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AS THE WORLD WATCHES MIAMI, THE NFL KEEPS AN EYE OVERSEAS
Published January 27, 1995
Top officials of the NFL, News Corp. and Reebok took time out from Super Bowl week to elaborate on the specifics of the World League of American Football, scheduled to debut this spring in six European cities. Reebok was presented as the league's first sponsor and the official supplier of uniforms, shoes and sideline apparel. In addition, the NFL announced that News Corp. was joining the World League as a 50/50 partner. Joining NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFL President Neil Austrian, were WLAF President & CEO Marc Lory, Fox Sports President David Hill, WLAF consultant Bill Walsh, and Reebok Senior VP of Marketing Dave Ropes. The teams: Amsterdam Admirals, Barcelona Dragons, Frankfurt Galaxy, London Monarchs, Rhein Fire, Scottish Claymores. FROM THE LEAGUE: NFL President Neil Austrian would not expand on any "specific timeframe" for expansion beyond Europe or how the league would measure the WLAF's success there. But he did tell THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY that the presence of "strong partners" would differentiate this venture from the WLAF's first effort. Austrian: "Fox, witnessed by Murdoch, has a great interest in expanding this to Asia and other parts of the world, and I think they're ready to go as soon as we feel comfortable. So, whether it's two years, three years, four years, I couldn't say at this point. But the overall intent when we got together with News Corp. was that this would truly be a World League, not just six teams in Europe." Austrian said the marketing of the WLAF in the U.S. would be "totally non- aggressive": "The merchandise will probably walk off the shelves over here. I think it's great merchandise. But the game itself is being developed as a European game right now, and we plan to focus all of our marketing attention right there." Austrian said they would encourage Reebok to sell WLAF merchandise in the U.S. Bill Walsh, who is serving as a consultant to the league, noted the love for soccer in Europe: "We're going to speed up American football." FOX'S VIEW: News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch addressed the news conference from Washington via video hook-up. Murdoch: "I know the tremendously exciting game of American football can transcend the boundaries of this country." Murdoch said that News Corp. would televise the games on Sky TV in Britain and Fox Germany, with every intention of keeping the games live. After the news conference, Fox Sports President David Hill told THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY said that the sale of ad time would be the responsibility of the local broadcasters. Asked whether the decision to partner with the NFL on the WLAF was related to Fox's NFC contract, Hill said News Corp., as "the world's biggest international broadcaster," saw the World League as a "great opportunity. But they're two totally separate entities." REEBOK: Reebok's Dave Ropes: "Our global alliance with NFL Properties and our sponsorship of the World League of American Football are significant opportunities for Reebok to advance both our performance footwear and apparel technologies and enhance our brand's visibility." Reebok staged a fashion show of the WLAF uniforms.