At a owners meeting in the spring of 1974, the NFL announced plans for a six-team ancillary league based in Europe. You could say the idea was about 20 years ahead of its time.
The spring league was called the Intercontinental Football League (IFL). The idea was the brain-child of Bob Kap, who was best-known in NFL circles as a talent scout who specialized in finding soccer-style kickers.
Adalbert Wetzel, former owner of the 1860 Munich soccer club, backed Kap and gave the league European credibility when it was pitched to the NFL. Wetzel said. “The popularity of soccer was waning in Europe because of overexposure, and the time was ripe to try football as another example of “Americanization” of the European culture. ²
Unlike NFL Europe, the IFL was going to be a separate entity from the NFL. The NFL would stock the IFL with coaches and players in exchange for its U.S. TV rights. ¹
The IFL’s teams were given location appropriate nicknames, and some were a mouthful to say:
Barcelona (Spain) Almogovares
Istanbul (Turkey) Conquerors
Munich (West Germany) Lions
Rome (Italy) Gladiators
Vienna (Austria) Lipizzaners
West Berlin (West Germany) Bears
An Almogovare was a medieval Spanish warrior. A Lipizzaner is world-renowned show horse.
Before even playing a game, the league had plans for expansion. The proposed expansion teams:
Amsterdam (Netherlands) Clippers
Copenhagen (Denmark) Vikings
London (United Kingdom) Big Bens
Madrid (Spain) Toreros
Milan (Italy) Centurions
Paris (France) Lafayettes
Rotterdam (Netherlands) Flying Dutchmen
Similar to what they did with NFL Europe, the NFL was going to stock the teams with fringe and developmental players. The NFL was also going to loan out notable players from time to time. To attract European fans, IFL teams were going to sign star soccer players to do their kicking and punting. ¹
The IFL’s first season was set to begin in April of 1975, but financial and security issues involved with overseas football put the kibosh on the league.
If you want to read more about the league, check out the article The First “NFL Europe” written by Mark L. Ford and Massimo Foglio. It’s the definitive account of the proposed league.
Associated Press. (1974, June 6th). Europe Next Locale? The Ottawa (ON) Saturday Citizen, pp. 146. Retrieved 10/21/2012 from Google News Archive.
¹ Ford, Mark L. & Foglio, Massimo. (2005). The First “NFL Europe”. The Coffin Corner, Vol. 27 No. 6. Retrieved 11/21/2012 from ProFootballResearchers.org.
² Wallace, William N. (1974, June 6th). NFL to Introduce Football to Europe. New York Times, pp 45. Retrieved 10/21/2012 from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.