AS THE WORLD WATCHES MIAMI, THE NFL KEEPS AN EYE OVERSEAS
Top officials of the NFL, News Corp. and Reebok took timeout from Super Bowl week to elaborate on the specifics of theWorld League of American Football, scheduled to debut this springin six European cities. Reebok was presented as the league'sfirst sponsor and the official supplier of uniforms, shoes andsideline apparel. In addition, the NFL announced that News Corp.was joining the World League as a 50/50 partner. Joining NFLCommissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFL President Neil Austrian, wereWLAF President & CEO Marc Lory, Fox Sports President David Hill,WLAF consultant Bill Walsh, and Reebok Senior VP of MarketingDave Ropes. The teams: Amsterdam Admirals, Barcelona Dragons,Frankfurt Galaxy, London Monarchs, Rhein Fire, ScottishClaymores. FROM THE LEAGUE: NFL President Neil Austrianwould not expand on any "specific timeframe" for expansion beyondEurope 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 theWLAF's first effort. Austrian: "Fox, witnessed by Murdoch, hasa great interest in expanding this to Asia and other parts of theworld, and I think they're ready to go as soon as we feelcomfortable. So, whether it's two years, three years, fouryears, I couldn't say at this point. But the overall intent whenwe got together with News Corp. was that this would truly be aWorld League, not just six teams in Europe." Austrian said themarketing of the WLAF in the U.S. would be "totally non-aggressive": "The merchandise will probably walk off the shelvesover here. I think it's great merchandise. But the game itselfis being developed as a European game right now, and we plan tofocus all of our marketing attention right there." Austrian saidthey would encourage Reebok to sell WLAF merchandise in the U.S.Bill Walsh, who is serving as a consultant to the league, notedthe love for soccer in Europe: "We're going to speed up Americanfootball." FOX'S VIEW: News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch addressed thenews conference from Washington via video hook-up. Murdoch: "Iknow the tremendously exciting game of American football cantranscend the boundaries of this country." Murdoch said thatNews Corp. would televise the games on Sky TV in Britain and FoxGermany, with every intention of keeping the games live. Afterthe news conference, Fox Sports President David Hill told THESPORTS BUSINESS DAILY said that the sale of ad time would be theresponsibility of the local broadcasters. Asked whether thedecision to partner with the NFL on the WLAF was related to Fox'sNFC contract, Hill said News Corp., as "the world's biggestinternational broadcaster," saw the World League as a "greatopportunity. But they're two totally separate entities." REEBOK: Reebok's Dave Ropes: "Our global alliance with NFLProperties and our sponsorship of the World League of AmericanFootball are significant opportunities for Reebok to advance bothour performance footwear and apparel technologies and enhance ourbrand's visibility." Reebok staged a fashion show of the WLAFuniforms.