I have to admit I was caught off guard this past Saturday night. Cruising the TV channels with my limited cable plan, I landed on a tape-delayed Lingerie Football League game between Vancouver’s team, the Angels, and Regina on CHEK-TV, which is a regular feed here in Victoria, B.C. I thought it was a gimmick because of an e-mail forward I received in the past. Secondly, I didn’t know anything about a women’s Lingerie Football League or a Canadian league. I watched with horror for about 10 minutes. The horror wasn’t that it was women playing football in lingerie. The horror was that this was a big time production and everyone was taking this thing seriously, including the gals playing the game. Here I was watching a football game Saturday night prime time and it wasn’t the CFL!
First off, there were people in the stands at the Abbottsford Arena watching, the same arena that would make the most sense for NLL expansion to YVR. Next up, you can tell that the costs to make this league happen took some decent cake. Last, while the action wasn’t great, it was entertaining for a moment and more entertaining than men’s arena football I’ve watched before.
Obviously, it appeals to women for the spectacle of this type of female athleticism and men for reasons that don’t need to be spelled out. This all adds up to more competition for the NLL and other indoor lacrosse leagues and that’s what’s on my mind and really bothering me as I write.
I started to look online for some facts about Lingerie Football. First off, the ladies play for free or part of the gate (after expenses). The franchises start at about $1.5 million, I read, much less than the NLL and I’m betting the Canadian franchises were much less. They have about 12 USA-based teams across the country and 4 in Canada, now in a satellite league.
They have had MTV2 cable coverage the last two years in America and they have travelled to play exhibitions in Mexico twice and Australia. In short, they aren’t the rollergals, they have a lot going on and seem to be building speed.
All this sweaty female action spells more trouble for the NLL. This LFL has a leg up on the pro lacrosse because it has no overhead for payroll and they are gaining exposure quickly with cable TV contracts and lots of interest in their brand of football and the girls behind the scenes.
Instead of the NLL pumping out the storyline of “regular Joe” during the week and professional lacrosse player on the weekend, Lingerie Football can take that a step further and say these regular Janes play for the love of the game and a few bumps and bruises but no cash. When you consider the wide appeal of the sport of football across this continent, you can see where I’m troubled by this newest competition of entertainment for our beloved sport of indoor lacrosse.
The LFL has ripped another page from the NLL handbook by having the players do meet and greets with the fans right after the game for autographs and the like. The games are on weekends and should be wrapped in less than two hours, another NLL strategy. They play music during games and have cool in arena props and such to go with flashy uniforms. The big difference is the sex appeal and who it’s directed at. Research turned up ticket prices in Regina that go for $75.00 on the sides, $37.50 for upper level sides and $16.50 for end zones. So you can get in the building for a reasonable amount if you’re a lookielue and you’ll have to spend to get up close or bring binoculars.
Minnesota, Seattle and Philadelphia have competition from the USA side and Toronto in Canada. While the first games don’t dictate attendance good or bad, for long term I will be checking these markets to see what the attendance draw is and if it surpasses the NLL teams in those markets.
This is an ego check for all of us involved in lacrosse. I have been saying all along that indoor lacrosse is entertainment and that we can’t take ourselves too seriously, yet. Marketing has to get aggressive now and we need to expose more of the aspects of the top levels of lacrosse to draw in interest from outside our regular fan base.
Later this week, the Mann Cup will start to unfold in Peterborough, Ontario, and in about 7 to 10 days it will be over. I predict the good people of the CLA and the OLA will miss yet another chance to get our national summer sport covered on a hockey starved “sports only” television network here in Canada and the Mann Cup will once again be a who-done-it for 90% of Canada.
At least I know I can catch a good Lingerie Football game in my own living room this coming Saturday night.O'Neill is a three-time Mann Cup winner and former general manager of the Philadelphia Wings (2001-2004) and Minnesota Swarm (2004-2010), where he was twice named NLL GM of the Year (2007, 2008).
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