SBD/Issue 221/Leagues & Governing Bodies

AFL Suspends Operations After Owners Fail To Reach Consensus

AFL Issues Terse Statement
Announcing League's Suspension
The AFL yesterday announced it has "suspended operations indefinitely" in a one-paragraph statement sent to the media, according to Jay Drew of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. The statement reads in part, "The AFL Board of Directors took this action after they were unable to reach any consensus on restructuring the League over the past eight months. Regrettably, the AFL's Board of Directors believes there are no other viable options available to the League right now." Drew reports Utah Blaze Owner John Garff "continues to hold out hope that a group of owners can revive the league in time for the 2011 season, but he is in the minority." However, those prospects "appear even more bleak after Tuesday's terse announcement," and as of now, "every indication nationally is that the league is dead" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 8/5). Tampa Bay Storm GM & coach Tim Marcum: "We only have ourselves to blame. It's our leadership's fault. We owed $14[M], and when you owe that much something's wrong. You did it the wrong way. I really feel like we'd be playing football right now if it hadn't been for all that debt" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 8/5). In K.C., Terez Paylor notes the decision is the "latest blow to a league that has been in a state of limbo since the owners voted to cancel" the '09 season (K.C. STAR, 8/5). In Philadelphia, Matt Gelb notes "no one answered phones at the league's New York or Chicago offices" yesterday. The Philadelphia Soul "have closed their offices since the 2009 season was suspended in December 2008," and the team's Web site "has been shut down, displaying only a message thanking fans for the last five years" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/5).

HOPE FOR RETURN: Cleveland Gladiators Owner Jim Ferraro said the league is "not folding or filing for bankruptcy." Ferraro: "We're technically alive, but can I tell you if we'll be playing in 2010 or 2011? Clearly, I cannot." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the AFL "has no central office, no commissioner and almost no employees." Former AFL Acting Commissioner Ed Policy said, "I think in some capacity, some of these owners will play arena football in two or three years." But Ferraro said that the owners "rarely agree on anything." Ferraro: "To get anything significant done, you need a 75[%] vote, and they can't get a 75[%] vote on anything. I don't think we can get a 75[%] vote to order a pizza" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/5). Garff said, "The most likely scenario is that we will see arena football in 2011. That's what we'd like to see and that's what we are pushing for." Garff added that the AFL suspending operations "isn't the league's death knell." Rather, he said it is a "requisite step to reorganize and play football in 2011." Garff: "When the time comes to relaunch the league, we just want to make sure we do it right" (Logan Jorgensen, DESERET NEWS, 8/5). 

SaberCats Among Teams Committed To
Continuing Play Somewhere Next Season
TEAMS NOT GOING AWAY QUIETLY: Grand Rapids Rampage COO Scott Gorsline said that the franchise is "committed to putting a team on the field in the future, regardless of the status" of the league. Gorsline: "We will continue to talk about resurrecting the league. ... We're still working on it. The Rampage have not thrown in the towel." Gorsline did not rule out the team joining af2 (, 8/4). San Jose SaberCats VP Hank Stern added his team "remain[s] committed to playing football" and is "actively exploring other options for putting the SaberCats back on the field in 2010" (Stockton RECORD, 8/5). The Blaze's Garff plans to keep his team playing in the future, but said, "We were dealing with time and money. We can solve the money issues, but we need more time to do it" (DESERET NEWS, 8/5). Meanwhile, the Georgia Force yesterday said they are ceasing operations after news came to light of the league suspending operations. Force President Dick Sullivan said in a statement, "There was no other viable choice. 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" (Force).

AF2 SAFE: af2 Iowa Barnstormers co-Owner Jeff Lamberti said that if the AFL folds, it "won't greatly affect the minor-league version because the af2 is solvent and self-funded." In California, Jason Anderson notes possible new plans include "combining af2 and defunct AFL teams to create a revamped league." af2 Stockton Lightning President Dan Chapman: "I don't think anything is out of the question at this point. If there are AFL operators that would like to come to the af2, my opinion is that would be a good thing" (Stockton RECORD, 8/5). In Des Moines, Johnson & Witosky report af2 teams "could be in a new league as a result of the potential demise" of the AFL, and "whether it would be new in name only or an expanded, two-tiered league will be determined in the next couple months." Lamberti said that if the AFL were to file for bankruptcy, the af2 "may form another league to stay out of the proceedings" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 8/5). In Pennsylvania, Jonathan Bombulie notes the AFL owns a 50.1% stake in the af2, "so if the parent league files for bankruptcy, the minor league will have a new majority owner." Once the ownership situation is decided, the af2 "will have to decide how to structure its league going forward." Bombulie: "Might it simply change its name and continue with business as usual?" af2 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers Owner Cosmo DiNicola: "We won't be announcing anything until after our season ends Aug. 22" (Wilkes-Barre CITIZENS VOICE, 8/5). af2 Albany Firebirds President & CEO Garen Szablewski: "If they go into bankruptcy, it shouldn't be a problem because the league (af2) doesn't have much financial value, other than the individual value of league teams." Lamberti: "In our opinion, worst-case scenario, we simply become a separate entity and continue as we have" (TROY RECORD, 8/5).

AFL'S LEGACY: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes of the Orlando Predators, "In a weird way, the Preds were a throwback to a gentler time when sports were more affordable and fan friendly." Tickets "were cheap; times were good." And it "wasn't life or death; it was fun and games." Bianchi: "If only the AFL had stayed true to its mission, we might not be writing this obituary today. In the end, the league perished trying to become bigger than it was ever meant to be" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/5). In Pennsylvania, John Lohn writes, "Give credit to the AFL for lasting two decades, but its absence going forward will hardly draw a tear" (DELAWARE COUNTY TIMES, 8/5). In Sacramento, Bill Bradley writes, "While I was never a fan of the AFL, it lasted for 20 seasons, its fan base was loyal, and there were signs it would return next year. It seemed to have gone from gimmick to legitimate -- but apparently that wasn't enough to keep it alive" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/5).

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