What is semi pro football? The origin of the term came from The San Francisco Olympic Club which fielded a football team in 1890. That year, the Olympic Club was accused by a rival club of enticing athletes to jump to its ranks with offers of jobs. An investigation by the Amateur Athletic Union ruled that the Olympics practice was not actually professionalism but only a "semi" form of it, thus inventing the term "semi-pro". Although the Amateur Athletic Union didn't like the idea very much, it decided that clubs could indeed offer employment without losing their amateur status or compromising the athlete.
In continuing on with the history of this level of play some label was needed to differentiate this type of football from high school, college, and pro football. A hundred years ago, when it was in its infancy, semi-pro football was the precursor to pro football.
A few itinerant players, wandering the country in search of games to play in, were paid small amounts (usually under the table) to make local, small town teams look better and win.
In fact, at the NFL's Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, there is reference made to the "Watertown Red and Black" football team being the "first pro football team in America. "This means that Watertown was the “first city” to officially pay players.
Today, the Watertown Red and Black is a powerful semi-pro team, with a fine, illustrious history behind it. It is a member of our own Empire Football League, and is one of the opponents of our very own Ice Storm. (See 2012 Schedule)
Well over the years many have tried to define the exact meaning of the term. In fact the term has been coined and used in a number of sports from baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer and so on to define their level of play over the yrs.
Some might think this implies in modern era that the men/women who play “ semi pro” are being paid to play, but at a less-than-livable wage.
This is misleading today. In most semi-pro leagues, as is true here in the Empire Football League, it is against league rules to reimburse players – not for practicing, for playing, or in any other way. Thus, no one is making any money to play for the Ice Storm.
In fact, the opposite is the case. This team is made up of players who love the game of football so much that they pay to play. Each and every member of the Vermont Ice Storm has had to purchase their own equipment, contribute a player fee (in order to insure the purchase of the team's uniforms, field rental, and so forth), and pick up their own practice expenses. Over the course of the year, this financial burden can be substantial.
“Semi pro” basically means in today’s era that it is a “ professional sporting event” because you pay to watch the event and the people putting the event on pay for insurance, league dues the field/facilities, buses, etc...
The players are professional because they are expected to play at a high standard within the minor league realm and they have to hold themselves to professional standards as in being model citizens. But it's Semi as the level of play is NOT the major leagues and its semi as players do NOT get paid.
In comparison The Vermont Lake Monsters Baseball team of Burlington is a "Minor League Professional Team" and are affiliated with a Major League Team. They get paid to play although not much.
The Vermont Mountaineers Baseball Team of Montpelier is a "Minor League Semi Pro Team" as we are, they don’t get paid to play. It does NOT mean one is in a better category or professionalism then the other, both are "minor league teams" and "professional sporting events". Both have players that are expected to play and live by the model of professionalism but the semi or pro on that level despite their affiliations just means whether you get paid or not paid, that is all. A match between the two teams would be interesting?
So "semi-pro" football in a real sense merely means "Amateur Adult Minor League Football".
Professional in modern era terms as an organization/team because it's football which is played as a professional sporting event in a professional setting that costs money to run and money to watch but on the minor league level giving it the semi there. (the Ice Storm being AAA level)
Professional in modern era terms as football players who hold themselves to professional standards of play on the minor league level and professional standards of conduct as citizens in our society acting in accord, volunteering and so on however they don’t get paid giving it the semi there.
It is played by adults, from the ages of 18 to "whatever," who love the game enough after their high school and/or college careers and in some cases former NFL careers, that they "haven't gotten it out of their systems yet!" Coaches, organizers, sponsors, cheerleaders, Stormy the Mascot – EVERYONE connected with the Vermont Ice Storm is a genuine volunteer.
Recommended reading on semi pro football:
Dream Season - Bob Cowser JR
Just Kick it - Mark ST Ament
Playing for Pizza - John Grishman