Barbarians at the Gate -- The World Indoor Football League
None of the WIFL`s proposed franchises would be competing directly with the AFL since the arena league had set up outposts in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New England (Providence, RI), Pittsburgh and Washington for the coming year. However, the AFL would take a stab at setting up clubs in Las Vegas, St. Louis and San Antonio in future seasons and now Indianapolis with the transplanted Firebirds.
A ten-game season was slated for the WIFL to begin on June 20 with the top teams in each division qualifying for the "World Bowl." Clubs were split into the Eastern Division: Baltimore, Indiana, St. Louis; and the Western Division: Las Vegas, San Antonio, San Diego. In contrast, the AFL schedule called for 12 regular-season games beginning April 29 and culminating in a four-team playoff for the ArenaBowl title.
Mouse Davis leaped to the WIFL in 1988, but is back with the AFL in 2001.
Image courtesy of DetroitFury.com
League founders Paul Zarynoff and Roger Gill planned on guaranteeing players $500 per game salary, or 34% of that game`s gate, whichever was higher. Clubs would consist of 17 active, 5 developmental and 1 reserve players per week.
The WIFL used many of the same rules as the Arena League, including end zone nets and dasher boards, but with a few notable exceptions. Unlike the AFL, if the ball struck the end zone nets the play would be ruled dead. This rule was amended because it was deemed trying to catch the pigskin off the nets with onrushing opponents was just too dangerous. An additional rule was that only one foot was needed in bounds for a reception, like college football.
But the biggest difference was offensive and defensive alignments. Like the AFL, the WIFL required an offensive set up of no more than eight players. On defense, however, the WIFL limited player participation to only SEVEN. All offenses would be playing with an eight on seven advantage! Arena Football League scores were high enough so with the defenses playing a man down, one could imagine an offense never being stopped.
The WIFL even obtained a TV contract with the now-defunct FNN-Score cable system. The AFL had a weekly live ESPN broadcast at the time.
The WIFL never got to try out it`s new style of play or enjoy the TV broadcasts as the league went belly-up before it`s initial campaign began. Baltimore and San Antonio ran into financial difficulties early and when Indiana ran into trouble the league ceased operations on June 9, just eleven days before it`s scheduled opener. The remaining three franchises (Las Vegas, St. Louis and San Diego) tried to enter the Arena League for 1989. The AFL, beset with it`s own growing pains, according to reports set expansion fees for those three clubs at $1-2 million each. The price being too steep, the WIFL died a quick death.
The Arena Football League had survived it`s first on-field challenge. Since then they have endured the IFL and IPFL to remain king of the arena/indoor hill.
Jay Jacox was a writer for ArenaFan Online from 1998 to 2002.