By popular request, we begin our exploration of the enigmatic 1990s international experiment known (initially) as the World League of American Football with a deep dive into its first championship team – the London Monarchs – with author Alex Cassidy (American Football's Forgotten Kings: The Rise and Fall of the London Monarchs).
Resurrected from an idea originated (but never launched) by the NFL in 1974 called the “International Football League,” the WLAF was formed in 1989 as both a spring developmental circuit as well as an operational test bed for full-fledged expansion of American football into markets outside the United States.
Eventually comprised exclusively of European teams by 1995 (later under the banners “NFL Europe” from [1998-2006] and “NFL Europa” ), the first two seasons of the WLAF also featured a Canadian franchise (the Montreal Machine) as well as six in the US – most of which (Orlando, Birmingham, Sacramento, San Antonio, Raleigh-Durham , and Columbus, OH ) were historically forlorn pro markets.
The Monarchs played their first two seasons at the original/famed Wembley Stadium and became an immediate sensation in London, averaging over 40,000 fans per game – including a league-record-setting 61,108 for the WLAF’s inaugural World Bowl 21-0 championship over the Barcelona Dragons on June 9, 1991.
Though the team never achieved the level of success or stability in the years that followed (the league’s return in 1995 began a peripatetic journey of future home stadiums across London, as well as Bristol and Manchester), the Monarchs boasted a memorable array of characters that – like other WLAF/NFLE teams – consisted of veteran NFL journeymen and promising young developmental talent from both the US and the Continent, including:
Kicker Phil Alexander, the league's 1991 points leader (and now Managing Director of Crystal Palace);
RB Victor Ebubedike, the first European native to score a touchdown (vs. the Orlando Thunder, 4/6/91):
Journeyman NFL QB Stan Gelbaugh, 1991’s WLAF Offensive Player of the Year; and
Former Chicago Bears Super Bowl-winning defensive lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry.
PLUS: The “Yo-Go” Monarchs theme song!