Several high-ranking organizers of the World League of American Football have engaged in "serious conversations" over the last 10 days about postponing the start of the league for one year, according to sources in the WLAF and NFL.
The league was created last year by the NFL and is scheduled for a March 23 start in 1991. But sources said there is talk of postponing the season until 1992 and that a postponement has been discussed with Dennis Swanson, president of ABC Sports. ABC has a two-year contract to televise WLAF games and sources said Swanson would go along with a delay if needed.
A spokesman for ABC said that Swanson will not comment on possible delays.
WLAF officials publicly maintain that the inaugural season will begin as planned. "I have heard nothing about holding off the start of the season," said WLAF spokesman Vince Casey. "As far as I know, everything is going as planned."
WLAF President Mike Lynn was in Europe and unavailable for comment. His trip is to arrange one of the league's first pieces of good news: a local television contract with Spanish broadcasters for the Barcelona team.
But should the WLAF begin on time, it would be an amazing feat.
With only four months until the originally scheduled kickoff, not one general manager or coach has been hired. Of the 11 cities that have been given teams, only three -- Birmingham, San Antonio, and Orlando -- have ownership. The league has said it would operate one or more of the teams should owners not be found in time.
The league and the Orlando owner came to an agreement only last week. Raj Bhathal, a millionaire who lives in Newport Beach, Calif., bought the franchise for $11 million.
The league's original plans were to have 12 teams, including four in Europe. That plan was later reduced to 11, and yesterday the WLAF said it may begin with as few as 10 teams, three in Europe.
Another league spokesman said potential franchise sites Milan and Mexico City might be scrapped when the WLAF decides on its first-season structure next week at the board of directors and shareholders meeting in Dallas.
"We are guaranteed a minimum of 10 teams with a minimum of three in Europe where Milan is the question mark," said the WLAF's Thomas Hensey.
There have been other problems for the WLAF. The league recently fired its first president, former Dallas Cowboys president Tex Schramm, and replaced him with Lynn, who previously had been the president of the Minnesota Vikings.
Schramm wanted a larger operation with more teams. Financial backers urged a trimmed-down league.
The WLAF is currently having invitation-only tryouts that will end on Dec. 2 in Los Angeles. The league is scheduled to have testing and its draft Feb. 8-24. Offensive linemen will be tested one day and drafted the next, then running backs, etc. Training camp is scheduled to begin March 3.