League tackles women's football hurdles
A group of local enthusiasts is turning to a new league in an effort to make women's tackle football more enticing for players and fans.
The Oregon Ravens will play a six-game regular season in the spring as members of the year-old Women's National Football Conference.
The arrival of the Ravens means the area will have two women's full-contact football teams playing in the spring of 2020.
The Portland Fighting Shockwave, which plays in the 60-team Women's Football Alliance, plans to return for a 19th season.
One twist for the Shockwave: The team is seeking a new coaching staff and a new home field as a result of the Ravens entering the market. Head coach Tim Price and the Shockwave's coaching staff in recent seasons will now coach the Ravens. Offensive coordinator Anthony Stoudamire is part of the Ravens' ownership group.
The vision for the Ravens and WNFC is to make playing tackle football cost-effective for women. Initially, players will need to pay a to-be-determined fee to play for the Ravens. But Ravens players will not need to pay for travel to away games this season, according to general manager Leah Hinkle.
She said the business plan is to reach a point within three years where the Ravens can have an operating budget of $70,000 and won't need to charge player fees. She cited sponsorships, ticket sales and merchandise as revenue generators.
Hinkle and owner/president Oana Dumitrescu are former players who had stints with the Shockwave. A Monroe native, Hinkle played 14 seasons of women's tackle football and was on two U.S. national teams that won the women's tackle football world championship.
The WNFC does not charge its teams fees to be members of the league. And, any revenue above operating costs is sent to the teams to help defray costs.
Through partnerships with Adidas and football equipment company Riddell Sports Group, WNFC teams receive what league co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Odessa Jenkins called "significant discounts" on uniforms and equipment.
Their goal is to make the sport more accessible for women by taking away the need to spend time fundraising.
The league was founded in late 2018 by Jenkins, a Dallas resident, and Bryant Sewall. Sewall is the majority investor in the project. The Texas Elite Spartans, coached by Jenkins, won the league's first championship.
The league had 14 teams in 2019 and has 21 teams announced for next season. The Ravens are one of two teams starting from scratch, with five teams moving to the WNFC from other leagues. The Seattle Majestics, former rivals of the Fighting Shockwave, were one of the original WNFC teams.
The WNFC recently announced an agreement with the cable and streaming TV network YouToo America to have 10 regular-season games and the championship game broadcast nationally in 2020.
Jenkins called the TV deal "a huge part" of the plan to grow the league. She said lack of exposure is one of the factors that has limited interest in women's football.
To kick things off, the Ravens are hosting a meeting at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, to explain their project to potential players, fans and sponsors. That meeting will be at the Clackamas Education Service District office, 13455 S.E. 97th Ave. in Clackamas.
Player identification combines are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 and 19, at Roosevelt High.
Meanwhile, Fighting Shockwave co-owner Rebecca Brisson said it's business as usual for her team. That includes the search for a new home field, which she noted has been necessary many times in the team's history. The Shockwave used Roosevelt the past two seasons. Price is the football coach at Roosevelt High, so that arrangement went to the Ravens with him.
Player fees and other details for the Fighting Shockwave's 2020 season will be finalized in the fall, according to Brisson. She will attend the WFA league meeting in Chicago on Sept. 21.
With more than 60 teams, the decade-old Women's Football Alliance is the largest of four women's tackle football leagues in the United States. Its teams are divided into three ability levels.
The Fighting Shockwave have been one of the few top-level teams in the West, but are considering dropping from the top division of the WFA to Division II. The Portland team went 7-1 last season, the loss a one-sided game in Los Angeles against the only other WFA Division I team on the West Coast. The other WFA teams in the region were Division III last season.
Because of injuries and travel costs, the Fighting Shockwave chose to forfeit their 2019 playoff game at Los Angeles.
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