free agency."

List of relocations

The following charts list movements of franchises in the modern eras of the major North American sports leagues. It does not include:

  • Moves within a city, which have occurred many times in all major leagues.
  • Short distance moves from one city in a metro area to another city in the same metro area. (For example, San Francisco to Oakland.)
  • Short-distance city-suburb moves. (For example, Los Angeles to Anaheim, both of which are in the same urban agglomeration.)
  • Team moves that happened before the organization joined its current league.
  • Moves of teams that as of 2015 no longer exist. There were many such moves in the early years of the NFL in particular.
  • Teams that have threatened relocation as leverage for a new stadium or arena in their current market without actually moving, as well as teams that nearly moved for other reasons not related to team dissatisfaction in a given market. (For example, the Pittsburgh Pirates nearly moving to Denver, Colorado following the Pittsburgh drug trials in 1985.)

Major League Baseball

National Basketball Association

National Football League

National Hockey League

Relocations in the NHL have been unique in that most of the teams have changed their names after relocating, as opposed to keeping their identity with the old market. Only two NHL teams that relocated—both in the pre-Original Six era and in the modern era—kept their names: the Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars. Although the Stars were previously known as the Minnesota North Stars, the team had begun to phase "North" out of the name two years before the move to Dallas as part of the "reverse merger" of the North Stars into the Minnesota Stars and the expansion San Jose Sharks (the California Golden Seals/Cleveland Barons had "merged" with Minnesota).

The Edmonton Oilers nearly relocated in 1998 but they remained in the city after a limited partnership raised enough money to purchase the franchise before the deadline.[5] The then-Phoenix Coyotes were placed into bankruptcy with the intent to circumvent the league's relocation rules, but this was blocked by a judge. Other relocation threats came from two of the 1967 expansion teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins (on multiple occasions) and St. Louis Blues (in 1983), but ultimately stayed in their existing markets.

Arena Football League

Major League Soccer

  • 2006: The San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston and became the Houston Dynamo; however, the team records, logo, colors, championships, and history were left in San Jose. An option for an MLS franchise was awarded to Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff in 2006, and the option was exercised in 2007. The Earthquakes resumed play in MLS in 2008 as a continuation of the previous Earthquakes franchise.

United Soccer Leagues

Austin Aztex FC of the USL First Division and USSF Division 2 Professional League (both of which were former second-tier levels of the United States soccer pyramid) were relocated to Orlando in October 2010,[6] and became Orlando City SC. Club owner Phil Rawlins, a board member of Stoke City F.C. in England,[7] cited problems finding sufficient investors in Austin.[8] Brendan Flood, majority owner of England's Burnley F.C.,[8] had wanted to establish a new soccer club in Florida, and decided to pair with Rawlins as co-owners.[9] Less than one year after the relocation to Orlando, Austin Aztex were reborn in the fourth-division USL Premier Development League, when David Markley (founder and minority owner of the previous Aztex) re-established the club.[10]

Women's National Basketball Association

Women's Professional Soccer

The league, started in 2009, saw its first major relocation before the 2011 season. The former Washington Freedom, which previously played in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., was purchased by Dan Borislow, founder of the VoIP company magicJack, and moved to Boca Raton, Florida. The team played as magicJack in the 2011 season, which was marked by near-constant conflict between the league and Borislow. WPS terminated the franchise after that season. The fallout from a subsequent legal battle between WPS and Borislow, combined with major financial losses, led the league to disband in 2012.

Canadian Football League

The Baltimore Stallions moved to Montreal in 1996 to become the Montreal Alouettes. When the Cleveland Browns announced that they would relocate to Baltimore, the Stallions recognized that they could not compete with it and relocated to Montreal where it assumed the defunct Montreal Alouettes' name along with its records, history, and traditions. Although cosmetic rather than substantive, the CFL officially considers the modern Alouettes to be a continuation of the previous Alouettes team in an effort to distance itself from the American expansion experiment of which the Stallions were members and to keep the Alouettes' legacy viewed collectively. The current Alouettes do not consider the Stallions' legacy, including its Grey Cup victory, as part of the team's current legacy, even though the two teams never played concurrently. The only other team to relocate in the CFL's history was the Sacramento Gold Miners, another American team, who moved to become the San Antonio Texans in 1995. The staff of the Ottawa Rough Riders moved from Ottawa to Shreveport, Louisiana to become the Shreveport Pirates in 1993, but the CFL forced the team itself to be left in Ottawa, where a new owner kept the franchise alive.

Outside of the American expansion, the CFL has never relocated any of its core Canadian franchises from one market to another.

Team Relocations in Australia and New Zealand

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 this process there have been team relocations, 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. This hybrid model has meant that the leading promotor of relocation is the league itself, trying to grow the football code by encouraging poorly performing clubs to relocate interstate.


The AFL is the national competition in Australian rules football and grew out of the mostly suburban Melbourne based Victorian Football League competition; as a result the member clubs have had to move to adjust to a changing national focus.

Major Interstate Relocations and Mergers

  • South Melbourne Football Club - in 1982 relocated interstate to Sydney, 963 kilometres north and became the Sydney Swans. Despite early struggles, the club has more than tripled its membership since and have won premierships (championships) in 2005 & 2012.
  • Fitzroy Football Club - in 1996 the Melbourne-based club merged its playing operations with the interstate Brisbane Bears, a club 1669 kilometres north of its original home, with the Bears becoming the Brisbane Lions. Since the merger, the Brisbane club almost doubled its membership and won three consecutive premierships between 2001 and 2003. Though the Fitzroy Football Club ceased fielding a team in profession competitions, it continued as a standalone entity based at its traditional home, and fields a team in the amateur Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA).

Minor Relocations

Home Ground Only Relocations

Secondary Interstate 'Home's

Some Melbourne based clubs began selling home games interstate in the late 1990s and conducting community camp clinics to build up local supporter bases.


licence due to the club's financial and administrative problems and poor on-field performance. After much delay, the final amount needed for the application came from Wellington property businessman Terry Serepisos in the latter stages of the bid. Serepisos, the club's majority owner and chairman, provided NZD $1,000,000 to ensure the beginnings of a new New Zealand franchise and a continuation of New Zealand's participation in the A-League. FFA finalised a three-year A-League licence to New Zealand Football who then sub-let the licence to the Wellington-based club.[11] The new Wellington club was confirmed on 19 March 2007. The name for the new club was picked from a shortlist of six, pruned from 250 names suggested by the public, and was announced on 28 March 2007.[12][13] Serepisos said of the name, that "It symbolises the fresh start, the rising from the ashes, and the incredible Wellington support that has come out".[14]


The NRL is the national competition in rugby league and was born out of the Sydney-based Australian Rugby League and New South Wales Rugby League competitions. In 1987, the Western Suburbs Magpies agreed to relocate from its (inner) Western suburbs base to the outer south-western Macarthur district following a prior move west to Lidcombe Oval. In 1999, they merged with the remaining Inner Western team, the Balmain Tigers, (both teams having been established in 1908) to become Wests Tigers. The North Sydney Bears attempted to move from their Northern Suburbs base to the swiftly growing Central Coast region just north of Sydney in 1999, however problems with construction at the proposed home ground now known as Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium meant that the Bears continued to play home matches in a variety of Sydney grounds before being forced into a merger with the Manly Sea Eagles as the Northern Eagles. The merged clubs played home matches at both the Central Coast and Manly's home ground of Brookvale Oval, but after the bears were expelled from the partnership, poor crowds at the former location led to a reversion to the name of Manly and games played exclusively at Brookvale Oval. Subsequently one of the owners of Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium, John Singleton, has attempted to lure another club to play there, notably the South Sydney Rabbitohs who have experienced poor crowds at their new home ground of ANZ Stadium.

The Canterbury Bulldogs were formed in 1935 and played their first season without a home ground. In 1936, they settled at Belmore Oval (renamed the Belmore Sports Ground) and played home matches there until the end of the 1998 season. The Bulldogs trialled a number of alternative home grounds during the 1990s, including Concord Oval in 1994. In 1995 they changed their name to the Sydney Bulldogs played most of the Premiership winning season at Parramatta Stadium, sharing the ground with bitter rivals, the Parramatta Eels and the also renamed and relocated Sydney (Balmain) Tigers. They finally settled on Stadium Australia, the main stadium for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games as their home ground, and in 2008, relocated their training and administration facilities from Belmore to the Homebush Olympic Park Site.

Other clubs have relocated to new home grounds but have retained their original base.

Team Relocations in Europe

In Europe, this sort of move is very rare. This is due to the different relationship between clubs and their league in relegated from their current league down to a lower one, or promoted up a league to the one above.


  • FC Banants were founded in 1992 in the village of Kotayk, representing the Kotayk Province. Between 1992 and 1995, the club was commonly referred to as Banants Kotayk.[15] During the 1992 season, the club won the first Armenian Cup. At the end of the 1995 transitional season, Banants suffered a financial crisis. The club owners decided that it was better to merge the club with FC Kotayk of Abovyan, rather than disband it. In 2001, Banants demerged from FC Kotayk, and was moved from Abovyan to the capital Yerevan.




  • Football Couillet La Louvière was formed in June 2009 as the result of a merger between R.A.C.S. Couillet and R.A.A. Louviéroise. The matricule of the club is the number 94 of RACS Couillet, so technically it is a continuation of Couillet, whereas La Louvière has dissolved into Couillet, with their matricule (number 93) being lost. At the time of the merger, La Louvière played in the third tier of Belgian football and Couillet in the fourth, as a result, the new team started in the fourth tier. After the merger, the team was based in La Louvière and renamed to Football Club Couillet-La Louvière with abbreviation FCLL. However, the team moved back to Couillet in Charleroi in 2011 after third division team URS Centre moved to the center of La Louvière and changed its name to UR La Louvière Centre. As a result, the team name was changed again to Football Club Charleroi.
  • RFC Liège, after its home stadium the Stade Vélodrome de Rocourt in Liège was destroyed, the club became 'homeless'. After having played during 4 years at rue Gilles Magnée, in Ans where a temporary stand was built, the RFC Liège is currently playing in Seraing a the Pairay Stadium.


At least three clubs were forced to move due to the 1974 Turkish invasion of that country:[18]

Czech Republic

  • Dukla Prague, a successful football team under the patronage of the Czech Armed Forces, originally from Prague, merged with second division side FC Portál Příbram in 1996.[19][20] The new club, which later became known as 1. FK Příbram, played one season in Prague at the Juliska Stadium before moving to Příbram in 1997, the last home match at Juliska being a 2–2 draw with relegated Baník Havířov on 1 June 1997,[21] effectively meaning that the original FC Příbram which was founded in 1929 was relocated to Prague, merged and then relocated back. The club currently playing under the Dukla Prague name, and the current spiritual successor of the original team, FK Dukla Prague, was founded in 1958 as FK Dukla Dejvice and advanced to the Prague Championship in the 1983–84 season.[22] Prior to 2001, the club's best finish in a season had been second in the Prague Championship in the 1984–85 season.[22] In 2001 the club became known as FK Dukla Prague, but not the legal successor of the original Dukla Prague team. In November 2006, the new FK Dukla Prague management announced that it had agreed to a takeover of second league rights of the Jakubčovice team[19] and in 2007 Dukla took Jakubčovice's place in the Czech 2. Liga,[23] having finished the 2006–07 season in second place.[24]
  • In ice hockey, the Kontinental Hockey League, based in Russia but also including teams from several other post-Soviet states, expanded outside the former Soviet Union for the first time in 2011, adding the Slovakian team Lev Poprad. The team was purchased by Czech interests after the 2011–12 season; the new owners folded the club and replaced it with a similarly named team, the Prague-based Lev Praha. Although the two Lev teams are technically separate corporate entities, this situation can be viewed as an effective relocation; not only are the team names similar, but the new owners retained much of the Poprad roster.



Due to the internally displaced persons from Abkhazia in Tbilisi, and although the original clubs continue to exist in exile, and no actual relocation has occurred, the Abkhaz peoples who had founded these club consider the clubs to be the continuation of the original club:

  • Umaglesi Liga. After bankruptcy in 1993, the club was re-founded in 1999.
  • FC Gagra was founded in 2004 as a continuation of the city of Gagra's disrupted by war football traditions, although a dormant amateur side in Gagra by the same name remains in the local Abkhaz league. Initially there have been efforts to relocate the Abkhaz team to Tskhaltubo, ground-sharing with Samgurali Tskhaltubo due to the number of internally displaced persons in the town but these plans failed due to lack of finances and facilities.[29]

Due to the Georgian–Ossetian conflict, several teams have been displaced:


While football club relocation has so far been unusual in West German football, it was a rather common practice in communist East Germany. As teams were dependent on the regime, it intervened several times to promote an equal distribution of teams across the country. A number of prominent East German teams were affected by these political moves, and even in modern-day Germany, the reason for the regional dominance of some teams and the roots of many strong rivalries can be found there.

Major relocations in the DDR-Oberliga:

  • In 1954, the entire team of Empor Lauter, a club from a small industrial town in southern Saxony, were relocated to the very north of the country to compete as Empor Rostock. Under the name Hansa Rostock, they have been the most successful East German team since 1990.
  • Also in 1954, Dynamo Dresden lost all its players to the newly formed side of Dynamo Berlin. Dresden passed almost a decade in the lower leagues, returned to top-level football in 1962 and became one of the fiercest rivals of by-then record champion Dynamo Berlin.
  • Vorwärts Frankfurt (Oder) was the only major team to be relocated twice. Founded as Vorwärts Leipzig in 1951, the team was moved to East Berlin in 1953, where they won six East German championships. They became Vorwärts Frankfurt in 1971 and were renamed to FFC Viktoria in 1991.

In recent times, team relocation has become a more common feature in sports that are less popular with the German public. Notable examples include former ice hockey team München Barons (became the Hamburg Freezers in 2002), former handball side VfL Bad Schwartau (became HSV Handball in 2002) and basketball club Bayer Giants Leverkusen (Düsseldorf Giants since 2008).



Football club relocation is also present in practice in Italy, especially at lower levels. Current Italian football laws allow relocation of clubs only between bordering cities. Some examples of current football clubs born as relocation of previous ones include:

  • In 2003, after Cosenza Calcio 1914 was not admitted to Serie B, a new ownership bought sports rights from then-Serie D club Castrovillari in order to permit a Cosenza franchise to play football in the upcoming season. The new club however proved to be short-lived, as it declared bankruptcy in 2007, but was promptly replaced by Fortitudo Cosenza, born as relocation of neighbouring Serie D club Rende Calcio.
  • Serie D's Neapolis, located in Naples, was born as a relocation of Sangiuseppese, a club hailing from the neighbouring city of San Giuseppe Vesuviano.
  • In 1994, one year after the cancellation of Calcio Catania, Atletico Leonzio's chairman Franco Proto relocated his club, renaming it Atletico Catania. The club, previously located in Lentini, went on to play up to Serie C1 (the league now known as Lega Pro Prima Divisione), losing promotion to Serie B on playoffs twice before being cancelled in 2001 because of financial difficulties also related to Calcio Catania's return into professional football and the consequent drop in attendance.

More recent examples include A.C.D. Città di Vittoria, born in 2007 as merger of Serie D's Comiso with minor league club Junior Vittoria (possibly a trick in order to allow the club to legally relocate from Comiso to Vittoria). A.S.D. Pol. Libertas Acate of Serie D are a club officially settled in Acate, which however actually plays their home matches in Modica and are recognized by both fans and the regional press as Modica's club, being frequently referred to as Libertas Acate-Modica. In fact, after a takeover bid in 2006 the club left Acate to play their home matches in Modica despite the fact they were not eligible to change the "legal" home city.

Relocation has also occurred in Italian basketball. Before the 2010–11 season, Triboldi were legally domiciled in Soresina, but played their home games in nearby Cremona, a community in the same province. The club has now changed its domicile to Cremona. Nuova Sebastiani Basket moved from Rieti, a city in the Lazio region near Rome, to the southern city of Naples effective with the 2009–10 season.


Irish clubs relocating out of their original district are slightly more common. In certain cases, the club has moved within a conurbation.

  • Shamrock Rovers Played in Glenmalure Park on the Southside of Dublin from 1926 to 1987. The club's owner Louis Kilcoyne announced he was selling Glenmalure Park, which they had recently purchased from the Jesuits.[31] The team played the entire 1987–88 season in an almost empty Tolka Park on Dublin's Northside as a result of a boycott called for by the Shamrock Rovers Supporters Club and KRAM (Keep Rovers At Milltown),[31] which was observed by the vast majority of Hoops fans.[32] Following the completion of the boycott season in Tolka, the Kilcoynes sold the football club to Dublin businessman, John McNamara, who put forward a controversial proposal to move in with Rivals Bohemians at Dalymount Park. KRAM congregated to vote on whether to lift the boycott and on the proposal to move to Dalymount. Both motions were passed and the club spent the next two seasons at the Phibsboro venue, with an unrecognisable side playing in front of small attendances.[33] Rovers spent two season's in Dalymount Park before moving to the RDS Arena in Ballsbridge, just two miles away from Glenmalure Park. In 1996 the club's new owner Alan McGrath unveiled a plan to build a permanent home state-of-the-art stadium in the Dublin southwest suburb of Tallaght for Rovers,[34] The club also played home matches in Morton Stadium, Richmond Park and again in Tolka Park before moving to their new home in Tallaght in 2009.
  • Shelbourne were originally from Ringsend in the South of Dublin. The club played in Harold's Cross Stadium in Harold's Cross briefly in the 1970s before moving to the stadium in 1982 where they remained until 1989 when they moved to Tolka Park, in the North of Dublin.


  • FK Jūrmala, founded in 2003, moved from Jūrmala to Riga in March 2012 and renamed themselves after the historic Riga club, becoming FK Daugava.
  • RAF Jelgava in the early 1990s RAF was one of the strongest teams in Virslīga. However, when the plant ran into financial difficulties, the team received new sponsorship from the University of Latvia in 1996 and, as a result, changed their name and relocated to Riga, and played in the Latvian University Stadium.[35] The move was a sporting disaster and the club folded. A team under the name RAF Jelgava appeared again in 2001 in the 1. līga, and after the 2003 season the club merged with another Jelgava club, FK Viola Jelgava forming FK Jelgava.




Team relocation is very rare in the Netherlands. The most prominent case involves professional football club Almere City FC. When 1964 Eredivisie champion and 1964-65 European Cup quarter finalist Door Wilskracht Sterk was merged into FC Amsterdam, its supporters founded amateur football club De Zwarte Schapen, named after their nickname, which translates as Black Sheep. The club quickly rose through the ranks of amateur football, eventually reaching the Hoofdklasse. After several violent incidents on the pitch and a six-month suspension by the Royal Dutch Football Association, the club moved from Amsterdam to nearby Almere (a "new town") and changed its name to Sporting Flevoland. That name was changed to FC Omniworld in the 1990s, and FC Omniworld was admitted to the Eerste Divisie for the 2005-06 season.

Team relocation is slightly more common in other sports in the Netherlands. Volleyball club AMVJ, for instance, moved from Amsterdam to Amstelveen in 1980. The men's team was subsequently relocated to Almere in 1999, becoming Omniworld.


Team relocation is rare, although mergers, for instance of teams of neighboring settlements, are common. Relocation has sometimes happened on the top level of women's football. SK Sprint-Jeløy was moved from Jeløy to Moss under the new name FK Athene Moss. Asker Fotball's women's team was absorbed by Stabæk Fotball ahead of the 2009 season. Ahead of the 2010 season Team Strømmen FK (which formerly had been moved from Aurskog-Høland) was absorbed by Lillestrøm SK, and Gjøvik FK absorbed by Raufoss IL.


  • Olimpia Poznań was moved from Poznań and merged with Lechia Gdańsk in 1995 creating Lechia/Olimpia Gdańsk. It only lasted one season in the top division and by 1997 it was already in the third division. The club tried to rescue its fall through another merger with local club Polonia Gdańsk, in turn dropping Olimpia's heritage and changing its name to Lechia/Polonia Gdańsk, with Antoni Ptak's company as the main sponsor. In 2001 Lechia decided to leave the merger, and started as an independent club from the bottom of the football pyramid as the sole legal and spiritual continuator of BKS Lechia, which folded the merged club in 2002, forcing Polonia to start in a lower league as well.
  • Pogoń Szczecin in 2002 was on the brink of bankruptcy. As a result, fans created a new team on the basis of the reserves in the fourth division. However owner of Piotrcovia Piotrków Trybunalski Antoni Ptak decided to move the team and renamed the club MKS Pogoń Szczecin. The initial distrust was lost when the team performed well and used local players, however halfway through the 2005/2006 season the team started underperforming and Ptak decided to replace almost the entire squad with only Brazilian nationals, making it the "most Brazilian team outside Brazil". Antoni Ptak also built a small training facility in Gutów Mały, meaning the home games were played almost 500 kilometres (310 mi) away from Szczecin. The experiment failed and in 2007 Antoni Ptak moved away from football, leaving the club to be rebuilt on the basis of the 4th division counterpart set up originally by the fans, which acted as the reserve team in the meantime.
  • Sokół Pniewy was moved to Tychy and merged with the local club GKS Tychy, which resulted in unorthodox renaming, first to Sokół Pniewy in Tychy, then from 9 January 1996 Sokół Tychy. After 26 games in its 2nd season the new fused club folded, leaving the reserve team Sokół Pniewy in the fourth division to become the its senior team, whereas GKS Tychy started anew.
  • WKS Zawisza Bydgoszcz was founded in Koszalin, however a year later in 1947, being an army club, when the army offices moved to Bydgoszcz so did the team, however up until that point the team only played friendly matches.[36][36]
  • Zawisza Bydgoszcz SA was a club that was created when Kujawiak Włocławek were moved to Bydgoszcz and renamed by Hydrobudowa, their owners. The original WKS Zawisza Bydgoszcz continued playing in the fourth division,[37] however the new club had a very similar logo and an identical name, resulting in an unusual situation of having two almost identical clubs playing in 2 different divisions; for the purposes disambiguation, the new merged Zawisza was called Zawisza Bydgoszcz (2) by official sources and Kujawiak/Zawisza or Hydrobudowa Bydgoszcz by many others. As a result of the merger, Kujawiak, Zawisza and supporters all over the country boycotted the relocated team.[38] The reserve team continued to play under the name Kujawiak Włocławek in the Fourth Polish league. The club folded in 2007[39] as a result of serious corruption allegations[40] and widespread condemnation.[41]




  • In 2011, the Kontinental Hockey League, based in Russia but also including teams from several other post-Soviet states, expanded outside the former Soviet Union for the first time, adding the Slovakian team Lev Poprad. The team was purchased by Czech interests after the 2011–12 season; the new owners folded the club and replaced it with a similarly named team, the Prague-based Lev Praha. Although the two Lev teams are technically separate corporate entities, this situation can be viewed as an effective relocation; not only are the team names similar, but the new owners retained much of the Poprad roster.


  • Ciudad de Murcia, a Segunda División side, at the end of the 2006–2007 season, was acquired by an investor from Granada, transferring it to that city and renaming it to Granada 74 CF. The players still under contract with Ciudad had the option to cancel their contract or stay on with the newly formed club.


Although no major relocations have occurred, two clubs from the capital Stockholm have changed municipality (AIK) and acquired another team into their club colours (Hammarby Ishockey) respectively. AIK was formed in Stockholm in 1891 but then moved to neighbouring Solna in 1937. Hammarby IF had an ice hockey section that was shut down in 2008. In 2013 the club Bajen Fans Hockey then changed their name to Hammarby Ishockey,[43] thereby becoming one of very few clubs in Sweden that have acquired another club and made it their own.


In Switzerland only one "relocation" has happened so far. The Zurich based football club Grasshoppers Zürich under company name "Die Neue Grasshopper Fussball AG" controversially moved their headquarters in 2005 from the city itself to Niederhasli. The addition of Zurich was remained in the club's name and the team is still playing in the city of Zurich at Letzigrund (the home stadium of their old rival FC Zurich, a temporary measure while Stadion Zürich is being built). All other teams of the club are playing Niederhasli.

The fans of Grasshoppers Club protested the move, claiming the club has lost part of its identity.


  • Süleymaniye Sirkeci was founded in 1911 and had black-white colors. The club played in the old Third Division (now TFF Second League) before relocating to Küçükçekmece at the end of the 1989-90 season. It was renamed as Küçükçekmecespor and changed its colors to green-white.


Due to the War in Donbass, several clubs have temporarily relocated for an indefinite period of time due to safety concerns. Shakhtar Sverdlovsk and Avanhard Kramatorsk could not find alternative venues and withdrew from all competitions as a result. Similarly none of the Crimean clubs, Tytan Armyansk, Tavriya Simferopol, Zhemchuzhina Yalta or FC Sevastopol were able to relocate due to the Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, and subsequently they all disbanded or became dormant. Those teams that successfully relocated continue to participate in all competitions:

United Kingdom

Team Relocations in other parts of the world

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


In Brazil, the first relocation of a first division football team was in 2010. Grêmio Barueri relocated to Presidente Prudente, becoming Grêmio Prudente, only to return as Grêmio Barueri in the middle of 2011. In other sports, such as volleyball, basketball or futsal, relocation is a bit more common, although it doesn't occur frequently.


Relocation of teams in China is very common, as teams are privately owned or owned by businesses, furthermore there are no rules regarding relocations or very many established fan-bases outside of the handful of established top teams:



  • Bayi F.T. was a club under the sport branch of the People's Liberation Army, founded in 1927, one of the oldest clubs in the country. The clubs reign as one of the most successful clubs in China would end with the advent of professionalism within the league. When the first fully professional league season started in 1994 the club were given special dispensation to remain as semi-professional as possible by having all their members remain active military members, however the club did start to take in sponsorship money to pay for the cost of running the club. At first little changed and the team even came third within the 1996 league season.[49] Where the club really struggled was their ability to hold on to their contingent of Chinese international players such as Hao Haidong, Hu Yunfeng and Jiang Jin who started to leave the club for better offers. This saw the club struggle being unable to replace them through the transfer market and ultimately see them relegated to the second tier for the first time in the clubs history. With less money coming in the club decided to disassociate themselves from their traditional Beijing home and took offers from other cities and sponsors to play for. They moved to Xinxiang and Liuzhou to accommodate their sponsors and while this worked for a brief period, which saw the club gain promotion back into the top tier the Chinese FA launched the rebranded Chinese Super League, which required more stringent conditions for the club to work in.[50] Unfortunately this coincided with the loss in form of the team who were relegated at the end of the 2003 league season. The loss of prize money and stricter regulations ultimately forced Bayi to disband.
  • Kunming Ruilong was established at Yunnan Province's capital city Kunming on 20 March 2012.[54] The club moved their home stadium to Dali, another city in Yunnan, adding "Dali" to their name on 22 March 2013.
  • Shenyang Ginde was originally founded in 1986 in Shenyang, where they played in the 55,000-seater Shenyang Wuilihe Stadium, until they moved to Changsha in 2007 to reside in the Helong Stadium. When American sportswear and sports equipment company MAZAMBA took over the club in 2010 they relocated the club to Shenzhen in February 2011; however, their ownership was brief, and by June 2011 Chinese property developers Guangzhou R&F gained ownership of the club and moved them to Guangzhou, Guangdong. Their home stadium is the Yuexiushan Stadium that has a seating capacity of 18,000, adopting the same name as their new owners Guangzhou R&F, although the R&F is officially short for "Rich" (富) and "Force" (力).
  • Tianjin Runyulong, founded in August 2009, was originally planned take over the licence of Anhui Jiufang and be based at the 18,000-seat Minyuan Stadium in Tianjin, but the club quickly find out that the full acquisition of Anhui Jiufang as well as the running cost of the club would cost them 540 million yuan, more than the club expected and that they would need to quickly find investment if they were to pay their players on time.[57] The investment would come from the local Shenbei government who wanted them to move into the 30,000-seat Tiexi Stadium in Shenyang.[58] On July 2011, Tianjin Runyulong moved to the city of Shenyang and the name changed to Shenyang Shenbei.[59] The club was officially dissolved on 27 February 2015.


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

Costa Rica

Hong Kong



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


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




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.

South Africa

In South Africa most football clubs are privately owned, and club relocation is relatively common. Several clubs, including top division Premier Soccer League clubs have moved and taken on new identities. The most recent PSL team to do this was Benoni Premier United, who moved to Kwa-Zulu Natal and became Thanda Royal Zulu. There are many other cases of South African relocations.

South Korea

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

Association football

Football club relocations were frequent in the 1980s and 1990s. South Korea has three national tiers, but as in the North American system, there is no promotion or relegation between them. This is because of disagreement between the Korea Football Association and the chaebols that back the top clubs. Now many, if not most, of Korea National League and Challengers League clubs are fan-owned teams.

See also

  • Professional sports league organization


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External links

  • "Modell Announces Browns' Move to Baltimore" by Charles Babington and Ken Denlinger, The Washington Post, Nov. 7, 1995.
  • "Major League Baseball Team Histories" by Major League Baseball, 2015.
  • "History of NFL franchises, 1920-present" by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 2015.
  • "NBA History: Teams" by the National Basketball Association, 2013.
  • "National Hockey League (NHL) Expansion History" by Razulu's Street, 2004.