World League set fair for future
Nick Halling reports from Barcelona on promising signs for American football's international venture
Tuesday 24 June 1997
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.
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.
Latest in Sport
Moments of truth: Matches against Liverpool, Olympiakos and Manchester City will go a long way to defining David Moyes' long-term future at Manchester United
And finally... Arsenal can call on Kim Kallstrom
France 20 Ireland 22 match report: Ireland hold on to give Brian O'Driscoll perfect end to glittering career
Michael Schumacher ski accident: Sebastian Vettel pays tribute to F1 legend with special helmet for Australian Grand Prix
Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 0: Red-carded Jose Mourinho slams referee after defeat
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Exclusive: World’s most pristine waters are polluted by US Navy human waste
- 3 Pakistani gang rape victim Amina Bibi dies after setting herself on fire
- 4 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Jet ‘hijacking’ began soon after take-off
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Charter Selection: This well respected and exciting...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting company and market...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + EXCELLENT SALARY: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Cli...
£25,000 to £35,000: IT Connections Ltd: Signal Processing Engineer / Acoustics...