WLAF to build on a fitting finale

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The Independent Online
American football


reports from Amsterdam

Amsterdam 22 Frankfurt 26

The World League of American Football's relaunched season finished with a flourish when the Frankfurt Galaxy defeated the Amsterdam Admirals 26- 22 in a gripping finale before a crowd of 24,000 at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

It was the ideal climax for a League whose return to western Europe after a two-year absence has not been without its problems.

Attendances across the six franchises fell below expectations. Despite the regular 30,000 throng at Frankfurt, the London Monarchs could only draw 10,000, and two new markets, Scotland and Amsterdam, began slowly. At the final reckoning, World League crowds averaged close to 15,000.

It seems certain, however, that professional will be played in Europe in 1996. The kick-off weekend has already been set for next April, and it is likely that all six of the current teams will return to renew hostilities.

There were few claims on Saturday that the freshly concluded campaign had been an unqualified success. Nor were there suggestions of failure either: instead, League executives believe they now have a firm base of support from which to build. The artificially hyped gates which characterised the League's inaugural season in 1991 may be a thing of the past, but that does not constitute a disaster.

The most encouraging sign has been the television ratings. In the United Kingdom, Sky Sports, Carlton and Scottish TV are pleased with the viewing profile of predominantly young, affluent males, an important audience for advertisers.

In Germany, Vox and DFS have been taken aback with the positive response to World League Football. Even in the Netherlands, a virgin market for the gridiron game, ratings have remained consistently healthy.

An exciting World Bowl would have given the League the impetus necessary to promote next season and the two teams played their part to the full.

Despite trailing 7-0 in the first half, Frankfurt looked to be cruising to victory after three touchdown passes from the quarterback, Paul Justin, and Nate Bolton's 30-yard scoring run gave the visitors a 26-7 lead with seven minutes remaining.

However, the Admirals have generated seven comeback victories during their 10-game campaign, and almost did it again. Two touchdowns brought them to within four points and when Amsterdam recovered an onside kick with 34 seconds remaining, fans of both sides were on their feet in an agony of anticipation.

However, there was no miracle. The Admirals' quarterback Will Furrer's two final desperation passes into the end zone fell incomplete, enabling Frankfurt Galaxy to hang on.