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LFL expansion to Abbotsford suggests no one has learned from Toronto disaster

The LFL's Toronto Triumph franchise in action in 2011.

The Lingerie Football League's inaugural season in Canada went about as poorly as it could have. In addition to the league's pre-existing issues with attire, player selection and not paying its athletes, several new ones popped up with the LFL's lone Canadian franchise. Despite all that, the LFL not only is keeping its Toronto franchise for 2012, it's still planning to expand across Canada, and the first shoe fell on that front Thursday with the announcement of a new, as-yet-unnamed team in Abbotsford (approximately an hour's drive east of Vancouver). A city-owned arena striking a deal to bring a LFL team to town suggests that the problems of the LFL, and particularly the issues it ran into in Toronto, have been largely ignored across the country.

The LFL had plenty of notable issues long before it ever came to Canada, of course. The league picks its players based on looks, doesn't pay them (despite the league itself being "highly profitable"), cuts them on a whim and often claims not to be responsible for their resultant medical issues. It's also a league run by Mortaza, a man whose record includes arrests for drunk driving and public intoxication, a guy most famous for a creepy appearance on Blind Date where he described himself as "the king of one-night stands", and a guy who threatened legal action against former players upset the league didn't pay their medical costs. None of that exactly screams "well-run sports league".

Things got even worse after the LFL headed to Toronto, though. The inaugural season of the Toronto Triumph was anything but triumphant, with 22 of the 26 players (including team captain Krista Ford) quitting after just one game over coaching and safety issues. That led to a series of threatening e-mails from commissioner Mitch Mortaza over the defections, demonstrating a troubled league in disarray. It also led to the revelation of significant safety issues that had prompted the player revolt, including players being forced to hold full-contact practices without helmets and then being told to drill holes in hockey helmets and use them instead of football gear. The Triumph somehow found new recruits and finished the season in perfectly appropriate fashion, getting into a bench-clearing brawl in their season-ending 74-0 loss to Philadelphia.

After all that, you might think Mortaza would be humble, admit mistakes were made in Toronto and vow to do a better job with this second Canadian team. You'd be extremely wrong, though. As evident from his comments to Cam Tucker and Evan Duggan of The Vancouver Sun, Mortaza still believes the way to sell his football product is by picking women based on looks and encouraging them to volunteer to sacrifice their scantily-clad bodies:

The league wants women with a "healthy marketable look," but who can also play, according to Mortaza.

"It is absolutely a high level [of] football," he said, adding that game play is "intense" and players suffer everything "from concussions, to broken collar bones, to you name it."

In every other football league, officials are doing everything they can to lower the risk of concussions. In the LFL, they're a selling point. That's just another reason why attempts to market this as wholesome, sporting entertainment are ludicrous. It's the equivalent of going to a strip club, except that tickets are more expensive (league-wide prices apparently average $48), performers can and do get hurt, and they aren't paid for their efforts. Mortaza is betting that that formula will prove profitable in Canada and elsewhere (he apparently wants to add four more Canadian teams this year, then expand to Australia in 2013 and Europe and 2014), and the desperate-for-money city-owned arena apparently thinks this is a good idea. Mortaza and the city of Abbotsford (including arena GM Jason Blumenfeld, who called the LFL "an exciting sport with a proven track record in the States") clearly haven't learned anything from what went wrong in Toronto. We'll soon see if the local women he expects to volunteer to play for him and the local people he expects to buy tickets have.

(By the way, if you're interested in complaining about this, contact information for Abbotsford mayor Bruce Banman and his city council is here.)

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