American Football League

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American Football League

sport American football
abbreviation AFL / AFL IV
League foundation 1960
League dissolution 1970
Teams 10
Country countries United StatesUnited States United States
Record champions Kansas City Chiefs (3)

The American Football League ( AFL ) was an American professional league for American football . It existed from 1960 to 1969 before merging with the National Football League (NFL) in 1970 . The new league kept the name National Football League, but now consisted of two so-called Conferences , the American Football Conference , in which the former AFL teams played, and the National Football Conference, the previous NFL. This made the AFL the only league competing with the NFL that had long-term success and merged with the NFL without losing any teams.

Even before the unification, joint finals between the winners of the AFL and the NFL had been played since 1967. This brought the Super Bowl to life.

The success of the AFL was based on several pillars. First of all, American football was a sport that grew in popularity in the 1960s and was catching up with baseball at the time . The league's teams were housed in large cities not previously covered by the NFL. The league's founder, Lamar Hunt , signed a television deal with ABC that included broadcasting all of the league's games for the first time. The AFL also opened up to players who played at smaller colleges , which the NFL has so far denied. This opened up the AFL especially to Afro-American players who had little chance in the NFL. This, together with some rule changes (e.g. the introduction of 2-point conversion ), resulted in a much more attractive game.



In the late 1950s, entrepreneur Lamar Hunt tried unsuccessfully to acquire an NFL franchise. When he learned that other richer men were also trying in vain for a team, he concluded that there was a need for another league. He met with oil billionaire Bud Adams , among others , and the two began planning a new league. Initially, Hunt intended to put the league under the supervision of NFL commissioner Bert Bell , analogous to the model in Major League Baseball. The NFL, in particular the owners Marshall (Redskins), Mara (Giants) and Halas (Bears), however, rejected this request, Bell announced the establishment of the new league without prior agreement at a Senate hearing in late July 1959. After they were able to convince other investors, this group called Foolish Club founded the American Football League on August 14, 1959. This name, which had previously led to three failed competitive leagues, was announced on August 22, 1959. Franchises were successful for the venues Dallas (Hunt), Denver (Housam), Houston (Adams), Los Angeles (Hilton), Minneapolis (Winter / Boyer), New York City (Wismer), Buffalo (Wilson) and Boston (Sullivan) to organize.

The NFL responded by offering Hunt and Adams an NFL franchise, which they declined out of loyalty to the other team owners. The NFL then franchised Dallas, the Dallas Cowboys , to give more competition to the AFL, which had two teams in Texas with the Houston Oilers and Dallas Texans . In addition, the NFL managed to poach the investors from Minneapolis, from which the Minnesota Vikings emerged.

Since Barron Hilton , owner of the Los Angeles Chargers , threatened to leave if there was no other team on the west coast, the AFL temporarily assigned a team to Oakland called the Raiders .

Early years

The first commissioner elected was Joe Foss , who, as a famous veteran, gave credibility to the AFL. His philosophy of not poaching players with NFL contracts and instead concentrating on players from smaller colleges shaped the league. In addition, talented but excluded from the NFL African American players were hired.

In order to stand firm against the NFL, the team owners also acted together selflessly. Thus, the All-American was Ron Mix from USC in NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts and the AFL Draft by the Boston Patriots each selected in the first round. Since Mix wanted to prefer last year's NFL winners to Patriots in the event of a move to the east coast, the Patriots gave it to the Chargers without further ado, thus enabling Mix to play in his birthplace.

On June 9, 1960, the AFL agreed a five-year contract with TV broadcaster ABC , which brought in two million dollars a year for the league. Still, there were some audience losses. The AFL usually had 10,000 to 20,000 spectators per game, while the NFL had over 50,000. The main reason was the very dilapidated stadiums. After just one season, both the Raiders and the New York Titans were in financial distress. Only a $ 400,000 loan from the owner of the Buffalo Bills , Ralph Wilson , saved the Raiders. A Chargers move to San Diego changed the gaming landscape in season two.

The league became increasingly popular thanks to attractive attack football. Long, spectacular passing plays became the league's trademark. This resulted in NBC acquiring the television rights for $ 36 million in January 1964. In March 1965, the first expansion was finally announced with the addition of the Miami Dolphins . More and more college players preferred the AFL to the NFL. In January 1965, the New York franchise gave Joe Namath of the University of Alabama a three-year contract for $ 427,000, making him the highest-paid player of all time. This sum was so high at the time that many newspapers suspected that the news agency had added a "0" too much.

war and peace

In 1966, Foss gave up his post to Al Davis . This changed the AFL's policy drastically and now also released NFL players as approachable. Due to the increasing competition, there was a cost explosion, which moved Hunt to conduct secret negotiations with the general manager of the Cowboys. On June 8, 1966, it was finally decided to merge. As early as 1967 there was a joint draft and a joint preseason. In addition, the two champions of the leagues should now play against each other in the AFL-NFL World Championship Game , from which the Super Bowl developed. The final merger would take place in 1970. Big wins by the NFL teams over the AFL teams in the first two Super Bowls made critics doubt whether the AFL even had the level to keep up with the NFL. In Super Bowl III , the highly-favored Colts started for the NFL, who had previously only lost one game. However, these were outclassed by the New York Jets around Joe Namath with 16: 7. A 23: 7 victory by the Kansas City Chiefs over the Vikings proved the level of the AFL for good.


The AFL also indirectly ensured that football games in the USA are broadcast over the full length. In the AFL game of the Oakland Raiders against the New York Jets (1968), NBC stopped broadcasting the game at 29:32 and showed the children's film Heidi returns home , so that the television audience missed the two last-minute touchdowns of the Raiders. The reaction was so devastating that since then, broadcasts have had to wait for the match to end after a football game.

In addition, the AFL introduced player names on the shirts and the playing time display on the scoreboard.


The AFL teams
Eastern Division Western Division
Boston Patriots
Today: New England Patriots
Dallas Texans
since 1963: Kansas City Chiefs
Buffalo Bills Denver Broncos
Houston Oilers
Today: Tennessee Titans
Los Angeles Chargers
1961-2016: San Diego Chargers
New York Titans
since 1963: New York Jets
Oakland Raiders
Today: Las Vegas Raiders
Miami Dolphins
since 1966
Cincinnati Bengals
since 1968

AFL Championship Games

Eastern Division Western Division
season date winner Game outcome loser MVP Venue spectator
1960 January 1, 1961 Houston Oilers 24-16 Los Angeles Chargers Billy Cannon Jeppesen Stadium 32,183
1961 December 24, 1961 Houston Oilers (2) 10-3 San Diego Chargers Billy Cannon Balboa Stadium 29,556
1962 December 23, 1962 Dallas Texans 20-17 (2OT) Houston Oilers Jack spikes Jeppesen Stadium (2) 37,981
1963 5th January 1964 San Diego Chargers 51-10 Boston Patriots Keith Lincoln Balboa Stadium (2) 30.127
1964 December 26, 1964 Buffalo Bills 20-7 San Diego Chargers Jack Kemp War Memorial Stadium 40,242
1965 December 26, 1965 Buffalo Bills (2) 23-0 San Diego Chargers Jack Kemp Balboa Stadium (3) 30,361
1966 January 1, 1967 Kansas City Chiefs (2) 31-7 Buffalo Bills Len Dawson War Memorial Stadium (2) 42,080
1967 December 31, 1967 Oakland Raiders 40-7 Houston Oilers Daryle Lamonica Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 53,330
1968 December 29, 1968 New York Jets 27-23 Oakland Raiders Joe Namath Shea Stadium 62,627
1969 4th January 1970 Kansas City Chiefs (3) 17-7 Oakland Raiders Otis Taylor Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (2) 53,561

italic - entry into the Super Bowl ; bold - Super Bowl winner

  1. The Kansas City Chiefs won their first AFC Championship Game in 1962 as the Dallas Texans.

Web links

Commons : American Football League  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Oriard: Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport . Univ of North Carolina Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8078-9965-6 ( [accessed April 6, 2020]).
  2. 15 Aug 1959, 16 - The Austin American at Accessed April 3, 2020 (English).
  3. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 103 .
  4. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 104 .
  5. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 105 .
  6. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 105 .
  7. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 106 .
  8. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 107 .
  9. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 108-109 .
  10. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 109 .
  11. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 110 .
  12. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 111 .
  13. Nov. 17: “Heidi” Interrupts Football Broadcast; Nixon's "I Am Not a Crook" Remarks; DC Sniper Conviction ( Memento March 26, 2014 on the Internet Archive ), ABC News.
  14. ^ Dieter Hoch, Stefan Thorben: From AFL to NFL Europe . ISBN 978-3-9811390-3-7 , pp. 112 .