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The History of the WLAF

Turning the Dream Into a Reality
    After years of planning and development, the World League of American Football (the forerunner to the NFL Europe League) exploded onto the sporting scene with a unique 17-day extravaganza in Orlando, Florida that will long be remembered by those involved.
    Rather than have a host of meetings, player workouts and the inaugural draft spread over many months - as most other sports leagues had done in the past - the World League crammed all those activities into the space of two and a half hectic weeks.League meetings were followed by player trials and workouts, and those in turn were followed by the first World League draft as more than 1,000 World League personnel converged on Orlando from February 8-24 in 1991.  The man charged with making sure everything ran smoothly was Les Miller, the World League's special events coordinator for the Orlando meetings and the draft. "It was a monumental task," said Miller, a former director of scouting for the NFL's San Diego Chargers. "It was a mind-boggling thing to put together."Everybody affiliated with the World League was in Orlando. All three league offices (New York, Dallas and London), all 10 franchises, all the sponsors. They were all together, face-to-face, for the first time."
    First on the agenda were a series of meetings for World League officials and owners as they attempted to introduce policies that would shape the future of football around the world.
League president Mike Lynn also made his first state of the World League address in Florida. Joe Bailey, the World League's chief operating officer, said: "Decisions which were made during that time period will have a significant impact on the future of the league."We were making history, breaking new ground in the globalization of American football."    Next came the grading of players, although much research had been carried out on potential candidates before they even set foot in Orlando.Whereas the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis features the top 350 prospects in the country, the World League invited 710 hopefuls to Orlando - 65 for each of the 10 teams and 60 for Team Dallas, the 11th team which served as a practice squad throughout the 1991 season.  Another 40 players were added via the Operation Discovery programme initiated to find the best amateur players in Europe.
    The American players were made up of young prospects who spent time with NFL or Canadian Football League teams, either on regular season rosters or during training camp."We started out by looking at the draft classes of 1990, '89 and '88," Miller explained. "Guys who made it in the NFL for a year or two, or who made it to the final cut before the season. You'd be surprised how many players fall into that category."
Lynn, the former general manager for the Minnesota Vikings, was confident there would be more than enough good players for the World League."Our colleges produce 10,000 football players every year," he explained. " Of those, 2,000 are high-quality players. Of those, only 336 get drafted by the NFL, and many of them don't last. So don't tell me we'll have trouble finding talent."  Lynn would be proved right in time.
The 1991 season produced NFL starters such as London Monarchs quarterback Stan Gelbaugh, Monarchs safety Dedrick Dodge, who won Super Bowls with San Francisco and Denver, and San Antonio Riders quarterback Jason Garrett, who is still going strong in the NFL with the New York Giants.
    The World League received over 4,000 applications from players looking for a chance to prove themselves at a high level and get back in the NFL. It was a tough task for Miller to weed through the hopefuls and find those talented enough to be invited to Florida for the first draft.Miller said: "One of the misunderstandings of this league was that we'd simply be having open tryouts for any guy off the street who wanted to play football."But it was a tremendous undertaking to zero in on the 66 running backs, or 44 quarterbacks, or 22 punters we signed to come to Orlando."    When the players arrived in Orlando they were put through their paces and required to take physical exams, make themselves available for interviews with team executives, and work out for the coaches and general managers.The draft concluded the events in Orlando and that in itself was unique. Players were drafted by position, with each of the 10 clubs being granted first choice in one of the 10 sections.
    The New York/New Jersey Knights kicked off proceedings on February 14, 1991, by grabbing tackle Caesar Rentie, a 290-pounder from the University of Oklahoma, with the first pick in the offensive lineman draft.
The regular draft concluded 10 days later on February 24, although a supplemental draft was held on February 28 and unearthed future gems such as Gelbaugh, Barcelona defensive end Bruce Clark, and the Monarchs pairing of WR Andre Riley and RB David Smith.  Lynn loved the positional drafts and admitted it was another way the World League could tout itself as a groundbreaking organisation. "I have been sequestered in NFL draft rooms," he said. "This was the most exciting draft I've ever been involved with and the kind of innovative approach that will become the hallmark of the World League."
    History would suggest the Monarchs got the best out of the inaugural World League draft as they went on to dominate the 1991 season and win the first World Bowl.However, some would argue that football fans in Europe and around the world were the winners as the initial Orlando meetings and draft kick-started a product that has grown in strength with each passing year.

WLAF History of Events

Click on the year below to learn about that year in WLAF History

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

 

2007

 

WLAF/NFLE Presidents / Commissioners

click on photos for info

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Tex Schramm 1989-1990
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Mike Lynn (1990-1991)
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Joe Bailey - Chief Operating Officer (1992)
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Marc Lory (1994-1995)

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Oliver Luck (1995-1999)

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Bill Peterson (2000)

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Paul Tagliabue (2001-2005)

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Roger Goodell (2006-2007)

Experimental rules

The NFL has traditionally used a sudden death format for overtime. Regular season games have a single period of overtime during which the first team to score wins the game. If neither team scores, the game is declared a tie. In post-season games, overtime is extended indefinitely until one team scores. In NFL Europa, however, the overtime period lasted for 10 minutes with the requirement that each team must have the opportunity of possession at least once. This gave the format some similarities with the NCAA's overtime format. So, in NFL Europa, it was possible for one team to score in overtime then have to kick-off to the opponent and give them a chance to either equalize or win the game. The winner was the team with the highest score after both teams had had possession. Only two games ever remained tied after overtime in WLAF/NFL Europa history: London Monarchs versus Birmingham Fire in Week 4 of the 1992 season, and Berlin Thunder at Hamburg Sea Devils, on April 1, 2006. The score of both games was 17-17.

With soccer being the traditionally popular sport in Europe and American football being a relative newcomer, the rules were changed slightly to encourage a greater element of kicking which was intended to make the game more enjoyable for soccer and rugby fans. The league did this by awarding 4 points to field goals of more than 50 yards, as opposed to 3 points in the NFL. This had the interesting side-effect that a touchdown & PAT lead (7 points) could be equaled by one regular field goal (3 points) as well as a long field goal (4 points).

Also, there was a requirement that at least one player of Non-American extraction, referred to as "national" players, participate in every down for both teams as of the 2006 season (in previous seasons one was required to play only on every down of every other series). In addition to European players a number of Mexican and Japanese players played as national players. Up until the 2004 season kicked conversion attempts and short field goals were attempted by national players. Since there are few European players who have had the chance to compete at a level comparable to U.S. college football and the NFL, many, if not most, of the European players ended up as kickers.

Among the notable national players included Scott McCready, an English wide receiver who played some preseason games for the New England Patriots, Constantin Ritzmann, a German defensive end who had played for the University of Tennessee, and Rob Hart, an English rugby player who became a placekicker; he kicked barefoot.

Teams will use a common playbook for Offense (constructed by former University of Pittsburgh coach Mike Gottfried) and a common playbook for Defense (put together by former Denver Broncos coach Joe Collier). Players will make a base salary of $20,000 with quarterbacks recieving $25,000.  Teams will play a minimum of two games on a continent in a row to cut down on travel costs.  Any college player who signs with the WLAF before the NFL draft in April, and is selected by an NFL team, is free to sign with that team when then WLAF season is completed.

Spokane Chronicle (January 15, 1991)

 2007 Stadiums

The following is a list of former NFL Europa stadiums.

Teams from NFL Europa's final season (2007)
TeamStadiumYears UsedCapacityOpenedCity
Amsterdam AdmiralsAmsterdam ArenA1997-200751,8591996Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Olympisch Stadion1995-1996,
one game in 2000,
one game in 2007
31,6001928
Berlin ThunderOlympiastadion2004-200776,0001936Berlin, Germany
F. L. Jahn Sportpark1998-200319,5001951
Cologne CenturionsRheinEnergieStadion2004-200750,3741923Cologne, Germany
Frankfurt GalaxyCommerzbank-Arena
Waldstadion (1925-2005)
2005-2007
1995-2005
52,0001925Frankfurt, Germany
Hamburg Sea DevilsHSH Nordbank Arena2005-200755,9892000Hamburg, Germany
Rhein FireLTU Arena2005-200751,5002004Düsseldorf, Germany
Veltins-Arena
Arena AufSchalke (2001-2005)
2003-200461,5242001Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Rheinstadion1995-200255,9001926Düsseldorf, Germany
Defunct Teams
TeamStadiumYears UsedCapacityOpenedCity
Barcelona Dragons
(1991-1992, 1995-2003)
Mini Estadi2001-200315,2761982Barcelona, Spain
Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys1991-1992, 1995-200056,0001929
England Monarchs
(1998)
Crystal Palace National Sports Centre199815,5001964London, England
Ashton Gate1998 (one game)21,5001900Bristol, England
Alexander Stadium1998 (one game)7,6001976Birmingham, England
London Monarchs
(1991-1992, 1995-1997)
Stamford Bridge1996 (one game), 199742,4491877London, England
White Hart Lane1995-199636,2401899
Wembley Stadium
Empire Stadium
1991-199280,0001923
Scottish Claymores
(1995-2004)
Hampden Park1998-2000, 2002 (part time),
2001, 2003-2004 (full time)
52,5001903Glasgow, Scotland
Murrayfield Stadium1995-1997 (full time),
1998-2000 (part-time),
one game in 2002
67,5001925Edinburgh, Scotland

Attendance

YearGamesTotalAverage
World League
1991501,268,06625,361
1992501,210,81724,216
1993------
1994------
199530436,85314,562

1996

1997

30

30

516,171

546,433

17,206

18,214

NFL Europe
199830499,03416,634
199930544,84418,161
200030540,43818,015
200130557,03818,568
200230541,54618,052
200330494,44816,482
200430477,74115,925
200530568,93518,965
200630529,98817,666
NFL Europa
200730600,60020,020
154909,332,95219,047

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Amsterdam Admirals
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Barcelona Dragons
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Berlin Thunder
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Birmingham Fire
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Cologne Centurions
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England Monarchs
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Frankfurt Galaxy
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Hamburg Sea Devils
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London Monarchs
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Montreal Machine

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NY/NJ Knights

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Ohio Glory
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Orlando Thunder
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Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks
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Rhein Fire
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Sacramento Surge
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San Antonio Riders
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Scottish Claymores
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World Bowl History
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Thanks MG's Helmets for the cool helmet designs, the football database and wikipedia.org.

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WLAF / NFLE Coach of the Year

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History of the WLAF Ball

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WLAF Gametime Magazine Covers
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Helmet-Cam
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Operation Discovery
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Helmet 2-Way Radios
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WLAF Referee
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1991 World League Tryouts
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Television Coverage
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Proposed WLAF Cities
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Notable Players
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WLAF Logos History
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Uniform Manufacturers
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Team Colors

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