Arena Football League cancels 2009 season
December 15, 2008
Sporting News staff reports
The Arena Football League will suspend the 2009 season as it tries to improve its long-term economic model, the league's board of directors announced Monday.
"Every owner in the AFL is strongly committed to the league, the game, and, most importantly, the fans," said acting commissioner Ed Policy. "Owners, however, recognize that, especially in light of the current unprecedented economic climate, the AFL, as a business enterprise, needs to be restructured if it is to continue to provide its unique brand of this affordable, fan-friendly sport."
A source told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the "deal-breaker was ESPN saying it would not televise a six-, seven- or eight-team league." The league, which has been operating since 1987, had 16 teams in the 2008 season. The owners of several teams said they wanted to leave the league unless its financial model was changed.
"We, the owners of the Arena Football League, realize we have the most fan-friendly, affordable and accessible sport anywhere," said Jon Bon Jovi, co-owner of the ArenaBowl champion Philadelphia Soul. "These are trying economic times. The revamping will ensure that the AFL continues to provide value to its fans and not only survives but thrives in the years to come."
Two players told the Plain Dealer that they doubted the league would come back if the 2009 season was scuttled, but owners strongly disagreed.
John Elway, co-owner of the Colorado Crush, said, "Although it is disappointing to suspend the 2009 season, the Arena Football League and its owners feel it is essential to reevaluate the current business model to ensure the livelihood of the AFL in the future."
The arenafootball2 league, the official development league of the Arena Football League, will play in 2009. The af2 operates entirely on its own and is not directly affected by the AFL's current situation.