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World Football League WORLD FOOTBALL LEAGUE 2000 World Football League

There are those who believe that the World Football League will make a comeback of sorts in one form or another. Here is Bruce J. Richards' view of what he terms the comeback as "WFL 2000."
I am a big fan of your site and must compliment you on a job well-done. The site is thorough, entertaining, and totally informative. It’s absolutely amazing the amount of info you have been able to put together on such a short-lived league which existed a quarter of a century ago.

I was most intrigued by your section dealing with “A New WFL”. I think it would be a great idea for the networks (NBC and Turner) to form their own league. For the amount of money that was paid for TV rights (by CBS, Fox and ABC/ESPN), and considering what the expansion fee was for the Cleveland Browns, it is almost cheaper to “buy” (create) a league.

If the entire league was under single (or joint-venture) ownership, it might even work better than the NFL or Major-League baseball. There, the league is more or less a loose association of 30 or so ego-driven bastards who are not only trying to win on the field, but also on the bottom line, almost to the point of screwing over the rest of the owners (i.e. Jerry Jones, Al Davis, George Steinbrenner, Irsay, Modell, et als).

Some may ask, though: If the league is entirely owned by the networks, who runs the individual teams? What engenders competition? I assume that the league can hire general managers and assign them to the twelve teams, and they will in turn hire coaches and such. Performance-based financial incentives would be the basis for each team (from the GMs down to the players) building a winning football team. As I understand it, this procedure is more or less in place for NFL Europe, with the NFL owning and running the franchises.

Another problem area is that in all previous “rival” leagues, the biggest problem for owners (and biggest boon for players) were “bidding wars” for star players. Usually, it would help to bankrupt the owners, but it may not be such a problem if the network(s) own this league. In fact, the “bidding wars” might present almost a self-balancing cyclical formula: the more stars they sign, the better the league’s ratings should be, so the more the network can charge advertisers, and thus the more money they (the league/network) can shell out to pay for stars.

Finally, your suggestions for member cities mentioned “No current NFL locations”. That makes sense in terms of fan loyalty and to some degree gate receipts, but it may be a tough situation for a league created by and for TV interests. Unfortunately, the NFL has locked up most of the larger TV markets.

The general thinking in putting a team in a large TV market is that with all NFL games televised, that TV market is sure to get at least half of its home team’s games (the away games), which ostensibly is a bigger draw. As an example, I live in New Orleans, and when the Saints are away, I would rather watch them play than say, San Diego vs. Detroit. I am also more likely to watch them play than do some other activity (such as taking a Sunday drive). Someone in a non-NFL city like San Antonio, however, has to watch either a “marquee” matchup (San Francisco, Denver, etc.) or the closest team (the Cowboys). Not as attractive—but then again, it was shown that NFL viewership has actually gone up in the L.A. area since their teams moved away, so maybe the traditional thinking is all wrong.

But I’m sure I’m telling you stuff you already know, so back to the point. I liked most of your suggestions for locations, but some I think were off the mark and needed replacing, for various reasons which I will elaborate on. Your suggestions (and my comments) are placed west to east:

1. Honolulu. Rather small at 52nd biggest TV market, 55th biggest metro area. There would be time zone problems for game broadcasts. They had the Hawaiians in the original WFL, but no other franchises since. Great stadium, though.
2. Portland - Not bad—23rd in TV market, 22nd biggest metro area, no NFL competition other than Seattle (3 hrs. away). They had the Storm/Thunder in the WFL and the Breakers for one year in the USFL. The stadium (Portland Civic) is a bit of a dump—I saw it last fall when I visited the Pacific Northwest. However, there are plans afoot to do a major renovation that would make it more amenable (see, baseball, American League, future stadiums). If this were to happen, it would be a slam-dunk in terms of franchise location.
3. Los Angeles/Southern California – Obviously, your suggestion was posted before the NFL announcement of the area as a conditional 32nd franchise location. However, this location may still be do-able. The suburbs alone could support a franchise (if Riverside/San Bernardino and Orange County are combined, they are the third biggest metro area in the country). It is interesting to note that this was the approach of the WFL in the seventies— Anaheim was eager for a franchise, and got the Southern California Sun to play in the Angels’ stadium. A few years after the demise of the WFL, the Rams moved there, which opened up the Coliseum for the Raiders, and led to the whole franchise movement mess. I think a team could be placed in the suburbs and get excellent ticket sales, AND the franchise would be in the 2nd biggest TV market.
4. Sacramento – 25th in TV markets, 26th in population, kind of close to Bay Area teams (83 miles to Oakland), but desperately wants to be big league. Had franchises in both the WLAF and CFL. A definite go.
5. Las Vegas – A very up-and-coming city. Thirty-fifth both in TV market and in metro population. Growth is largest of all metro areas—41% in last 6 years. This is another slam-dunk.
6. Salt Lake City (Utah) – Although Utah has never had a pro football franchise, it may be time. With the upcoming winter Olympics, they are looking to enhance their image as a big-league city (and are expanding/renovating Rice-Eccles stadium for opening/closing ceremonies). 33rd in TV market, 34th in population and double digit growth (13.6%). Competition from college football (BYU and Utah) might be problematic.
7. San Antonio – Poor San Antonio has had a football team in just about every league but the NFL: The WFL Wings, the USFL Gunslingers, the WLAF Riders, the CFL Texans, and the Arena League Force. They have the Alamodome sitting there waiting for a team, and they have respectable numbers: 30th TV market, 29th in metro population; also double-digit growth (12.5%). Disposable income is a little low, though. Far enough away from Dallas (and Houston) to make it.
8. Tulsa –Although they had the Outlaws (for one year) in the USFL, they really don’t make the grade. 58th biggest in metro population, off the chart in terms of TV market. As an Oklahoma option, Oklahoma City isn’t much better, with 47 TV and 44 metro numbers.
9. Houston – As long as there is no NFL team, putting a team in the 10th biggest metro area and TV market sounds like a winner. It’s still growing, too (14% growth). The Astrodome is still available (as is Rice Stadium) but there are plans to build a new stadium, as well.
10. Shreveport – This is the weakest proposal for a franchise. The 103rd biggest metro area, the TV market isn’t even on the map, and they are rather close to Dallas. I’ve been to Shreveport and it is VERY small, on the same level as other southern cities like Chattanooga, Mobile, Little Rock and Jackson, MS. I know they had a team in the WFL and the CFL, but that doesn’t matter.
11. Memphis – Yes, they had teams in all the leagues (WFL, USFL, CFL, Arena, etc.) and none of them lasted. Losing out in the last NFL expansion apparently left a bad taste in their mouth, and when the Oilers moved to Nashville THEN used Memphis as a “temporary” home, look what happened. Attendance was a non-factor. The numbers for Memphis are not that great; they are only 42nd in both TV market and population, and now they are too close to Nashville and the Tennessee Titans. But most telling is the feel of Memphis itself. A few years ago I visited and was not impressed. Overall, it’s a very old, poor city, without much in the way of growth. I think their days of flirting with football are over.
12. Birmingham –This city is much like Memphis, only a little better off. Over the past 25 years, B’ham has a long history of football franchises (WFL Americans/Vulcans, USFL Stallions, WLAF Fire, and CFL Barracudas). But they haven’t grown or boomed as a city in that time period, especially compared to other cities such as Charlotte, Orlando, and San Antonio. They are off the map in terms of TV market, 53rd in metro area, and are too close to Atlanta and now Nashville.

Okay, so we’ll toss out Tulsa, Shreveport, Memphis and Birmingham. Let’s say we keep Honolulu as a token Green Bay or Jacksonville-type and as a fun road game for players (Plus, I like the Honolulu Hawaiians name and logo). Here are my suggestions for replacement sites:

1. Boston – Especially since the Patriots are apparently moving to Hartford (107 miles away). Boston (6th in TV market, 7th in population) will need its own team. Stadium may be a problem (it always has been for Boston) but perhaps Boston College’s Alumni Field or Harvard Stadium could be used.
2. Orlando – I wondered why you left them out? They had the Florida Blazers in the WFL, Renegades in the USFL and Thunder in the WLAF. The Citrus Bowl is a great stadium, and the numbers are excellent: 27th TV market, 31st metro area, 15.7% growth. I know they are a little close to Tampa Bay (84 miles) and Jacksonville (140 miles) but I think it’ll work.
3. Norfolk/Newport News/Hampton Roads/Tidewater – whatever you want to call them; I’ll settle for “Virginia”. No history of major league franchises other than the Virginia Squires in the ABA, and apparently they were trying to get one of the recent NHL expansion franchises. They have respectable numbers (29th in TV markets, 26th in metro population) but from what I gather disposable income is somewhat low. They are definitely far enough away from other franchises. Not sure about the stadium situation, though.
4. Columbus, Ohio – Okay, I’m not so sure about this one. I’m still thinking that perhaps this franchise could be in the New York suburbs (TV Market numbers), Milwaukee, or Raleigh-Durham (excellent numbers). Recently went “big-league” with the awarding of the NHL Blue Jackets. They had the Ohio Glory in the WLAF and they are 31st in both TV market and population. However, Columbus is sort of surrounded by Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Ohio State football may be too competitive. Plus, from what my friends who visited tell me, it doesn’t seem to have much of a big-league “feel”.

With that said, here is my line-up for what I like to call “WFL 2000”:
Pacific Division:
Portland Storm (the return of neon green jerseys!)
Southern California Sun (magenta ∓mp; orange- seventies retro!!)
Sacramento Steamer(s) --Logo from Shreveport, new color scheme
(Honolulu) Hawaiians
WFL2K Pacific

Western Division:
Las Vegas Sting (old Charlotte Hornets unis, slightly modified)
Utah Express (old Jacksonville Unis, slightly modified)
San Antonio Wings (slightly modified logo ∓mp; unis)
Houston Texans (barely modified logo—capitalized the “H”)

WFL2K West

Eastern Division:
Orlando Blazers (since Miami area seems to now have dibs on “Florida”)
Boston Americans (using old Birmingham unis)
Virginia Flames (use old Vulcans logo and Chicago Fire color scheme/unis)
Columbus Northmen or Polar Bears (modified Southmen logo and new color scheme)

WFL2K East

I like the idea of using the old WFL designs and colors where possible—the world seems to be on a retro-seventies kick these days, and someone has to break the chain of teal, black and silver.

The name/location changes seem to fit well, too. Sacramento is on the river of the same name and still has steamboats as “historical” attractions (they delivered gold to (and prospectors from) San Francisco!). “Express” and the train logo ties into Promontory Point, Utah, where they finished the transcontinental railroad. Las Vegas, in fact, already had an arena league team called the “Sting”, which fits well into gambling parlance. “Americans”, of course, fits into Boston history (and is a bit of a Patriots rip-off, but why not?). As for Virginia Flames, hey, the “V” on the logo fits for Virginia and the flame has something to do with liberty or freedom or something colonial like that. And the bear logo from the Memphis Southmen/Grizzlies was left over, so I gave it to Columbus. If the franchise went to Raleigh-Durham, the original colors could be used along with “Southmen” or “Black Bears”. If the franchise is in the NY suburbs, then use the old Stars logo (maybe a different color scheme).

I was also giving thought on how to best market such a league what kind of “angle” or gimmick might be used? I eliminated spring football and wacky rule changes. The regional draft idea of the USFL was pretty interesting, but if I remember correctly, it really didn’t work as planned other than sending Reggie White to the Showboats. Finally, I came upon a marketing ploy that might work.

What is one of the biggest complaints/problems with the NFL today? It is what some pundits called “the stadium game”. The new, suite-oriented stadiums produce a large source of revenue which owners do not share with the league, and are the single largest reason for the franchise shifts (and threatened franchise shifts) over the last twenty years. TV markets do not matter to the individual owner, as TV revenues are shared equally-- Green Bay gets the same share as each NY team. Meanwhile, as the owners work on improving their stadium bottom line, the average fan is being increasingly priced out of the game by suites, personal seat licenses, club seats, etc. It is almost getting to be a game that only the rich can see in person.

Get where I am heading?

As WFL 2000 is created for and by TV, it will be run by TV. It will make the majority of its money through TV. Stadiums and ticket sales will be needed mainly to show people in the stands. Thus, WFL 2000 can forego the stadium game featured by the NFL. In fact, it will attack the “suite/money” mentality in its advertising and marketing. The league will market itself to the average Joe, the disgruntled fan who wants to sit in the stands (preferably in open air, cold, wet, whatever) and cheer on not only his team, but also an entertaining football game. Here are some marketing ideas:

NO SUITES. Play in stadiums without suites, or do not allow/condone use of them for league games in those stadia that already have suites. College stadia may be better suited in this regard: In Houston, play in Rice Stadium as opposed to the Astrodome or new dome. In LA, play in the Rose Bowl, etc. Open (bleacher) seating. Theaters, high school stadiums and (to some degree) college stadiums do it; can it work in the league? I don’t know. It would be a novel idea. The idea is to sell all league game tickets at one affordable price ($10-15, say). That permits entry into the stadium and a seat wherever you can find one. Of course, problems may arise when people go to the restroom or concession stand, and they come back and someone has “taken” their seat. Unless attendance is a rousing success, I think it wouldn’t be a problem; it may get people to go to the game in larger groups (so you can usually have someone to “save” seats), thus selling more tickets. It will get people there earlier, too, with fuller crowds visible during pre-game TV shows.
Aggressive commercials: Show a rich old guy with a jacket and ascot sitting in a suite, sipping wine. He greets several other richly attired folks arriving in furs, diamonds, etc. One says “Beautiful weather—by the way, who is playing today?” The old gentleman looks bemused, and in a cultured accent says, “I don’t know” Then, (1) the crowd roars and the suite collapses as in an earthquake, or (2) several WFL 2000 players crash into the suite on play going out of bounds, knocking the rich old people into the stands (below). The tag line: “WFL 2000: It’ll knock you out of your suite!”
Other commercials might show smash-mouth football scenes and rock songs playing over them (KISS doing “Rock and Roll All Night”, the Ramones doing “Hey Ho, Let’s Go”, etc.) with a tag line: “WFL 2000. The Return of Rock and Roll Football”. Another would have some pampered rich NFL player, shown with furs, jewelry and such, saying over and over “Show me the Money!” Then after he says it one too many times, he’s gang-tackled by a bunch of WFL players.
Another idea may be timing of the games. Traditionally, we have Friday nights for high schools, Saturdays for college, and Sundays for the pros. Friday nights may be weak—demographics may indicate that high-school age kids and their parents are a demographically small group (part of the baby bust). Additionally, colleges and the NFL have had some success on Thursday nights (not to mention Monday Night Football). It’s something to explore. The season could be altered, as well, to start in early August when re-runs and pre-season NFL are on TV, and end Thanksgiving weekend before everyone starts with the Christmas malarkey.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I hope you find them at least entertaining. Now that I’ve written them down and sent them off, I can stop “obsessing” (as my friend John calls it) and get some work done.

Obviously, this guy should be the commissioner of the WFL it decides to come back in the form of the new league!
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