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World Indoor Football League to debut in 2007

by Paul Reeths
July 27, 2006 - World Indoor Football League 2 (WIFL 2)

OurSports Central has learned that the World Indoor Football League will announce its formation Thursday. The new league will consist largely of teams in the southeastern U.S. One of the driving forces behind the circuit is Rome Renegades and Raleigh Rebels co-owner Harry Pierce.

While the league is new, its inaugural teams are not. The WIFL will initially consist of seven franchises - five teams from the American Indoor Football League and two from the National Indoor Football League. Joining from the AIFL are the Augusta (Ga.) Spartans, Daytona Beach (Fl.) Thunder, Huntington (WV) Heroes, Raleigh (NC) and Rome (Ga.). Osceola (Fl.) Football and the Charleston (SC) Sandsharks will move over from the NIFL. The WIFL expects to add more franchises in the coming weeks.

Raleigh, Rome and Huntington all earned AIFL playoff berths last season. The Renegades finished as the league runner-up after falling in a sold-out title game at home. Rome had played in the NIFL in 2005 before joining the AIFL this season, and Daytona Beach had also fielded a team in the NIFL the same year.

The AIFL expanded from six to 16 teams in 2006. Two teams folded during the AIFL season, and semi-pro squads were used to fill in most of the resulting gaps in the schedule, leaving several team owners questioning how league president Andrew Haines operated the league and his strategy of rapid growth. A recently revealed $435,000 judgment against the league by former Asheville team owner Robert Boyd has also shaken confidence in the league and cost Haines a sale of the AIFL.

In the NIFL, 10 of 22 teams either suspended operations at some point this year or experienced an ownership change during the season. Forfeits and replacement teams became commonplace during the second half of the campaign. This is the third consecutive year the NIFL has lost teams to another league after 10 teams left following the 2004 campaign to help form United Indoor Football and four more departed last season to form the Intense Football League.

Both Charleston and Osceola were embroiled in public disagreements with the NIFL office and league president Carolyn Shiver late this year.

Though Charleston appeared to earn an NIFL playoff berth by winning its final game of the season, they declared shortly before the contest that they would decline their postseason spot because the league owed them money. Sandsharks General manager Al Bannister stated the team did not believe the debt would be paid or that they would be reimbursed $10,000 for playoff travel expenses. The NIFL later claimed the Sandsharks forfeited their final game by using ineligible players but did not provide proof. Charleston coach John Patterson vehemently denied the allegation.

Osceola was slated to appear in the NIFL postseason as well, and the NIFL awarded them a first-round playoff forfeit when opponent Cincinnati failed to secure an arena. But the league changed course and instead required Osceola to travel to St. Louis to face off against Cincinnati on a Friday for the right to play the St. Louis team the following night. Citing potential danger to his players and Shiver's sudden reversal, Osceola co-owner Dave Doebler declined the offer and withdrew his franchise from the playoffs. Doebler's club had also refused to sign a noncompete agreement with the NIFL, which became a major point of contention between his franchise and the league. In an email exchange obtained by OurSports Central, he questioned Shiver's leadership and honesty.

Though the exact league structure has not been unveiled, the WIFL will be run by its owners in an effort to avoid some of the problems faced by the AIFL and NIFL.

The WIFL will kick off its inaugural season in February of 2007.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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