World League set fair for future

Nick Halling reports from Barcelona on promising signs for American football's international venture

The World League season may have come to an end on Sunday night with the Barcelona Dragons beating the Rhein Fire 38-24 in a thriller, but in a sense the most significant action is only just beginning.

Since its relaunch in 1995 following two ill-conceived campaigns in 1991 and 1992, Europe's professional American football league has shown a durability which has surprised its critics, many of whom expected the American-backed operation to fold again at the first sign of trouble.

Instead, after a slow start it appears to be set for a lengthy stay, buoyed by steadily increasing attendances and dramatic improvements in the overall standard of play.

Last season more than a 100 players with World League experience saw action in the National Football League, a figure that should be swelled by a promising group from the current crop. This is a significant factor supporting the League's long-term aspirations.

The World League is a joint venture between the NFL and the Fox Television network: if NFL owners see a return on their investment in terms of useful improvements in players, they are likely to continue to give the international advertisement for the game their essential support.

Off the field, attendance figures achieved a modest rise of five per cent over last season. On average, World League games attracted 18,000 fans, with the Frankfurt Galaxy leading the way with passionate throngs of 35,000. Significant increases were achieved in Dusseldorf and Amsterdam, although the picture was clouded by disappointing dips in London and Barcelona. The league can probably allow for one of its six franchises to struggle, but is unlikely to tolerate two. Over the last three seasons, the Monarchs have attracted crowds of around 10,000, which is not a disastrous figure but that is disappointing when set against the impressive gates 40,000 gates of six years ago.

The Dragons have been in freefall since the League's return and the 31,000 at Sunday's finale notwithstanding, the Spanish operation looks to be in trouble, its viability certain to be high on the agenda at League meetings this week.

Given the importance of Britain in the League's overall marketing scheme, the London Monarchs' future looks assured, although changes are likely. Concern over apathy in the capital has resulted in the formulation of a plan to take the Monarchs on the road next year, with cities such as Bristol and Birmingham possibly staging games.

"There are obviously concerns over London and Barcelona, but overall the signs are encouraging," said Oliver Luck, the League's president. "The Scottish Claymores are the third-best supported team in Scotland behind Rangers and Celtic, the Amsterdam Admirals are second only to Ajax, while in Dusseldorf and Frankfurt we're the biggest show in town."

All seems satisfactory on the television front. "It has been another season of progress," was the encouraging verdict of Krieger, the executive vice-president of Fox Sports. "In addition to more live telecasts in Europe than in previous years we have added important terrestrial exposure in Holland and Spain, while total viewership in the US is also up."

Perhaps the most telling moves occurred in the last two weeks. Ernie Stautner, the veteran coach who had led the Galaxy to the title in 1995, found that his contract had not been renewed. Then Mike Keller, the general manager of the Claymores, was dismissed following differences of opinion with head office.

"This kind of turbulence shows how serious we are," Luck said. "Both Ernie and Mike had done good jobs, but there were things we did not see eye to eye on. We need to have the best people we can in key positions."

With two seasons remaining on the current five-year deal, there is little talk of time running out. Quite the opposite, in fact: Luck looks to a future which features two new expansion teams, an extended regular season, and average crowds of 25,000. Bold plans perhaps, but the World League is nothing if not ambitious.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London