SBJ/December 20 - 26, 1999/No Topic Name

Scaled-down football league on for spring

The International Football Federation is forging ahead with plans to hold its inaugural season this spring with four teams each playing a six-game schedule.

The league was founded in June by Dennis Murphy and television executive Ed Litwak, who had grandiose plans: a 12-team springtime league playing a 16-game schedule in many of America's major markets. Kickoff was supposed to begin in February.

In the six months following the league's announcement, plans have been dramatically scaled back. Now the league plans to hold a limited, showcase season next year with teams in New York, Mobile, Ala., Los Angeles and Detroit. Litwak, chief executive of the startup Cavalcade of Sports Network, is no longer part of the league. Jerry Saperstein, owner of the New York franchise, is the league's president. Saperstein did not return calls for comment.

Murphy said the season will start May 15 with each team playing three home games and three away games. No leases have been signed with venues in the markets.

"This hasn't been easy, and certainly the odds are against us, but I am confident that this inaugural season is doable with four teams," Murphy said. "We're realistic. If our crowds average between 15,000 and 20,000, we'll be doing good."

Murphy knows a thing or two about starting professional sports leagues. He was one of the founders of the American Basketball Association, the World Hockey Association and World TeamTennis. And he needs no reminder of other failed springtime football leagues such as the USFL and the World Football League. Even the deep pockets of NBC and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. have not been deep enough to create a springtime pro football league.

Murphy admits that without some sort of television deal in place, the league stands virtually no chance of succeeding. While he refused to discuss any media deal, he said there are plans afoot to broadcast games. The league also plans to broadcast its games on the Internet.

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