Despite cutting the salary cap, it has been reported that the Arena Football League will shut down operations for the 2009 season. They do plan to restructure the organization and return to play in the 2010.
Owner and chief executive of the Cleveland Gladiators, James L. Ferraro, responds to the league's decision: "I think it's a historic day for the league. I think this league will be much, much stronger, and it will be here for a long time because of what happened."
AFL officials are in hopes of coming up with a better business model reported from their conference call last week. The league's board of directors' conference call apparently voted to shut down because too many big-name owners or big-name cities said they would not return in 2009.
An anonymous source stated, "We couldn't be taken seriously if we lost too many teams, especially in big markets. That's what was going to happen. We needed to shut down and reorganize."
This has been an offseason of uncertainty for the league. The 16-team league has delayed indefinitely the start of free agency, as well as the release of its 2009 schedule. The dispersal draft to award players from the defunct New Orleans VooDoo has also been suspended.
There has been no permanent replacement named for former AFL commissioner David Baker. Baker abruptly resigned last July, just two days before the Arena Bowl championship game.
This is truly a sad day for the organization. The fact they had to shut down a season of operation worries me. The restructure should have begun at the end of last season and worked non-stop during the offseason to reach an acceptable result.
As recently reported, the af2 (AFL minor league) operates entirely on its own and is not directly affected by the AFL's current situation.
Perhaps this is good news for alternative arena leagues like the AIFA. According to AIFAProFootball.com, it's business as usual for the American Indoor Football Association.
The AIFA commented, "With the recent announcements that the Arena Football League (AFL) and participating teams are suffering financial hardships that could potentially result in the suspension of operations for the 2009 season, the American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) will continue with business as usual."
The 2009 AIFA season begins in March, and the league is already planning for the future. Business must be good for the league since they recently added two expansion franchises (Richmond, VA and Trenton, NJ) to the 2010 season lineup.
The AIFA begins their third season of operations with a total of 16 participating teams. These teams have a footprint that reaches from the East Coast to as far west as Utah.
AIFA league co-owner John Morris has been working relentlessly securing the future for the ever-expanding league. Morris commented, “We are in a great position today. We have 16 teams in four divisions on two different coasts. You cannot drive up and down I-95 without driving through a city that is represented in the AIFA.
"We have teams in Harrisburg, PA, Erie, PA, Reading, PA, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Florence, SC, just to name a few. That is what makes our business model successful. Travel costs are kept low because of our strategically placed teams. When an owner can take his team on the road, play the game, and drive home all in fewer than seven hours, that saves the participating teams thousands of dollars in operating expenses.”
Another reason for the league's success is the implementation of the first-of-its-kind Playoff Incentive Package. This package is a nest egg of $110,000 that is utilized to financially aid teams that advance past the 14-game regular season.
John Morris responded regarding the Playoff Incentive Package, “We want our teams to be able to play into the postseason. Each team has a projected budget going through the regular season. Should they advance into the playoffs and beyond, they should not have to worry about where they will fit postseason travel expenses into their budget. They need to focus on winning football games and a championship.”
So as you can see, there may be trouble on the horizon for the AFL, but the AIFA is on its way to securing a solid foundation for its league. They reassure all of their teams, sponsors, and fans that the AIFA will definitely be kicking off its third successful season in March, as well as working on continually stabilizing the league through 2010 and beyond.