The Lingerie Football League (LFL) has recently established franchises in Vancouver, Saskatoon, and Regina, tripling its foothold in Canada.
This Canadian expansion is part of an ongoing effort to develop the LFL, a new sports phenomenon. The new league is an all women’s football league in which athletes wear lingerie. The first Canadian franchise was awarded to Toronto. The league started in the United States and gained a significant following, spurring its recent expansion into Canada.
“In the US there are twelve [teams], in Canada right now, there are four,” LFL Chairman Mitchell Mortaza said.
The US franchises in the LFL are Baltimore Charm, Cleveland Crush, Chicago Bliss, Green Bay Chill, Las Vegas Sin, Los Angeles Temptation, Minnesota Valkyrie, Orlando Fantasy, Tampa Breeze, and Seattle Mist.
“To say that [the LFL is] in its infancy would be putting it lightly,” Mortaza said, adding, “The team in Toronto did incredibly well. It exceeded our expectations, and the media attention and fanfare in advance to actually playing is phenomenal. The Saskatchewan province…and also the Vancouver market [have] reacted very strongly to it. We like our chances and we look forward to introducing more and more franchises.”
The LFL is looking to expand further into Canada, coveting franchises in Montreal, Quebec City, Calgary, and Edmonton. It further hopes to expand into Australia in 2013 and Europe in 2014.
The LFL has made attempts to market itself based on more than its sex appeal and has gained a reputation for intense competition.
“Certainly there is sex appeal, and that’s part of it, but our awareness has always been that the sex appeal will draw in media coverage and fanfare, but unless you have a credible football product, it’s not going to sustain because people can get more sexual content [elsewhere],” said Mortaza.
“It has to have a level of credibility to it, and the women have to be true athletes… We have to take it seriously, and that’s why it’s grown so well in the States. We’re going to follow the exact same recipe in Canada,” he continued
Following this mandate has been a challenge for the LFL, as it aims to acquire athletes who are both talented and marketable.
“Initially we were attracting a lot of models who wanted to be athletes. Now it’s the opposite,” said Mortaza.
Mortaza describes his athletes as “the Gabriel Reese’s of volleyball, or the Danica Patrick’s of racing… Women that are marketable, but also very athletic.”
By amplifying its emphasis on athletics, the LFL seeks to market to a wide range of demographics.
“A lot of folks just assume [our demographic] is just men, young men. But it’s actually not only hardcore and casual football fans, it’s a lot of people who otherwise could care less about football,” said Mortaza.
“We’re finding that a lot of women are coming to the games, and watching the games [on TV]. It’s not strictly football, it’s not so testosterone-driven, so it tends to appeal to the wider audience.”
Yet according to reports by the Toronto Star, the audience for the Toronto Triumph’s opening game in September last year comprised of “at least four bachelor parties,” with a fan stating that his “favourite part was the tackling.”
Beyond the sex appeal of female athletes in lingerie, their attire is not as practical as it is visually appealing. Liz Gorman of the Tampa Breeze told CBC that she believes the league will eventually evolve to a point that the more revealing outfits will not be worn.
She told the CBC, “I mean I don’t like it… You’d rather wear full clothing. I have a bunch of scrapes on me.”
LFL games are currently broadcast on MTV networks in the U.S., and, according to Mortaza, “there’s two networks – one an entertainment-based network and the other, a national sports network – that are interested in the rights in Canada.”
Next season begins August 25.