Four Sports Leagues That Failed

There have been some hugely-successful start-up leagues in recent years, but we take a look at some competitions that never lived up to the hype

Not every sporting invention is a good one. Not every league or cup devised by marketing chiefs or number crunchers gets off the ground – and some even result in hearty protests which kill the idea before the proponent can say, “Hear me out!”.

LIV Golf, the new Saudi-backed golf circuit, is probably here to stay, but here we take a look at some plans which failed miserably…

4 – Stanford Super Series

Allen Stanford fronted a glamorous new winner-takes-all $20m cricket series in 2008, featuring England against the ‘Stanford Superstars’.

The idea was a risky one, with the losing players receiving nothing, but Stanford had hoped the concept would bring a new brand of cricket to the West Indies. However, the multi-year deal lasted only a year when Stanford was arrested for fraud and subsequently imprisoned.

3 – North American Soccer League (NASL)

Retro football shirts have never been more popular, and there is a prestige to owning a rare jersey which was worn in the distant past – and perhaps the holy grail of retros is a New York Cosmos one.

The North American Soccer League ran from 1968 to 1984 and New York Cosmos, a club which lasted from 1970 to 1985, won the title five times. Pele and Franz Beckenbauer played for them. However, before long, the money ran out, and the league collapsed, but it laid the foundation for Major League Soccer.

2 – NFL Europe

American football is a big deal in America, but the clue is in the name. Outside of the United States, though, the sport known as gridiron is enormously less popular.

In recent years, there have been some successful NFL matches at Wembley, and a large crowd can gather in London for the occasional taste of action in these greens and pleasant lands.

Attempts to create an NFL developmental league in Europe, though, fell by the wayside long ago. Initially founded in 1989 as the World League of American Football, the idea was to have teams from North America and Europe competing together. When that failed, it became a six-team competition with sides gathered from England, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland and Spain, but NFL Europa, as it was known when it dissolved in 2007, was an unprofitable bore which is probably dead forever.

1 – European Super League

It would be churlish to end this feature with anything else. The reaction to the potential formation of a European Super League had football fans across the continent uniting in their pure hatred of the proposal.

English footy followers, in particular, protested as if this was the end of the world – furious that decades of history were going to be disregarded in a bid to get the best teams playing each other on a more regular basis.

The first ESL plans had 20 European clubs shortlisted for a season-long competition, including six from England, but staunch criticism from Uefa, Fifa, players, managers and politicians got the project shelved.

The backlash centred around concerns of elitism and a lack of competitiveness. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, the two Manchester sides and Tottenham were invited to join, but all eventually withdrew their interest under pressure from supporters.

The ESL motto was “The best clubs, the best players, every week.” European football fans were far from convinced.

Steve Davies is an occasional contributor to the MansionBet Blog. He holds a keen interest in many sports, with Darts taking the first position.
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