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TV, commish questions next for AFL

The Arena Football League capped its relaunched regular season facing some key questions as it looks to build its business for next year.

The 15-team league, which was relaunched after shutting down in 2009, headed into its final regular-season games this past weekend with an average attendance of 7,627. That compares with a 12,957 average in 2008, the last season played before the league was shuttered.

The Tampa Bay Storm was leading the league in attendance with an average of 14,942 fans a game heading to the season’s final weekend. The Bossier-Shreveport (La.) BattleWings were last, averaging  3,900.

The Tampa Bay Storm led the 15-team AFL
in attendance heading to the season’s
final weekend.

AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz said he is satisfied with the AFL’s draw given its hastily arranged return season, which began in early April after the league was bought out of bankruptcy for $6 million in December.

“We knew there were challenges and a lot of skeptics given the short window of our launch,” said Kurz, who spearheaded the league’s relaunch. “But we have demonstrated that we are back.”

Kurz pointed at expansion next year to 18 teams — with the addition of teams in Kansas City, Philadelphia and San Jose — as a sign of growth, but the AFL does not yet know if its television agreement with the NFL Network will be renewed. In addition, Kurz’s contract expires at the end of August. League owners are expected to decide at an Aug. 25 meeting whether to bring him back.

“My agreement was a one-year deal, and when you have a relaunch, it seemed like a long time,” Kurz said. “I want to return, but it is up to the owners.”

The AFL also faces some uncertainty in some of its smaller markets. There is speculation that the Bossier-Shreveport franchise will relocate to New Orleans, while the Huntsville, Ala., team is rumored to be moving to Atlanta. Kurz would not confirm the moves.

Kurz’s more immediate concern is trying to land a presenting sponsor for the ArenaBowl championship game set for Aug. 20.

“We knew that we started … late in the process of getting major-dollar sponsors,” he said. “Everybody knows that this is not a one-year plan but a three-year plan.”

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