Continuation of the World League of American Football is in the hands of NFL owners, who will be asked in their two-day meeting here to give the new league more money and a much-needed vote of confidence.
But some, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, believe the WLAF should take a year off."I would favor a year's hiatus," Jones said. "I still believe the NFL is totally behind the WLAF. But there is concern over TV ratings."
WLAF European coordinator Bruce Dworshak said he expects the league to go into today's meeting with a commitment from ABC-TV for a long-term contract, which would satisfy the NFL owners' biggest concern.
"We are extremely optimistic we will have a 1992 season," Dworshak said in London. "And expansion is possible with a new television deal."
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is scheduled to deliver his midseason report to owners at the start of their annual fall meeting before debate on the WLAF and a review of free agency and other concerns.
In mid-September, NFL owners voted to delay a decision on the WLAF's future, saying they needed more time to discuss its financial viability and chances of attracting more TV viewers in the United States.
The 10-team WLAF debuted this spring to enthusiastic European audiences but was largely ignored by American fans.
The London team had average crowds of 40,000 and teams in Barcelona, Spain, and Frankfurt, Germany, each averaged about 30,000 fans per game. But U.S. television ratings were poor.
"Our future hangs on one piece of thread - American television," said Dworshak. "The real issue here is television."
At the NFL owners' previous Dallas meeting, they couldn't decide whether to continue to pay for WLAF operations. Compromises were offered that would cut finances for the proposed 1992 season.
It cost NFL teams who supported the WLAF some $700,000 per club last year, said Jones.
"We need to cut those costs," he said.
A financial package proposed by WLAF officers would be less of a strain on the owners in 1992. The NFL foots the bill for the spring league, which was won by the London Monarchs.
Some owners believe 1992 wouldn't be a good year to play in Europe because of the Olympics in Barcelona.
The league is owned by 26 of the 28 NFL teams - only Chicago and Phoenix are not involved - and any decision on the WLAF's fate must be approved by 21 of those 26 teams.
This fall, a number of WLAF players made NFL rosters. They included Ricky Blake of the San Antonio Riders, who scored a touchdown a week ago for the Dallas Cowboys on his first NFL carry.
Dworshak said he expects the WLAF to remain a 10-team league next year, including six holdovers from 1991 in North America - New York-New Jersey; San Antonio; Orlando, Fla.; Montreal, Sacramento and Birmingham, Ala.
The Raleigh-Durham, N.C., team has folded, with Columbus, Ohio, mentioned as a replacement.