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THE NFL / T.J. SIMERS

We Can't Get a New Team, so Let's Get a New League!

November 16, 1996|T.J. SIMERS

SAN FRANCISCO — Let's get it out of the way right from the start with a collective yawn, a disbelieving shake of the head and a "call me when the ball is in the air" kind of retort.

Joe Kapp, yes, that Joe Kapp, is pushing a new football league, something called "All-Star Football," and yeah, yeah, yeah, the WFL and the USFL folded, but trust him, this one's all about television and a football alternative to combat NFL arrogance in the Los Angeles market.

Of course, to date Kapp and Co. have been unable to get over the goal line. They have been working on this for three years. The business plan for the All-Star Football League is in place, and there were plans to kick off in 1996. Now they're hoping for a 1997 kickoff. They have seven owners lined up, they say, with the required $15-million membership fee assured.

They need one more millionaire to consummate deals they have made with independent TV stations, and it all hinges on finding the money man in Los Angeles.

"If people in Los Angeles are to be without football because the NFL rejects the Coliseum after federal taxpayers spent $100 million to make it earthquake safe, that kind of arrogance to deprive the second-largest media market of pro football is intolerable," says Eric Parton, Kapp's associate in this venture. "We think there should be an alternative. How do we get excitement in Los Angeles? By giving Los Angeles the kind of team that Steve Young gave them in the L.A. Express, only do it with reasonable business structure so that an ego-driven owner can be eliminated from the situation.

"If we took away from the USFL all the private agendas of ownership, the USFL on the success of their ticket sales, television ratings and sponsorship would still be here today. And Steve Young and Herschel Walker would be stars in that league for the past 12 years."

Write a letter to the editor, or be sure to call if Peyton Manning signs on. Another football league: fat chance.

"Listen to me," insists Kapp, and if the new league could get by on his passion alone, it would be in business. "You cannot overestimate the power and the fear the NFL has even on the big-money guys. That's what we have experienced in Los Angeles."

Kapp and Co. say the investors they have spoken to in Los Angeles, who are interested in pro football, do not want to risk irritating the NFL because they hold out hope of getting an NFL expansion franchise.

"None of the people in L.A. can believe that they aren't the one who is going to be selected by the NFL," Parton says. "We have sat in front of them and told them they are not going to be picked, but they don't want to step up and be second choice until they have been factually eliminated.

"They are also afraid of stepping forward and being ridiculed by the media. This could happen in Los Angeles, but why isn't there leadership in L.A.? You can take the same idea of what's right for Los Angeles--and even though the NFL might not agree--we can provide an alternative."

This is driving Kapp crazy. He has lived his life bucking the system, defying the odds since leading the 1958 California team to the Rose Bowl--the Golden Bears' last appearance--and here's the way football should be played, and no one will jump at it.

All-Star Football would begin play with eight cities, expand to 16 and all would be limited by 40-man rosters with a minimum player salary of $50,000 and a maximum of $400,000 with a $4-million team salary cap.

The franchises would be owned by the league, players, TV distributors and league employees, with ticket prices around $15 in comparison to the NFL average of $39.50. There would be four-point field goals from beyond 40 yards, instant replay, one foot in bounds on pass receptions and no player draft. Each team would recruit players the way high school players are recruited by colleges.

"Our premise is this is television programming first, second and third," says Parton. "Real estate says location, location, location. Pro sports says television."

All-Star Football has a TV commitment in hand, which expires in January. The deal is contingent upon the new league finding a home in Los Angeles, but time is running out.

"Listen, the NFL would be in Los Angeles next year if they really feared losing the beachhead; they have no such fear," Parton says. "We're the only alternative choice ready to be there next year. We know there are groups jockeying for position in Los Angeles who will not be selected by the NFL.

"We would tell them to take $15 million of the $200 million they think they would have to raise for the NFL and put pro football on television nationwide out of Los Angeles. And then tell the NFL: You won't let us in your organization, so we'll show you how football can return to Los Angeles."

Stop yawning.

HISTORY LESSON

In a statement that rocked Southern California this week and sent thousands of people wondering what they will do now, Charger bench-warmer Aaron Hayden announced: "I have no comment for the rest of my career."

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