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January 24, 1998|BILL DWYRE

As incredible as it may seem in light of the NFL's newfound wealth and stability, thanks to its recent $17.6-billion TV contract, there is a Los Angeles group that is trying to become a competitor.

The group, headed by Manhattan Beach attorney Carl A. "Tony" Capozzola and including former Ram Fred Dryer and former Ram general manager Steve Rosenbloom, is projecting a new league with a new wrinkle. The group would begin play in 10 cities in the fall of 1999, and all 10 teams would be owned by the fans.

"This is about an alternative, about a league that would use no public money," Capozzola said. "Every ticket that was sold would produce income for investing fans. Finally, the fans would have a choice. And finally, somebody is going to do something with no public money."

The plan, according to Capozzola, is to capitalize the new league by persuading 20,000 fans to invest $4,000 each. That would produce $80 million of start-up money for the league and serve as a model for each team. In addition, Capozzola, who was George Allen's attorney for many years and was an official in the USFL when it took on the NFL, said his group would approach some of the larger TV players that were left out in the cold when ABC, CBS and Fox locked in their eight-year deal with the NFL recently. Those would include USA Network, NBC and TNT.

Capozzola said Dryer would head the Los Angeles franchise and that the L.A. team would not only be willing to play in the Coliseum but would be eager to.

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