World Football League’s Challenge to the National Football League Fails

The formation of the World Football League as a rival to the National Football League was theoretically a forward-thinking step, but in reality the new league was never able to compete with the older, established league. The World Football League’s attempt to gain a following, however, left a lasting imprint on professional football in general.


The World Football League had a direct influence on the NFL in 1974 when the WFL signed several players from the dominant NFL Miami Dolphins franchise, as this allowed other NFL teams, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders, to come to prominence. Subsequently, the Steelers and the Raiders became NFL dynasties. The WFL also left a lasting legacy through its influence on the rules adopted by the NFL. In addition, a number of individuals who worked in the WFL went on to successful careers in the NFL, such as Marty Schottenheimer and Jack Pardee, both former NFL players who began coaching in the WFL. Football, professional

Although the World Football League failed, the media coverage it received and the fans it gained helped to boost the popularity of football in general in the United States and Canada and thus enhanced the subsequent popularity of the National Football League. Thanks in part to the WFL, football grew to become the most popular sport in the United States, surpassing baseball in its numbers of fans. Football, professional
World Football League

Further Reading

  • Gill, Bob, Steven M. Brainerd, and Tod Maher. Minor League Football, 1960-1985: Standings, Statistics, and Rosters. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002. Provides a complete history of all the minor football leagues that were in operation during the period covered. Presents a brief history and complete statistics on each league.
  • Gluck, Herb. While the Gettin’s Good: Inside the World Football League. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975. Makes use of personal accounts of players and other people involved with the WFL to give an inside look into the World Football League. Includes photographs.
  • Jozsa, Frank P., Jr., and John J. Guthrie, Jr. Relocating Teams and Expanding Leagues in Professional Sports: How the Major Leagues Respond to Market Conditions. Westport, Conn.: Quorum Books, 1999. Uses demographic and economic data to discuss the business side of American sports from 1950 through 2000. Includes selected bibliography and index.
  • Maher, Tod, and Mark Speck. World Football League Encyclopedia. Haworth, N.J.: St. Johann Press, 2006. Comprehensive volume covers the history of the league and provides statistics and team standings.

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