American Football: End of the World League

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The Independent Online
THE NFL has suspended the World League, a decision that hardly comes as a surprise, but will sadden the fans of the London Monarchs, writes Matt Tench.

The NFL's decision means the fledgling league's third season will not get under way next spring. A restructured World League is planned for 1994, with more teams from Europe, though its chances of getting off the drawing board must be rated doubtful.

From its inception in 1990 the World League made a bigger impact in Europe than in the sport's homeland. Whereas the razzmatazz caught the public's imagination in London (where the Monarchs won the first World Bowl) and Barcelona, American fans saw only a second-rate game involving anonymous players.

American television, which funded the league, was disappointed with the ratings, and was far from certain to continue its coverage beyond the initial three-year commitment. Much of the difficulty appeared to stem from an ambivalence on the part of the NFL owners: they wanted a spring league but did not want to create a rival to the NFL. In the end they did not create enough of a rival.

The decision also indicates how seriously the owners are treating their reversal in the courts over the issue of players' free agency. With the players having achieved a partial victory, the owners have suspended the World League and are likely to postpone the projected expansion of the NFL from 28 teams to 30 due for 1994.