AFL Lost Season Good for Arena Football?

Richie FenderCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2008

I'm sure by now we've all heard about the lost 2009 season for the Arena Football League.

In fact, the Cleveland Gladiators owner James Ferraro told The New York Times, "It's a historic day for the league. This league will be much, much stronger, and it will be here for a long time because of what happened. This is the farthest thing from the league folding. This is, in my opinion, just showing us the league will not fold. The league is developing a long-term plan to improve its economic model."

Originally founded in 1987, the AFL currently has 16 teams. There was a report that a number of AFL teams in large cities had said they would not return in 2009, which could include markets like Dallas, Philadelphia, Colorado, Georgia, Chicago, and Cleveland.

This may allow other small market arena leagues to be more successful during their 2009 season. These league are located in smaller cities through out the U.S. and are normally cheaper to operate.

The arenafootball2 league (af2), American Indoor Football Association (AIFA), Continental Indoor Football League (CIFL), Indoor Football League (IFL), and Southern Indoor Football League (SIFL) just to name a few.

Teams from these smaller leagues now have the opportunity to nab AFL players at discount prices. Like the Saginaw Sting coming off a CIFL championship, reported prospects of landing AFL players from the Grand Rapids Rampage. Trumbull also reported that, "The AFL's departure could mean more sponsorships or even television coverage for the Sting. You might end up seeing us on TV this year, who knows."

IFL officials, like Abilene Ruff Riders' Communications Director Dane Lisser, see the AFL cancellation as an opportunity. Lisser commented, "Part of the Arena Football League's problem, is there is too much money involved with arena football. With the way we're paying our players, we're going to be OK. There's not any cause for worry."

According to the Ruff Riders' Web site, their players make on average, $225 per game plus a $35 win bonus. Housing and other benefits are also factored in to total the average salary is in the $10,000 to $20,000 range for a four-month season.

From other reports, this seems to be a good average for other small arena leagues. The Wall Street Journal has reported, the AFL boasts an average salary of $85,000. Well, we can now see where the issue lays.

Lisser also commented, "There may be some trickle down of players from the higher-level arena league to leagues lower-level league such as the IFL. There are definite possibilities. This is a step down, but they can continue to play."

The IFL will play its inaugural season in 2009. This league was formed over the past summer by the merger of the Intense Football League and the United Indoor Football League. The new league includes 18 teams that were held over from the merged leagues, and IFL officials are expected to have more than 20 franchises by the time the season starts, which is more that the AFL currently carries.

So I guess looking back, the lost season for the AFL springs new life in smaller leagues that can seed their brands in their communities. Score one for the little guy.