SBJ/Feb. 16-22, 2009/This Week's News

AFL owners will discuss progress on restructuring

Arena Football League owners will meet this week in Chicago to discuss a restructuring plan aimed toward reviving the league next season.

The owners will gather at the O’Hare Hilton on Thursday to discuss the plan, which has been under development since the league announced in December that its 2009 season was canceled.

“The meeting is to be a progress report on the restructuring plan that we have done over the past 60 days,” said AFL acting Commissioner Ed Policy. “There may or may not be a vote, but there is a lot of progress to report on.”

The league had set a March 1 deadline to restructure in order to play in 2010. Policy refused to disclose details of the plan, which will likely create a single-entity structure for the league to improve efficiencies and streamline expenses.

“I think we are still on track for the plan that will come together in phases, and we should have some phases completed by March 1,” Policy said. “There are a lot of elements to the plan.”

A high priority is getting a new collective-bargaining agreement with the AFL Players Association, as well as consolidating services such as sponsorship sales.

“The collective-bargaining agreement is not yet in place, and it’s one of the most significant items,” Policy said. “Discussions have been collaborative.”

The restructuring effort is led by Policy and Jim Renacci, owner of the Columbus Destroyers franchise. Renacci did not return calls for comment, and other owners referred calls to Policy.

Policy’s challenge of convincing AFL owners of the league’s financial viability under a revamped structure will be made more difficult by the deepening economic crisis, which helped push the league to end its season in December. Absent from the meeting’s agenda is any formal discussion of attempting to attract an equity partner to help bolster the league’s finances.

One possible outcome of the meeting is a revamped AFL that emerges with fewer teams than the 16 that played last season.

“We have to make sure we have the requisite number of teams, and we are determining that right now,” Policy said. “The main goal of the meeting will be to update owners and begin moving to where we can hopefully get a unanimous vote on the entire plan.”

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