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
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game