Legends Football League Adding Three New Franchises

LFL’s two 2015 television deals help spur continued growth

  • by T. Wayne Waters
  • Published: December 1, 2015

Seattle Mist fans get worked up as their team works itself into a LFL Legend’s Cup Championship win. (Photo courtesy of LFL)

Apparently, a significant segment of the U.S. population really likes watching scantily clad female athletes play football.

The 2015 season of the Legend’s Football League, known at inception in 2009 up until 2012 as the Lingerie Football League, could by most measures be deemed a rousing success with new television deals and three planned new franchises for next year’s season. Though Mitchell Mortaza, LFL founder and managing partner of Legends Football League LLC, declined to disclose the privately held company’s attendance or financial figures for the 2015 season, he did indicate an increase in popularity that translated into higher ticket sales.

“Considering we are a sport in its infancy and compounded by the commercial challenges of being a women’s sport, I think the longevity alone is a success,” claimed Mortaza. “However, we are on pace to become the most successful women’s team sport in the world and to challenge major men’s sports within the next 5 to 7 years. In fact, in comparison to the now billion-dollar popular sports franchises such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship or World Wrestling Entertainment through their first three seasons of operation, the LFL has achieved far more national television viewership, attendance and growth through the same initial period of time.”

The LFL has already announced an expansion in 2016 into the Austin area (Austin Acoustics), Dallas area (Dallas Desire) and New England (New England Liberty) with home fields at, respectively, Cedar Park (Texas) Center, outside Austin; Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, Texas, near Dallas; and Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.

The LFL’s new U.S. league configuration will include teams in the areas of Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas and Austin in its Western Conference and Atlanta, Chicago, Omaha and New England in its Eastern Conference. It is possible another team or two could be added before the new season begins. There are also four teams competing in Canada.

The LFL’s acknowledged “short list” of future expansion for the 2017 season includes Washington D.C., Pittsburgh and the Carolinas for its Eastern Conference and Bay Area, Phoenix and Kansas City for the Western Conference. Ultimately, according to Mortaza, the LFL plans to be in 26 primarily NFL markets.

Teams in Baltimore, Green Bay, Toledo and Jacksonville, Fla., shut down operations last season but new franchises are expected to open up elsewhere in Ohio and Florida within three years and the Green Bay franchise may be reorganized.

In another important development for the 2016 season, the LFL will for the first time be opening up franchises for minority and majority owners, according to Mortaza. The league has been up to this point under a single-entity model where the league solely owns and operates all the franchises.

Bill Herman, general manager for the Dr Pepper Arena, home-arena-to-be for the LFL’s new Dallas Desire team, is pleased with the opportunity to expand the use of the facility. The 6,000-seat arena, located about 25 miles north of downtown Dallas, is the current practice facility and corporate headquarters for the NHL’s Dallas Stars and home court for Texas Legends, the NBA Development League’s affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks. 

“We’re really looking forward to having a 2nd tenant in our venue,” said Herman, “even if it’s only for a couple of games.  The timing is good for us since it’s after basketball season and we were able to offer them the dates they wanted. It’s our first time working with the league. The league and team officials have been very professional to work with. It seems they really have their act together and want to put on a great product and develop a solid fan base.  We’re already getting game-day-related notes and we’re still six months out.”

Herman also noted that a LFL field fits easily onto Dr Pepper Arena’s 200-foot by 85-foot hockey rink.

Some 200 miles south of Frisco and 20 or so from Austin, the approximately 8,000-seat Cedar Park Center will be the home “turf” for the new Austin Acoustic franchise.

“We’re excited to host the Austin Acoustic,” said Sammy Wallace, vice president, Booking and Marketing and assistant general manager for the facility. “We think it’s a good fit for our programming schedule and something that will appeal to the market and be an entertaining choice for the people in the area. We expect this would draw some folks from the Austin area who haven’t been to our facility. It’s the first time for anything like this in Austin.”

Cedar Creek Center is owned by the City of Cedar Park and operated by Texas Stars, L.P., the administrative and management concern of the American Hockey League franchise and affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars.

“We are primarily a hockey building and we have a basketball tenant so this will be the first time we will have played football in here,” noted Wallace. “The first time that we’ve had any kind of turf sport so it will be a little different but won’t require any major changes. Once we lay that field out it will set up nicely in the building. We also have different kinds of concerts and shows here so we’re used to changing things up.”

Clearly, this year’s new television deals have bolstered the LFL’s popularity. An agreement this spring awarded the Fuse television network the exclusive rights to broadcast LFL games in the U.S. Fuse broadcast the entire LFL USA 2015 season in high definition and in primetime - 18 regular season games, two conference playoff games and the Legends Cup championship game.

Early last month, the Oxygen network debuted a reality show that follows the lives of six players of the Chicago Bliss team. Called "Pretty. Strong," the show delves into the challenges the women must face trying to juggle their “day jobs” and their football pursuits with the two-time defending champions of the Legends Football League.

“Our recent television deal with NBC Universal and Relativity Television has drawn a correlation to Ultimate Fight Championship’s early-days television deal with Spike TV,” said Mortaza, “which ultimately launched that franchise into what is now a billion dollar company. Our projection for attendance growth is about 20 percent this season and overall nearly 60 percent higher within the next three seasons.” 

The LFL has drawn good television ratings in the U.S. up to now with MyNetwork TV and MTV Networks and internationally the league has been broadcast to nearly 195 television territories across major broadcast platforms such as ESPN International, Sky Sport, Ten Sports, WOWOW, Televisa, Sport TV, Setanta Sports, and others.

Other factors that have brought the unusual football league such attention include, of course, the spectacle of watching fit females wearing what amounts to a bikini with small shoulder pads added and a helmet that doesn’t obscure their faces.

“On the surface, it’s the marketing cachet of beautiful athletes,” acknowledged Mortaza. “However, the reason the sport has not only sustained itself without being subsidized like the WNBA is truly that these are amazing athletes who put a compelling product out on the field. People come to games simply curious, they leave as fans of the sport. They cannot believe the level at which these athletes play the sport as well as the incredibly atmosphere of LFL Football Night.”

LFL Primer
Teams have 14 players active on their roster at any one time, along with six inactive.
PLAYING FIELD
    50 YARD FIELD
    8 YARD END ZONES
    30 YARDS WIDE  
TIME OF PLAY
    (4) 10 MINUTE QUARTERS
    12 MINUTE HALFTIME
    8 MINUTE SUDDEN-DEATH OVERTIME
    (:35) THIRTY-FIVE SECOND PLAY CLOCK
    (2) TWO TIMEOUTS PER HALF
SCORING
    TOUCHDOWN = 6 PTS.
    CONVERSION RUN OR PASS (1 YARD LINE) = 1 PT.
    CONVERSION RUN OR PASS (3 YARD LINE) = 2 PTS.
    SAFETY = 2 PTS.   
GAME PLAY
    NO FIELD GOALS
    TEAMS CAN ELECT TO PUNT WHEN INSIDE THEIR 10 YARD LINE
OFFENSE
    7 PLAYERS ON THE FIELD
    1 QUARTERBACK
    2 RUNNING BACKS
    1 DOWN-LINEWOMAN
    3 WIDE RECEIVERS    
DEFENSE
    7 PLAYERS ON THE FIELD
    2 DOWN-LINEWOMEN
    1 LINEBACKER
    2 CORNERBACKS
    2 SAFETIES

Adapted from LFL website www.lflus.com/

Interviewed for this story: Mitchell Mortaza, (949) 481-5805; Bill Herman, (214) 387-5515; Sammy Wallace, (512) 600-5000

  • by T. Wayne Waters
  • Published: December 1, 2015