Friday, August 07, 2009

The Arena Football League folds

It looks like the"Fifty-Yard Indoor War" is no more:

The Arena Football League has shut down, this time indefinitely.
The league, which previously called off play for the 2009 season but had said it planned to return in 2010, sent a terse, one-paragraph statement to its teams late Tuesday announcing it had suspended operations.
The statement said the AFL's board had been "unable to reach any consensus on restructuring the league over the past eight months."
The 22-year-old indoor league had lost its commissioner and two teams since the end of last season. It reached a new agreement with its players this year, but that wasn't sufficient to persuade enough AFL owners that the league could return to profitability.
The AFL's board said "there are no other viable options available to the league right now."
The league is likely to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
I wondered last December if the league's decision to cancel its 2009 season was a harbinger of things to come. The league's owners and administrators obviously wanted to continue, but it just proved too difficult to do so, especially given current economic conditions:
The Georgia Force, owned by Falcons owner Arthur Blank, has issued a statement confirming the cessation of AFL operations.
"We are disappointed at this outcome for AFL fans, but there was no other viable choice," Force president Dick Sullivan said. "Despite significant efforts on the part of many AFL and team representatives, the League was unable to create a new business model that we and others could support. Those of us who worked at the Georgia Force will miss the fun action of this unique football game."
I've said before that I really wasn't Arena Football's biggest fan. It was an entertaining concept, to be sure, and I'd watch the games on TV from time to time and even attend a few Texas Terror / Houston Thunderbears games when they were around, but it just didn't hold the same appeal for me as the 100-yard outdoor version.

Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that the AFL is folding. Since its inception back in the late '80s, the league had created a niche for itself. It was a unique sport that clearly had considerable fan support in some cities and it provided a place for good but-not-quite-NFL-caliber players to play; some of them (notably quarterback Kurt Warner) were even able to use the Arena League to get back into the NFL. It's demise is not a good thing for professional sports in general, and the nation's entertainment options are less for its loss.

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