Contracts for players voided as the league tries to regroup for next season
The strange and exciting sport formerly known as the Lingerie Football League – now the Legends Football League – won’t be coming to Calgary or Canada this season, after troubles arose with both the Calgary and Saskatoon franchises this past week.
League founder and chairman, Mitch Mortaza, cancelled the season Sept. 16, 2013.
Mortaza said the main reason for the cancellation was concerns about the caliber of play, after three of the four teams recently underwent coaching staff changes.
“For the past four years we’ve set a certain level in regards to expectations of our game,” Mortaza said. Unfortunately the preparation window wasn’t as big as we would have liked in Canada and the teams didn’t progress the way we wanted them to.”
The sport began in 2004 as a pay-per-view counter-program during a Super Bowl halftime show under the Lingerie Bowl, where scantily clad women would play football in lingerie. In 2009 a full league featuring 10 teams was launched in the United States.
Last fall, the sport began league play in Canada with teams in B.C., Regina, Saskatoon and Toronto.
This season the Calgary Fillies were added to the league and the Toronto team decided to not participate due to venue issues.
Mortanza also went on to say that the league is fairly set on having a team next season in Calgary. With an entire year to prepare, there may be a possibility of having a purely Canadian league.
Brigitte Messaoud, a local Calgarian, was planning to suit up at linebacker this season for the Calgary Fillies. She was extremely disappointed and is still sorting through her emotions around the league’s decision.
Photo courtesy of the Legends Football League
“It feels sort of like preparing for a wedding, and then when it doesn’t happen, you’re stunned, ” Messaoud said.
When asked if she felt the team was ready to play, she responded that she doesn’t think anyone is ever truly 100 per cent ready. However, she felt the Fillies had a solid team with a lot of good athletes and that the first game would have been very telling as to how ready they were.
Despite the disappointment of not getting to play, she is grateful for the opportunity she got this summer where she formed friendships within the team.
“These past few months I definitely grew the love I had for football,” Messaoud said. “I learned a lot and I’m very appreciative that I had the opportunity to meet the girls I did and bond with them.”
Quarterback, Angela Rypien, is another player that was robbed of what some may call a “homecoming,” and an opportunity to play in front of her friends and family who call southern Alberta home.
“It sucks,” Rypien said, who is the daughter of Calgary native and two-time Super Bowl champion Mark Rypien. “I was so excited to come up there and play in front of my friends and family.”
The Calgary Fillies first game was scheduled for Oct. 5 in Regina, with the team’s only home game scheduled for Nov. 9, at the Stampede Corral.
The lockout is believed to have come about because of the league’s decision to cut the season short – a decision most players throughout the league found frustrating.
And as far the allegations made in the Calgary Metro article regarding disorganization and players not being able to speak with the media, Mortaza had this to say.
“I think the league is partially at fault,” Mortaza said. “And the coaching staff are partially at fault.
“It was just a perfect storm of everything that could have went wrong, went wrong preparation wise.”
Mortaza also noted that the players who had contracts in place for this season would be void and that a new group of contracts would be tendered next season.
Lastly, Mortaza clarified the type of commitment the league expects from its players.
“A love for the game, that’s where it starts,” Mortaza said.
“You also have to understand that you have a commitment off the field and in essence, foster our fan base. We have the same commitment with all our leagues and we’ve never had issues with it except for an isolated incident in Canada.”