NFL folds Europe league, to focus on regular-season games abroad

FRANKFURT, Germany -- The NFL folded its development league
in Europe after 16 years on Friday, calling the decision a sound
business move that will allow for a stronger international focus on
regular-season games outside the United States.

The announcement came less than a week after the Hamburg Sea
Devils beat the Frankfurt Galaxy 37-28 in the World Bowl title game
in Frankfurt before a crowd of 48,125. Five of the league's six
teams are based in Germany, with the other in Amsterdam,

A statement on the German-language edition of the NFL's Web site
said the NFL decided to concentrate its "strategies and
resources" on regular-season games outside the United States in an
effort to reach as many people as possible.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thanked the fans for their
support but said it was time to develop a new international
strategy, terming the move to fold NFL Europa the ``best business
decision.'' The league reportedly was losing about $30 million a

"From now on we will focus on regular-season games and use new
technologies to make NFL more popular worldwide," he said.

NFL team owners decided in October to play up to two
regular-season games outside the United States. The first such game
is Oct. 28 in London between the Miami Dolphins and the New York

The league said it is looking toward other regular-season games
in Germany, Mexico and Canada, with Germany a strong candidate for
"NFL Europa has created thousands of passionate fans who have
supported that league and our sport for many years," said Mark
Waller, senior vice president of NFL International. "And we look
forward to building on this foundation as we begin this new phase
of our international development."

The league began in 1991 as the World League of American
Football, with 10 teams from the United States and Europe,
spreading from Scotland to Spain. After closing for two seasons in
1993 and 1994, the league returned with six European teams and
retained the same format until the end.

The league was used by NFL teams to test young talent and
produced players such as quarterback Kurt Warner, who led the St.
Louis Rams to the 2000 Super Bowl championship and won two NFL Most
Valuable Player awards; Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake
Delhomme; and star Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri.

NFL Europa managing director Uwe Bergheim said the league had
succeeded in establishing a fan base for football in important
European markets.

"Despite the great support of fans, business partners and the
cities where we were active, we decided that it was time to change
the strategy," Bergheim said.