Monday, December 21, 2009

The Arena Football League Calls It Quits

By Ross Everett

After canceling their 2009 season, the Arena Football League has shut down entirely and appears headed for bankruptcy. Earlier this week, the league office released a short statement indicated that it had ceased operations because owners were "unable to reach any consensus on restructuring the league over the past eight months." The leagues statement continued that there are no other viable options available to the league right now."

Even before the decision was made to cancel the 2009 season this past December, it had been a tumultuous off-season for the Arena Football League. It began with the resignation of long time AFL commissioner David Baker just two days before the Arena Bowl championship game. Though Baker put a positive spin on his resignation saying that he felt it was time, the timing was curious despite his insistence that it was due to "personal reasons".

In October, the owner of the New Orleans VooDoo announced that the team would cease operations"despite being one of the league leaders in attendance. In announcing that the team would fold, owner Tom Benson (who also owns the NFL Saints) suggested that the end of the five year old franchise was in no way an indictment of the New Orleans market.

A dispersal draft to reassign the VooDoo personnel was scheduled and postponed several times amid assurances from the AFL office that rumors of financial instability were unfounded.

The inability to get any consensus on a business model for the league reportedly served as the final nail in the AFLs coffin. A major problem was skyrocketing player salaries, and some sort of compensation system tied to team revenues was a necessity. That agreement was reached with the players, but a bigger schism was left between several factions of owners"primarily drawn along lines of overall wealth.

Despite the demise of the Arena Football League, it wont be the end of the road for the twenty two year old sport. known as The 50 yard indoor war . Arena Football lives on in the AF2 league which, ironically, was originally started as something of a developmental organization for the AFL. The league plays in smaller markets and has a more realistic salary structure. A number of current AFL players"and possibly a couple of AFL franchises"could end up in AF2.

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