Welcome to the World Football League Website

The New WFL

New Football League To Play in '74

The new World Football League will begin play in July with 12 teams

WFL founder Gary Davidson

Economics of Sports in the 70's

In the 70's, the National Football League, headed by Commissioner Pete Rozelle, held a monopoly on professional football. The NFL secured national television contracts with all three of the major broadcasting companies, many of the NFL teams in major markets signed exclusive agreements to stadiums, and many NFL clubs worked closely with the national news media and political concerns. The NFL owners held the upper hand in negotiating salaries with the players due to the lack of any competition in the marketplace. In the 70's, the average salary for a NFL player was about $25,000, compared to the league minimum of $175,000 today. The cost of operating a NFL franchise was estimated at $8-10 million a year. Average ticket prices for NFL games were around $10.

Sports in the mid 70's

In 1973, Gary L. Davidson, the founder of the American Basketball Association and the World Hockey Association went forward with the concept of creating a rival football league that would challenge the established NFL. The allure of sports and entertainment was coming of age in the 70's. Players were starting to demand higher salaries, television was beginning to flex its financial muscle and many cities were left without the hope of ever having a NFL franchise. The concept of a rival league appealed to Davidson and his associates who felt there was a "gold mine" waiting for them underneath the pro football landscape. Despite a shaky economy, runaway fuel costs, and rising interest rates, Davidson went forward with his plan.

Marriott House, Los Angeles-the Birth of the WFL

At 10:25 AM, January 14, 1973, Gary Davidson announced the creation of the World Football League. Davidson announced the WFL original franchises; New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Florida, Chicago, Detroit, Southern California, Memphis, Birmingham, Toronto and Hawaii. During the news conference Davidson also announced his plans for a global football league with teams in London, Tokyo, Milan, Tele Viv and Frankfurt. Below is a picture from the very first WFL meeting in Los Angeles on January 14, 1973.

Representatives of areas bidding for franchises in the World Football League get together in Los Angeles. On the scene are (from left) Joe Wheeler, Washington; Dan Rogers, Hawaii; Carol Stallworth and Bill Putnam, Birmingham, Ala.; league president Gary Davidson, and Steve Arnold, from Memphis.

The WFL landscape changes

After the announcement of the leagues' creation, Chuck Rohe managed to broker a franchise to Fran Monaco, a medical laboratories operator, and Monaco decided to locate his franchise in Jacksonville, Florida. Danny Rodgers secured financial backing for the Hawaii franchise and Bruce Gelker searched for partners in Mexico City. When it became apparent that the prospects of launching a Mexico City franchise by the WFL kickoff were slim, Gelker began to look at Salt Lake City, Utah and Portland, Oregon as sites for his franchise.

In February, the WFL owners met in Chicago at the Hyatt Regency and from those meetings changed the landscape of the WFL. Steven Arnold decided to move his Memphis franchise to Houston due to the football faithful in Tennessee saying their prayers on the possibility of securing a NFL franchise in 1976. Howard Baldwin, President of the Boston Bulls, formally the Boston Bulldogs, merged his franchise with Bob Schmertz's New York club after millionaire Henry Vickers and his associates withdrew a $700,000 investment. Bruce Gelker transferred his Mexico City franchise to Portland, Oregon. In Washington, E. Joseph Wheeler ran into troubles securing a stadium and transferred his franchise to Baltimore, and then on to Virginia. Mounting financial problems caused him to sell the franchise to a group of Orlando, Florida businessmen headed by former NFL General Manager Rommie Loudd. The WFL's official lineup was complete: Birmingham Americans, Chicago Fire, Detroit Wheels, Florida Blazers, Hawaiians, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Sharks, Memphis Southmen, New York Stars, Philadelphia Bell, Portland Storm, and the Southern California Sun.