The United Football League kicks off tonight with the California Redwoods taking on the Las Vegas Locomotives at 9 p.m. ET on Versus. It’s hard enough to start a new football league from scratch and it’s even harder to do that during these trying economic times. I sat down with the league’s chief operating officer Frank Vuono to discuss the launch.
Darren: People are going to want to judge your league quickly. Let’s start with attendance. We know that the league is hoping for 20,000 fans each game. What are you specifically expecting for tonight?
Vuono: We’re less concerned with the amount of people that are going to show up for tonight. We know we have to have people in our stands. It’s how outsiders are going to gauge us. Right now, we are concerned with the quality of the football on the field and the broadcasting aspect and we’re very happy with that. As for tonight, I think 10,000 is the number.
Darren: What will fans who watch the game tonight be surprised about?
Vuono: The amount of access we offer is unparalleled. The reporters will be interviewing the players and coaches as the game is happening and we’ll have a camera inside the locker room.
Darren: You’re also pushing the boundaries in terms of sponsorship?
Vuono: Tonight, for example, people will notice we will have a Men’s Warehouse logo on the helmets. StubHub will also be on the helmets in future games.
Darren: How would you describe your relationship with the NFL?
Vuono: It’s a very positive one. They’re going to scout our players and they’re happy that there’s a place that they can find players that are in football shape in season. So they’re going to use us as a resource.
Darren: Who is your star player? Is it J.P. Losman?
Vuono: There’s no question that he’s a very impressive player. In fact, Jim Fassel told me he wouldn’t trade him for four or five quarterbacks that are starting in the NFL.
Darren: Are you upset that Michael Vick didn’t fall to you?
Vuono: Well, he would have been worth millions of dollars in publicity for sure. And it’s clear that people were willing to forgive him. But we were beneficiaries of all that publicity too.
Darren: People were surprised that the UFL only started with four teams. You happy with that decision?
Vuono: We did it right. Each team will play each other a couple times and then we’ll have a championship game. We’ll bring in two more teams next year, including one in Los Angeles.
Darren: It has been a very hard year. Tonight in a way is an achievement in that you guys still did what you said you were going to do.
Vuono: Yeah, it has been an uphill battle and we’ve done it against tremendous odds and I’m very proud that we’re taking the field tonight.
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