Lacking the fanfare of its original incarnation, the World League of American Football, relaunched throughout Europe this weekend, received a guarded but encouraging reception from fans who have waited three years for its return.
In Germany, the Frankfurt Galaxy comfortably exceeded expectations by attracting a crowd of 28,000 for Saturday night's visit of the London Monarchs.
Elsewhere, the Amsterdam Admirals attracted 7,000 for their game against the Barcelona Dragons in a country with no history of staging professional gridiron matches, while 10,000 witnessed the Scottish Claymores' first game at Murrayfield against the Rhein Fire yesterday afternoon.
The WLAF's aim is to establish a platform on which to build for the future, and with two of the three games providing nail-biting finishes, most of the fans who visited the opening encounters should be back for more.
However, the bad news for British fans is that both the London Monarchs and the Scottish Claymores have opened their accounts with a defeat, the Monarchs beaten 45-22 and the Claymores edged 19-17.
The Scots had a chance to win an unexpectedly close encounter, but Arden Czyzewski's potentially game-winning 37-yard field-goal attempt drifted wide of the posts. However, the Claymores appear to possess the ability to regroup and mount a sustained challenge.
The task facing the Monarchs is more daunting. Trailing 45-6 after three quarters, they managed to score two late touchdowns, but were unable to dispel the impression of a team not quite ready for competitive action.
"There are going to be growing pains with this team while we find out exactly what we are capable of," their head coach, Bobby Hammond, said. "My concern is that we come back with something to build upon."
Sustaining interest in the game, rather than the pageantry which surrounds it, is the key to the WLAF's long-term future. On the evidence of this weekend, that future appears promising.
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