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The World League of American Football (WLAF) was founded in 1990 with support from the National Football League to play professional American football in North America, Europe and later possibly Asia. This came after the NFL had played popular American Bowls in London's Wembley Stadium and elsewhere since 1986.
The WLAF played two seasons with 10 teams in the spring of 1991 and 1992, with the World Bowl as championship games. Rules unique to WLAF included assigning increasing point value to field goals based on distance, and a requirement that at least one player of non-US nationality participate in at least every other series of downs.
New ideas were successfully tested, like using the two-point conversion rule also on the professional field before adopting it in the NFL in 1994. Other minor tweaks in gameplay, such as a shorter kickoff tee, were also first used in the WLAF. Several technical innovations, such as helmet mounted cameras and one-way radios, enabling coaches to tell plays directly to quarterbacks, were also developed.
In 1995, games in Europe were resumed as the World League of American Football (WLAF)|World League, in 1998 as NFL Europe and in 2006 as NFL Europa. The league ceased operations on 29 June 2007.
The original WLAF was a spring developmental American football league which had 10 teams playing a 10-game regular season. Two additional franchises were initially proposed in Paris and Mexico City. Teams were aligned in three divisions:
- North American West: Birmingham Fire, Sacramento Surge, San Antonio Riders
- North American East: Montreal Machine, New York/New Jersey Knights, Orlando Thunder, Raleigh–Durham Skyhawks (replaced by Ohio Glory in 1992)
- European: Barcelona Dragons, Frankfurt Galaxy, London Monarchs
The playoff format consisted of four teams: the three divisional champions, plus a wild card with the best overall non-division winning record. The two teams emerging from the World League of American Football semifinal playoffs met at the end of the season in the World Bowl. The first two World Bowl games were held at predetermined locations much like the modern Super Bowl.
The original WLAF was less than popular in the United States. This might also have been caused by the surprising domination of the three Europe-based teams in 1991, which had a combined 24-6 record, while no North American team managed to be better than 5-5. The Raleigh–Durham Skyhawks even lost all 10 games as well as their franchise, which was moved to Ohio for 1992.
In 1992, fortunes changed and the European teams all had losing seasons. Despite this, the European fans remained loyal, but operations of the WLAF were suspended after the 1992 season as the league lost money and the involved NFL owners were not willing to invest more. However, the National Football League still liked the idea of a spring developmental league—and they needed another pro Football league to help their cause in the antitrust and free agency lawsuit with the National Football League Players' Association.
The Sacramento and San Antonio franchises left the WLAF and were set to join the Canadian Football League in 1993. San Antonio folded prior to the season but the Sacramento Gold Miners did play in the CFL for three years, starting the CFL USA initiative created in the wake of the WLAF's suspension.
|North America East|
|New York/New Jersey Knights||5–5–0||257||155|
|North America West|
|San Antonio Riders||4–6–0||176||196|
|World Bowl I (London)|
|North American East Division|
|New York/New Jersey Knights||6–4–0||248||188|
|North American West Division|
|San Antonio Riders||7–3–0||195||150|
|World Bowl II (Montreal)|
After revamping itself into an exclusively European circuit, the WLAF re-launched in 1995. The league consisted of the three existing European teams from the original format as well as three new teams in Amsterdam, Düsseldorf and Edinburgh (who would compete as Scotland).
By the end of the 1997 season, there were growing concerns that their markets, except Germany, were not living up to their potential. Radical changes were made to the two British teams. The London Monarchs would become the England Monarchs, and play their home games in London, Birmingham and Bristol. Also, the Scottish Claymores would divide their schedule between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Then, at a press conference in San Diego during Super Bowl XXXII weekend, the league announced it too would be changing: the league would be rebranded as NFL Europe.
USA Network carried most of the WLAF games on Saturday and Monday nights in the 1991 season and again on Saturday nights for the 1992 season. As mentioned, it premiered the helmet cam to TV audiences. ABC Sports broadcast some games in both seasons, mostly on Sunday afternoons. ABC showed the 1991 World Bowl, while USA carried the game in 1992.
North American WestEdit
North American EastEdit
- Montreal Machine (1991)
- New York/New Jersey Knights (1991)
- Orlando Thunder (1991)
- Raleigh–Durham Skyhawks (1991) season only
- Ohio Glory (1992) season only
- Estadi Olímpic de Montjuïc 1991-92
- Legion Field 1991-92
- Waldstadion 1991-92
- Wembley Stadium 1991-92
- Olympic Stadium 1991-92
- New York/New Jersey
- Giants Stadium 1991-92
- Ohio Stadium 1992
- Citrus Bowl 1991-92
- San Antonio