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American Football: LA gets nod as NFL expands

LOS ANGELES has been awarded the NFL's 32nd franchise over Houston, providing it can come up with a viable stadium plan by 15 September. If not, Houston will get the franchise, which the league hopes can begin playing in 2002.

"We've worked extremely hard to continue the process with our focus on Los Angeles," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said after the 29-2 vote.

"We have to determine whether the conditions can be met there. If it can't, the expansion committee would recommend a team be located in Houston," he said.

The issue has brewed for four years, since the Raiders went back to Oakland, California, and the Rams relocated to St Louis after the 1994 season. In 1996, the Oilers moved from Houston to Tennessee. Tagliabue has always been committed to returning to Los Angeles, but the solution has been made more difficult by the differences in the Houston and Los Angeles plans.

Houston came in with an owner that most of the current owners liked, Bob McNair, a stadium plan that met their standards and financing in place.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, had two competing groups and two stadium sites, one in Carson, 18 miles south of Los Angeles, and the renovated Los Angeles Coliseum. In the end, it came down to the size of the television market - Los Angeles, with 5.5 million television homes, and Houston with 4 million.

Within the next few weeks, the stadium committee will visit both Los Angeles sites to decide which is better.