WPFL HAS LOTS OF ENERGY, BUT THERE IS A STORM ON THE HORIZON
By Al Mattei
The 2000-01 season in the Women's Professional Football League came and went with some 500 women going through new experiences and forming new friendships on the way to the championship game.
But it was telling that the game, scheduled the weekend before the Super Bowl, did not take place in its originally schedule location in Daytona, Fla.
Instead, the game was played at the home field of the Houston Energy, which promptly dumped the New England Storm in the final.
The location was telling because the WPFL could not make up in enthusiam its lack of cash flow. Certainly, players and the new fans of women's football have a lot to be thankful for in terms of the opportunity to play a sport from which females were systematically excluded.
The next steps in the process did not materialize quite as well as league organizers hoped. Leaguewide sponsorship promises ebbed in the same way the economy did. Worse yet, there was competition brewing.
One competitor was expected: the National Women's Football League announced plans for the spring of 2001, and at least one team held tryouts in 2000.
The other competitor was more unexpected, and much larger: the XFL. The made-for-TV football league, started by sports entertainment impresario Vince McMahon, gobbled up sponsorship and stadium deals to which the WPFL had aspired.
These deals not only penetrated at the heart of many WPFL marketing areas, but affected other sports. The XFL franchises in Orlando and at The Meadowlands pretty much wrecked the plans for two Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) teams to play there. The Orlando WUSA team moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., while the New York franchise shuffled to Uniondale, Long Island.
It's almost too bad that McMahon did not decide to co-opt the idea of women's football, rather than spend lavishly on a concept that has resulted in low second-week ratings, one injured paraplegic fan in Los Angeles, and risky football ventures in failed venues like Birmingham and Memphis.
Instead, he has chosen to focus more on each team's group of 10 busty cheerleaders as a primary role for women in football. Not good.