The Lingerie Football League baffles me. I realize that men love women and sports, and that the two meshed together should be gold. Still, it’s not overly good football, and there are thousands of alternative locations where men can see half-naked ladies. So why pay to watch these games?
Regardless, the league has been relatively successful. For what it’s worth, league representative Stephon McMillen says that “in comparison to the UFC or WWE through their first two seasons of operation, the LFL has achieved far more growth and business prosperity in the same period.”
On Saturday, the LFL expanded to Canada with an open tryout in Toronto. I caught up with league founder and chairman Mitchell Mortaza to discuss his unique and controversial league.
What’s the showing like at today’s tryout?
“It’s pretty much in line with (other tryouts). It’s not so much the number of girls. We’ll see if we have the caliber of girls — or ladies, I should say. We’ve got about 120 here, and we’re looking for the top 25 to take into minicamp. From there it’s dwindled down to the top 20 in training camp.”
How many of these girls actually take this seriously?
There have to be some who are just here for the cameras…
“Ya know, you get that, but then in the first speech I let them know that it’s not cheerleading camp and I use a couple choice curse words with that. It lets them know that this is real and I’m going to take this seriously and I’m going to compete out here.”
I heard you make some sort of reference to the CFL in your opening speech. Do you view your league as a competitor?
“We’re never a competitor with the NFL down in the States nor the CFL here. We’re really a complementary brand to it. So you’ll go to a CFL game on a Saturday afternoon and you’ll go to our game on a Friday night. Our game is football but it’s also an incredible party atmosphere. You’ve got a massive tailgate village. Before the game you’ve got a DJ spinning. It’s just a fun atmosphere.”
Do you think that the existence of the word “lingerie” in the league name hurts its reputation?
“It’s a double-edged sword. It’s done a lot for us, too. It gets you a lot of media attention, a lot of curiosity, and a lot of people come out and check it out. But that’s all we’re trying to do. If we can get ‘em in the doors or we can get them to watch it on TV, they’ll be hooked. And we’ve seen it in the States — our audience numbers have grown there to second in prime time. As far as our attendance is concerned, we’re drawing almost 40 percent more from the first home game for the second home game, which never happens. And we’re drawing sell-out crowds. So people might come in thinking one thing — maybe for the sex appeal or the atmosphere of it — and within three or four plays they forget what the girls are wearing and end up watching a football game.”
What kind of criteria is there in the assessment process? Do you consider appearance or is it all about football?
“Looks are definitely a part of it. We don’t pull any punches there. We have to be able to market this sport. There are a lot of women’s football leagues out there that you never hear about — there’s a reason for that. We didn’t invent sex in sports. You have Anna Kournikova in tennis, who was never really that great of a tennis player but was always the most marketed tennis player. Gabrielle Reece in volleyball. Heck, on the men’s side you’ve got David Beckham in his underwear in Times Square on a billboard. So don’t tell me sex doesn’t push sports at times. Tom Brady? Yeah, he’s a three-time Super Bowl champion but he’s also a good-looking guy and the marketers use his looks to push their products. So it happens.”
These girls aren’t paid. Will that change?
“Like anything, we want stability. We want to make sure this league survives beforehand. A lot of these leagues just put money out there and then they fold within a year or two. That doesn’t do anybody any good. So when we become financially stable, absolutely we’ll move to a salary cap and the top top-echelon players will get paid more. Just like the NFL.”