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Mac the Knife
04-23-2008, 02:08 PM
I've been tinkering with the concept of a new, lower-level spring pro football league (could be considered semi-pro I guess), and I wanted to bounce the idea off folks here on the OSC to see:

(1) If anyone thinks it's viable,
(2) If anyone has any suggestions that might make it more viable, and
(3) If, on the off-chance there are any semi-pro team owners here, they'd like to explore the concept further.

ON THE FIELD:
Teams would play using essentially NFL rules but with one significant change: instead of kicking extra points, a team scoring a touchdown would have an opportunity to score 1, 2 or 3 points by run or pass from the 5, 10, or 15 yard line. This would, at least in theory, add a little more strategy to the mix.

Games would be played on Saturdays and/or Sundays in the spring (depending on facility availability, a team owner's prediction regarding local trends, etc.), running either 12 or 14 weeks beginning in early March, with no "bye" weeks unless it was absolutely necessary. Playoffs would follow with a format based on the number of teams, ending with a championship game at the home site of one of the finalist's teams.

OFF THE FIELD:
The league and its teams would adhere to a strict business model that minimizes expenses and strives for making each team a sort of "community" team, with HEAVY focus on local promotion.

Players would be compensated using a formula directly tied to ticket sales, with a decent percentage of the gate being split between the two clubs' players. This concept both gives the league's players a vested interest in promoting the games in their home markets, but it also offers team owners a cushion against losses - their player costs are tied to revenues, so their only real risk are the fixed costs they incur (facility rent, insurance, league and office expenses, etc.)

Owners would be screened out through a process that (1) would require a significant application fee (no ABA-style "$10K and you're in" arrangements), (2) would require criminal and financial background checks on anyone holding more than a 5% interest in the team, (3) would require the team to have a facility lease in place as well as proper insurance, and (4) would be followed by requiring a deposit held by the league to guarantee the team's appearance at road games - at least an amount sufficient to cover a home team's expenses in the event of a forfeit. If a visiting team fails to show for a game, they lose the deposit - along with their league membership.

Merchandising and corporate sponsorships would be managed at the league level and executed at the team level - with the league providing teams their merchandise for re-sale, and setting the guidelines for the team's to sell sponsorships. Revenue from these sources would be shared (though not equally) among the selling club, the league office, and a pool of all league clubs - a case where each team can help the others financially. The internet presence would also be league-controlled, ensuring a consistent, professional looking image of the league and all its teams. League-generated revenue would be split equally among the clubs, with a portion retained by the league to help defray front office operations.

A television contract obviously wouldn't be in the cards, but should a team land a local radio deal to broadcast their games, the revenue from that would be 100% theirs.

I'm probably whistling "Dixie" with this concept, but again I just wanted to bounce the idea off of you guys to see just how ridiculous (or not so ridiculous) it might be. So feel free to ask questions, sound off why you think it won't work, how you think it might work, and so forth. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Wolf33
04-23-2008, 03:38 PM
Any professional football league without an NFL affiliation or at least the NFLís blessing will either fail or at best be equal to secondary indoor leagues.

A truly successful spring pro league will have to do or have at least the following:

1) Limit each teamís complete operating budget to $ 1.5 million or less. This can easily be done if you limit roster sizes and hold players salaries to around $20,000 to $25,000.
2) Operate with 6 to 10 teams in mid-sized markets with good weather beginning in the months of March and April.
3) Finish playing no later than early July.
4) Be a minor league system for the NFL or have the NFLís blessing. Use players who the NFL wants it use, such as practice squad players, Future Contract players and cut players.
5) Have at least a regional TV contract.
6) Play by NFL Playing Rules.

Mac the Knife
04-23-2008, 07:49 PM
Actually Wolf even the numbers you're proposing are larger than what I'm anticipating, but I don't think a tie-in with the NFL is necessarily a necessity. A regional TV deal would be nice, but is probably an unrealistic expectation in a league's first year unless there's some 'hook' to it.

tops804
04-23-2008, 10:47 PM
The AAFL's lack of reaching the field after holding a draft, and creating a
schedule may have been the final dagger in spring football....Had the USFL
not challanged the NFL, or attempted a move to the fall in the first place, the
story could have been much different.

The landscape of sports has changed too much in 25 years (I.E. -- a baseball
game on televison virtually every night of the season) to maintain national
interest in a non-pro circuit...

Arena football is probably as close as we can get today.