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Will Birmingham join the Independent Football League?

September 5, 1991
At a press conference held at a Hooter's Restaurant in Ft. Myers, Florida, organizers of the Independent Football League announce the formation of their new football league which is scheduled to begin play in August 1992. Birmingham is listed as one of the 64 cities that could receive one of the 16 charter franchises. In fact, the league will be considered as an Alabama-based organization.

Other cities listed in close range to Birmingham are Huntsville, Mobile, Atlanta, Jackson, Nashville, and Memphis. A team of league representatives will be traveling to each city on the list to meet with city officials.

The IFL concept is based on a revenue sharing plan, fan ownership, and wide-open games. Each team would play 18 games. Conference champions would play for the chance to appear in the Ultra Bowl.

A major rule change would be that the quarterback could throw the football from anywhere on the field, regardless of where the line of scrimmage is. Other changes being considered are allowing teams to decide on one point, two point, or three point extra points.

The two main founders are William Rasmussen and Les White. Rasmussen, the league's media consultant, founded the cable sports network ESPN. White, the league's television coordinator, owns several television stations in North Alabama. White says he is already in discussions with one major network as well as several cable and regional outlets to televise the IFL's games.

"There will be no Donald Trumps or George Steinbrenners in the IFL. The franchises will be run more or less by the fan clubs and the board members they elect," White said. Minor owners would be able to buy memberships for their team for $200 to $10,000. This setup is similar to how the National Football League's Green Bay Packers operate.

The executive director of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, Melvin Miller, said that he had limited telephone contact with IFL officials regarding rental of Legion Field. According to Miller, no serious contract talks have occurred. The World League of American Football's Birmingham Fire already hold a 'most favored tenant' status, which means the city cannot give another professional football team a financial arrangement of equal value.

Don Newton, president of the Birmingham Area Chamber of Commerce, said he received a letter from the IFL earlier this week. "The letter simply said how wonderful they are and if we are great and good and wonderful and want to take them to our bosom, that we might get a franchise. I wrote them back a one-paragraph letter and told them we are already supportive of the Birmingham Fire of the World League and we cannot support another team," Newton said.

The Independent Football League never made it past the planning stages.
Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: August 15, 2018