Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Arena Football Comes to an End

A sad day for sports:
The Arena Football League soon will announce that it is folding, multiple media outlets reported Monday.

A league source told ESPN that the AFL is "suspending operations indefinitely," and an official announcement was forthcoming.

Arizona Rattlers owner Brett Bouchy said the league will also declare bankruptcy, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

"It's just unfortunate we're in this situation," Bouchy said, according to the newspaper. "Everyone knows myself and Arizona fought hard to avoid this day. The league was divided into two groups and factions. You had one group of committed owners who contributed capital and willing to do whatever it took to bring the league back in 2010. I have been in that group the entire time. Then there was another group that just wasn't willing to make the investment. We could never get a consensus."

Tampa Bay Storm owner Jim Borghesi posted a message on his Facebook page, saying: "The AFL will be having a press conference to announce that the league will not be returning," according to the Albany Times-Union.

In December 2008, the league suspended play for the 2009 season. In March, players and management agreed in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement, and in April a business plan for the league was put together for the owners to review.

But Columbus Destroyers managing partner Jim Renacci, who was in charge of coming up with the adjusted financial plan, told the Columbus Dispatch that despite efforts in the past six to nine months, and with the economy still in a recession, the requisite 75 percent of owners could not agree on the plan.

"When you have 22 different owners in 17 ownership groups, it's very difficult to get a supermajority on most any plan," Renacci said, according to the Dispatch.

I'm shocked that the AFL couldn't figure out a way to make it in this economy. It is a sport tailor-made for small markets that normally miss out on professional sports in the off-season. Was it a mistake to put teams in large markets? Would it have been wiser to go after mid-tier cities that did not have professional football franchises? I don't have a clue as to what would have been a successful business model with regards to the sport.

Arena Football has been around for over twenty years--that's an amazing statistic. It had real fans, it survived Jon Bon Jovi, and it made perfect use of space and time. Basically using a hockey rink with no ice, some pads, and some astroturf, the AFL filled arenas and gave people a dose of forward-pass football that captivated audiences.

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