The NFL has been away from L.A. for a long, long time. Now, a group of investors wants to bring professional football to Los Angeles next August. But they're not talking about an NFL team.

The new United Football League is set to score touchdowns next year with eight teams. In addition to Los Angeles, potential franchise cities include Las Vegas; San Antonio; Orlando, Fla.; Sacramento; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Oklahoma City; Birmingham, Ala.; and even Toronto and Mexico City. But L.A. is an essential component.

"We have to have a team in Los Angeles," said UFL co-founder Bill Hambrect, chairman and co-chief executive of financial services firm WR Hambrect & Co.

The league will have similar rules to the NFL. It will play professional outdoor football on Friday nights. League executives visited L.A. last week to interview potential franchise owners. Requirement: You have to be really, really rich.

The ownership and venue will be finalized over the next few weeks and an announcement is expected in December.

Other pro football leagues formed over the past three decades such as the USFL and XFL failed financially and folded within just a few years. They relied heavily on ticket sales and TV contracts to become profitable and expected to make money almost immediately.

So there's another requirement: Everybody has to be willing to lose money for a few years.

UFL investors have deep pockets who will guarantee salaries, including Hambrect and Tim Armstrong, a vice president at Google Inc. Those investors expect losses for up to the first five years and will not back out if the league fails to break even before then.

"Our owners will be people who can withstand losses for a five-year period," said Frank Vuono, chief operating officer.

The league won't be relying on ticket sales and TV alone. Revenue will come from sales of sports content on new media platforms, such as Internet sites and mobile phones.

Teams will initially have approximately $90 million in working capital. Owners will be expected to provide $30 million in capital with another $60 million coming from public offerings, according to UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue. The league projects teams will have $30 million in annual operating expenses and there will be a salary cap of $20 million. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, has already committed as the league's first franchise owner. He will purchase the rights for the Las Vegas franchise.

The UFL expects to place franchises in areas that have large Hispanic populations.

"We want to be in markets that make us relevant to the growing Hispanic population in America," Vuono said.

Sports Surgeon

Spinal cord injuries are one of the most serious and career threatening injuries in sports. Many athletes have turned to Dr. Robert Bray, founder of Marina del Rey-based D.I.S.C. Diagnostic and Interventional Spinal Care when they have spinal problems.

Now, Dr. Bray is looking to sports teams in an effort to expand his practice. In his company's first sports sponsorship agreement, D.I.S.C. has partnered with the Los Angeles Kings to become the hockey team's official medical center.

"We are a multidisciplinary group that is designed for spinal and sports care," Bray said. "We treat a huge number of professional and Olympic level athletes."

Bray also signed on personally with the Los Angeles Clippers as a spine consultant for the team's medical staff. However, both teams will keep their current medical staffs in place.

"Team physicians are starting to look for a variety of resources," Bray said. "This is a new trend in sports medicine across the board."

The Kings and Luc Robataille, the Hall of Fame hockey player who was recently named president of Kings business operations, approached Dr. Bray about sponsorship. Robataille has been a client of Dr. Bray for a long time and thought that there would be a mutual benefit for both the Kings and Bray's company, which was formed last year. The six-figure deal gives D.I.S.C. signage rights in Staples Center. D.I.S.C. also gets promotional tie-ins with the Kings' various charitable functions under the one-year agreement, but Dr. Bray expects the sponsorship to continue for the long term.

Soccer Stars

The L.A. Galaxy and Hollywood United F.C., a soccer club featuring various film, television and music industry stars, were scheduled to square off in a charity match on Sunday, Nov. 4, at Home Depot Center. Proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army for victims of the recent wildfires that charred the Southern California landscape. The match will be underwritten by Herbalife Family Foundation, the charitable arm of Los Angeles-based Herbalife Ltd. so that 100 percent of ticket sales and money collected at the event will go directly to the relief effort.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236, or at

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