Thirty nine years ago, on October 22, 1975, the World Football League went out of business. Aside from Larry King, the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are not many artifacts left from the league which had global plans but couldn’t keep teams afloat in American cities.
The concept behind the World Football League was simple. Start a league that would compete with the National Football League and then go global. The National Football League now has global aspirations but back in 1974 when the WFL started, the NFL was content with 26 teams, Monday Night Football and raking in television cash. The NFL was having problems with the players contractually and that rancor would eventually lead to players striking during a portion of training camp. The WFL succeeded in one area for NFL players, a bidding war broke out between the two leagues and about 60 NFL players signed WFL contracts although very few actually played in the new league.
One of the NFL’s responses to the new league was expansion. The NFL would eventually announce that Seattle and Tampa would enter the NFL in 1976 which closed off those two cities from the WFL.
The WFL did start but financial problems cropped up everywhere except in Memphis and barely finished the 1974 season.
The league did come back in 1975 but expenses overwhelmed the league and it folded. The owners of Birmingham and Memphis applied to join the NFL and were turned down. They sued the NFL for antitrust violations and lost. Some WFL players ended up in the NFL along with personnel people. Larry King was the voice of the Shreveport Steamers and is probably the best known of all WFL employees.
In 1974, the WFL did have a TV contract with Eddie Einhorn’s TVS television network which was more a group of stations signing for a product that a network. But the league failed to get on national TV in 1975.
The WFL, like two other renegade leagues of that era, the American Basketball Association and the World Hockey Association changed the American sports landscape bringing in new ideas. The established leagues co-opted some of those ideas. The WFL is a minor footnote in pro football history.