World Football League: The Rise and Fall of a Dream
World Football League: A Brief History and Overview
Football, or soccer as it is known in some parts of the world, is the most popular sport on the planet. According to FIFA, the global governing body of football, there are more than 270 million people who play the game, and more than four billion who watch it. Football has a rich and diverse history, with many leagues, tournaments, and competitions around the world. But have you ever heard of the World Football League?
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The World Football League (WFL) was an American football league that played for only two seasons in 1974 and 1975. It was an ambitious attempt to create a global football league, with teams from both North America and Europe. However, it faced many problems and challenges, and ultimately folded midway through its second season. In this article, we will explore the history and overview of the WFL, its teams, players, rules, innovations, troubles, demise, legacy, and benefits.
What was the World Football League?
The origins and goals of the WFL
The WFL was founded by Gary Davidson, a California lawyer and businessman who had previously helped start the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the World Hockey Association (WHA), two alternative leagues that challenged the established NBA and NHL. Davidson wanted to do the same for football, and envisioned a transatlantic league that would bring American football to a worldwide stage.
Davidson announced his plans for the WFL in October 1973, along with a group of investors he called the "founding fathers". These included Robert Schmertz, who owned the WHA's New England Whalers and NBA's Boston Celtics; John F. Bassett, a Canadian movie producer and owner of the WHA's Toronto Toros; Ben Hatskin, who owned the WHA's Winnipeg Jets; and R. Steve Arnold, another WHA associate.
The WFL aimed to compete with the NFL, the dominant professional football league in North America. It offered higher salaries, longer contracts, more freedom, and better benefits to attract players from the NFL and other leagues. It also planned to expand into new markets that were not served by the NFL, such as Honolulu, Memphis, Portland, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, London, Frankfurt, Rome, Barcelona, Mexico City, Tokyo, Sydney, and Johannesburg.
The teams and players of the WFL
The WFL started with 12 teams in its inaugural season in 1974. These were divided into two divisions: Eastern (Boston Bulls, New York Stars, Philadelphia Bell, Jacksonville Sharks, Charlotte Hornets, Florida Blazers) and Western (Chicago Fire, Detroit Wheels, Houston Texans, Memphis Southmen, Birmingham Americans, Hawaiians). The league added a 13th team in October 1974 (Shreveport Steamer), after relocating the Houston Texans.
The WFL managed to sign some notable players from the NFL and other leagues. These included Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield from the Miami Dolphins; Calvin Hill from the Dallas Cowboys; John Gilliam from the Minnesota Vikings; Ted Kwalick from the San Francisco 49ers; Daryle Lamonica from the Oakland Raiders; Virgil Carter from the Chicago Bears; and J.J. Smith from the Denver Broncos.
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The WFL also had some players who would later become famous in other fields. These included Fred Dryer, who became an actor in TV shows like Hunter; Ed Podolak, who became a broadcaster for college football; and Reggie Williams, who became a city councilman in Cincinnati.
The rules and innovations of the WFL
The WFL The WFL had some rules and innovations that were different from the NFL and other football leagues. Some of these were:
The WFL used a 15-minute sudden-death overtime period, instead of the 10-minute one used by the NFL at the time.
The WFL used a 30-second play clock, instead of the 40-second one used by the NFL.
The WFL used a seven-point touchdown system, where a touchdown was worth six points, and a conversion was worth one point. The conversion could be either a run or a pass from the two-and-a-half yard line, or a kick from the five yard line.
The WFL used a "Dickerod", a 90-inch long rod with a dial on top, to measure first downs. The rod was attached to a 10-yard long chain, and the dial indicated how many inches were needed for a first down.
The WFL used a "Action Point", where a team could score one extra point after a touchdown by running or passing the ball from the five yard line into the end zone. The defense could also score one point by returning the ball to the opposite end zone.
The WFL used colored footballs for different occasions. The regular ball was orange with white stripes, the night ball was yellow with black stripes, and the playoff ball was silver with black stripes.
What happened to the World Football League?
The financial and legal troubles of the WFL
The WFL faced many financial and legal troubles from the start. The league had overestimated its revenues and underestimated its expenses, and many of its teams were losing money. The league also had difficulty securing TV contracts, stadium leases, and fan support. The league had to deal with lawsuits from the NFL, which accused it of violating antitrust laws and interfering with its contracts. The league also had to deal with player defections, contract disputes, and unpaid salaries.
The WFL tried to solve its problems by making several changes and adjustments. It reduced its schedule from 20 to 18 games in 1974, and from 18 to 14 games in 1975. It relocated some of its teams to new cities, such as New York to Charlotte, Houston to Shreveport, Detroit to Charlotte, Florida to San Antonio, and Chicago to Philadelphia. It also merged some of its teams, such as Boston and New York, Memphis and Birmingham, and Jacksonville and Hawaii. It also introduced new teams, such as San Antonio Wings, Charlotte Stars, Philadelphia Bell, Portland Thunder, and Chicago Winds.
The demise and legacy of the WFL
The WFL's efforts were not enough to save it from collapse. The league folded midway through its second season on October 22, 1975, after failing to secure enough funding to continue operations. The league had played only 12 games out of its planned 14-game schedule in 1975. The last game was between the Birmingham Vulcans and the Philadelphia Bell on October 19, 1975, which Birmingham won 14-11.
The WFL's demise left behind a legacy of unfulfilled dreams and broken promises. The league had owed millions of dollars to its players, coaches, staff, creditors, vendors, and fans. Many of its players never received their full salaries or bonuses. Some of its players tried to return to the NFL or other leagues, but faced difficulties in finding jobs or getting recognition. Some of its players suffered from physical and mental health issues due to their experiences in the WFL.
However, the WFL also left behind some positive impacts and influences on football. The league had introduced some innovations and ideas that were later adopted or adapted by other leagues. These included:
The use of overtime periods in regular season games.
The use of colored footballs for different occasions.
The use of seven-point touchdowns and action points.
The use of Dickerods for measuring first downs.
The expansion into new markets that were not served by the NFL.
The promotion of diversity and inclusion in football.
What are the benefits of a global football league?
The economic and social impact of football
Football is more than just a sport; it is also a cultural phenomenon that has a significant economic and social impact on the world. According to FIFA, According to FIFA, the global governing body of football, there are more than 270 million people who play the game, and more than four billion who watch it. Football has a rich and diverse history, with many leagues, tournaments, and compet