Will Fans Stand for Pro Football League in Europe?

Times Staff Writer

For soccer, rugby and other European games, with crowds of 60,000 and up packing London's Wembley Stadium, most fans wedge into the standing-room-only areas.

They stand from beginning to end. That is the nature of spectator sports over there.

But it isn't an American tradition, and so standing won't be allowed--except when the action brings the fans out of their seats--when the National Football League's new international league cranks up next spring.

Tex Schramm so indicated this week. Schramm is the president of the NFL organization billing itself as the World League of American Football, and, in his view, what young European sports fans want is the pure NFL product.

"So we'll do our best to give it to them," he said. "We'll have hot dogs, cheerleaders, halftime shows, souvenirs, a seat for every spectator, and the excitement of American pro football. Europe is ready for it."

Here are some of the most asked questions about the new league.

Question: Will the games begin next spring for sure?

Answer: The NFL's club owners, who voted Wednesday to go ahead with the World League, left the time-frame decision up to the committee in charge, their international league committee, whose members seem to agree with Schramm that a 1990 start is feasible. Said Schramm: "Certainly we can begin in 1990. That's the time to begin."

Q: Which European cities will be represented?

A: London and, probably, Barcelona (Spain), Frankfurt (West Germany) and Milan (Italy). "It's the European connection that makes it an exciting league," Schramm said.

Q: Will California have a team?

A: Plans call for a North American Division with franchises in San Jose, Montreal, Mexico City and New Jersey. Probable members of the Southern Division: Birmingham, San Antonio, Nashville and Orlando.

Q: Who owns this league?

A: "For the most part, stockholders are the owners of NFL franchises," Schramm said. "And the (new) league will own the playing rights to all players, who will be allocated to the teams in some sort of draft."

Q: Who owns the teams?

A: "The teams will be franchised out like car agencies," Schramm said. "Lining up the teams, the franchise holders, the coaches, and good players is the easiest part of my job. Everybody wants to either play, coach or own a franchise."

Q: When will the teams be named?

A: "In good time, one at a time," Schramm said. "What a new league needs is publicity, and what we want is 12 stories, one for each new team, instead of one story listing them all."

Q: Is the TV industry interested in a league with teams in smaller cities instead of NFL cities?

A: "This is a television-driven league," Schramm said. "That's why we're doing it. They came to us requesting an annual pro football package for April, May and June--which is a weak time for televised sports, with nothing much on the tube. They said the cities, big or little, don't matter. They said that what matters is a full house, with the in-person fans enjoying themselves. So we're going to give them full houses, with fans enjoying the games."

Q: In Europe, 1990 is a World Cup year. Wouldn't you be better off starting in 1991?

A: "One of our first jobs is to get European sportswriters and fans interested in our football," Schramm said. "So we'll always make sure to play on the night before World Cup games. We'll invite everyone to come and compare. We welcome the competition."

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