L 14 The List 7—20 Apr i995




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American football is a mega-bucks T business, and that’s just the merchandising. With the

Claymores, Scotland’s only pro—

ball team. warming up for their first game. Eddie Gibb asks if the sport has a long term future over here.

t’s tny first time in liurope.’ For a second I thought he was going to add ‘yes. sir!‘ but then why would somebody 6ft ()in in his socks with a neck the width of a regular man‘s thigh call anyone sir‘.’ The hulking figure is linebacker coach Doug Williams. a genuine all-American football player whose career highlight as a quarter—back was throwing the Washington Redskins to Superbowl victory in 1988. His stand-out performance earned him the MVP (most valued player) tag which is similar to Man of the Match in football. sorry. soccer as we had better call the round ball kickabout for the purposes of this article. It‘s a crisp spring afternoon on a practice pitch beside Scottish rugby‘s hallowed turf at Murraylield. The ball is oval. but players on the field are getting away with all sorts of blatant rugby fouls; the forward passes are flying and no one thinks twice about tackling an opponent who doesn’t have possession of the ball. American football sure is a different game. but it‘s over here and the hype is about to go into overdrive. Based in Edinburgh. the Claymores are Scotland‘s only professional American football team. They are preparing for the first touchdown in the newa revamped World League. in which six European teams compete. The original World League was set up in 1991 as an off—shoot of the NFL. the dominant ofthe two US leagues. with seven American and three European learns. The idea was to extend the season for the American sports fan. but the games were not up to NFL standard and most viewers switched over to monster truck action.

Now World League has been repositioned. to use the marketing jargon and this is about marketing. as all-litiropean American football. And it’s notjust a bunch ofgrassroots American football enthusiasts chucking an oval ball about the Meadows. With a budget of $40 million spread over the initial four year start-up period. this is a massive exercise in exporting a sport. and the whole culture that surrounds it. to Europe. The coaches and all but a handful of players are from the pro-ball and American college I‘agues.

World League is a joint venture between NFL and Fox 'l‘elevision. a tentacle of Rupert .‘vlurdoch‘s global media empire. Fox has already invested heavily in American football after recently picking up television rights to the NFL. In Europe he‘s gone a stage further; by actually buying a slice of the league itself. and the teams that play in it, Murdoch has the power to hype American football through his Sky sports channel until it succeeds. A domestic analogy would be if a soccer entrepreneur. say Rangers chairman David Murray for example. owned the Premier Division and all the teams that play in it. had exclusive television rights and controlled the channel that screened the games.

Given the scale of this enterprise. it‘s amusing

to hear those involved queue up to say that