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The unpopular Richmond-based Redskins training camp arrangement appears to be at an end

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The NFL & NFLPA help the Redskins take one more step away from the Bruce Allen era

NFL: AUG 27 Preseason - Bengals at Redskins Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Adam Schefter is among those reporting that the league office has, with the agreement and support of the NFLPA, directed that this year’s training camps are to be held at team facilities and that no joint practices will be allowed.

For the Redskins, this means that the team will not travel to Richmond, Virginia, where they have held training camp at the Bon Secours facility since 2013.

The atmosphere in the Richmond training camp was fairly electric in the first year of the agreement, with much of the energy and enthusiasm linked to the novelty of fans in Central and Southern Virginia being able to gain access to the camp and players, and the presence of Robert Griffin III, who had been drafted by the Redskins with the second overall pick in 2012. It appeared initially as though the arrangement between the Redskins and the City of Richmond was a success.

With disastrous 2013 and 2014 campaigns that included coaching staff changes, fan enthusiasm seemed to wane quickly, however. Further issues, including the muggy heat of Richmond summers and frequent violent thunderstorms that disrupted the camp schedule led to a number of complaints about the Richmond location.

Beyond these considerations, the deal was loudly criticized by the denizens of Richmond (and others) because of the large cash contribution that the agreement called for; the City of Richmond made annual “contributions” to the cost of the training camp. Public funds were paid to the Redskins franchise annually as part of the agreement on the theory that training camp would bring visitors, money and new tax revenues to the city. With the rapid decline in the popularity of the annual camp, the financial arrangements quickly became unpalatable for the city.

The Washington Post, in April, 2018, said that the Redskins training camp had been marred by “waning fan enthusiasm and eroding support from city officials, who believe the 2012 deal to host the three-week workouts has proved more bust than boon.”

The WaPo report went on to say that unless the Redskins made “significant financial concessions”, the team wouldn’t be invited back when the deal expired in 2020, and added that the Richmond City Council had made its views clear, with eight of nine members supporting a resolution stating they would favor extending the contract only if the Redskins agreed to cover the considerable remaining costs of the $11 million facility the city built for the team.

At around the same time, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an editorial in which the agreement was roundly criticized:

Not a single soul in Richmond seems to be pleased with the Redskins training-camp deal these days, and no wonder: The city might soon be on the hook for $750,000 a year to pay off the cost of building the facility. That’s on top of the $500,000 the city is supposed to pay the team for practicing in town. At the same time, the hoped-for ancillary business for food vendors, hotels, and the like has fallen far short of expectations.

As a Times-Dispatch news story reported over the weekend, Richmond dipped into its school construction budget to the tune of more than $5 million for the training camp — money that should have gone to fixing up the deplorable conditions that provided the impetus for the recent meals tax hike.

Following years of this kind of negative reporting and editorializing in the media, it was announced in early April this year that the financial arrangements between the Redskins and the City of Richmond had finally been significantly altered by agreement between the parties. NBC reported the news on 2 April:

The City of Richmond and the Washington Redskins announced a significant modification to the current Redskins Training Camp agreement on Thursday that eliminates the requirement of the city’s Economic Development Authority to pay a local cash contribution to cover some team expenses.

The modification applies to both 2019, for which the EDA had a contractual obligation to pay more than $161,000 due to the team, and for 2020, the final year of the original eight-year pact.

Both the Redskins and the EDA say that this modification was in discussion well before COVID-19 arrived, but both acknowledged that it’s fortunate for the city to be able to hang onto the funds during this time period.

Clearly, the new front office in Ashburn was committed to taking a different approach than its predecessor. Still, with the eight-year term of the unpopular agreement arriving at an end, having faced long-term opposition from the local city council, and the departure of Bruce Allen, who brokered the original deal, this week’s directive from the league office likely signals the end of the Richmond-based training camp for good. Of course, the future direction will be decided by Ron Rivera, who controls all things Redskins at the moment.