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Published March 3, 2008
When Ed Policy came to the Arena Football League in 2001, his biggest challenge was convincing credible investors to buy into the fledgling league. Seven years later, the AFL's deputy commissioner has a different problem.
"Back then, we found ourselves chasing capital and looking under every rock," Policy said. "Now, we most often are fielding offers instead of chasing them."
Thanks in part to Policy's job in overseeing the league's relocation and expansion efforts, the AFL has seen its franchise values grow exponentially, with prices now heading north of $20 million. In addition, Policy is intimately involved in identifying and securing potential equity partners as the AFL considers various financial strategies that range from selling the entire league to selling off a minority share.
Either way, much of the dealmaking will fall under Policy, who steadily has assumed more responsibility in running the league since he was named deputy commissioner last year.
"We used to be so focused on what was immediately before us, but what has changed is that we have found a way strategically to grow our business on a much more integrated approach," Policy said.
Under Policy, who serves as one of the league's power brokers with Commissioner David Baker, the indoor league has taken a more aggressive approach in how its 17 franchises are run. Case in point is the fate of the Las Vegas Gladiators, who were relocated this year out of Sin City, where the team struggled, and into Cleveland, where the team's owner lives and has deep business contacts to help drive revenue.
"The team's owner was a self-professed absentee owner and his previous involvement was that he flew in and out of Vegas on Sundays," Policy said. "But he is well connected in Cleveland and it's a much better fit. We still have the flexibility to make moves like that and it is not a sign of instability, but a signal that we can grow the right way."
Policy also is quick to defend the folding of the Nashville Kats by Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams and the forced shift of the Austin, Texas, franchise to the AF2 league as positive moves that strengthen the league.
"The Austin owners wanted to remain in the AFL but didn't think the market justified having an AFL team," he said. "And in Nashville, we had an owner who was at that point in time focusing on other things, including his NFL team."
Ultimately, Policy wants to expand the 17-team league to a maximum of 35 teams in the U.S., along with some international growth.
"The biggest challenge we face right now is analyzing and choosing the right opportunities," he said. "We need to figure out what to go after immediately and how to allocate our resources."
While the AFL's challenges have grown more complicated, Baker continues to lean more heavily on Policy to execute the league's vision.
"Ed has excellent political instincts and strong communication skills," Baker said. "He has gained valuable experience on the cutting edge of the AFL's most innovative institutions and is leading our efforts to examine a centralization of services that may revolutionize our league structure."