LFL takes hiatus

By Lindsey Woods

Fans of women playing football in their underwear will have to go without during the fast-approaching football season. Watching the fully dressed Bears will have to suffice because the Lingerie Football League will not be playing games in the U.S. until April 2013.

The shift, announced April 12 in a press release sent by LFL Chairman and Commissioner Mitchell Mortaza, will allow the league to switch from a fall/winter season to playing during the spring and summer.

“We haven’t cancelled anything,” said LFL Managing Director Jim Wallin. “We’re implementing a long-term strategy that fits into our global expansion plans. The U.S. was going to go spring/summer no matter what. It was just a matter of when we thought the best time to do that was.”

The LFL’s global expansion plans include launching leagues in Canada, Australia and Europe. The Canadian league is slated to start in fall 2012, making the U.S. fall 2012 season a timely buffer for the shift, according to Wallin.

He said the decision to shift seasons was also based on several factors that he believes will improve the league, including an atmosphere more compatible with the league’s market—and wallet.

“We feel that our game translates better to a party kind of atmosphere,” Wallin said. “Spring and summer bring people out. Financially, we made the decision primarily because people tend to spend more money during the warmer months.”

Another benefit of the shift is more practice time for U.S. players.

“What we’re looking to do is use this time right now as an extended offseason,” Wallin said. “So instead of rushing everything up to a fall target date, you have an extra six to eight months where the game and the skillset of individual players can be refined.”

The break will affect the plans and practice schedules of every team in the league, including the local Chicago Bliss, which plans on tailoring its practice schedule to the break, according to Head Coach Keith Hac. The Bliss practice twice per week during a normal season, but the team won’t return to that kind of schedule until next year, he said.

“We’ll probably practice once a week or once every couple of weeks through the summer,” Hac said. “After the first of the year, we’ll go back to a regular schedule.”

According to Hac, the break will benefit the Bliss because it will give the team time to work on its tackling, blocking and depth.

“One of the problems we had last year was that we didn’t have a lot of depth,” he said. “This will enable us to get some other girls ready in case of injuries and things like that.”

The team is also planning on expanding its roster from 20 players to 30. In order to recruit more players, it is holding open tryouts April 28 at Bridgeview Sports Dome, 8900 S. 77th Ave., in Bridgeview, Ill. But Hac is worried about the possible turnout with rumors floating around about the league and its status.

“I’m a little afraid that people are hearing that the league is cancelled or the league is not around, and that might scare some girls off,” he said. “I’m hoping that we have a good turnout, though.”

Because of the season shift, turnouts could be a concern for Toyota Park, where the Bliss plays its home games, but Toyota Park Events Director Frank Mastalerz said the lack of games isn’t a big concern.

“We’re looking to 2013 to expand upon,” Mastalerz said. “There’s an upside to what we can do with [the season shift]. But for 2012, it’s just business as usual.”