AFL prepares for start of season amid labor uncertainty
The Arena Football League had planned to go into its 2012 season by celebrating its 25th season. Instead, labor issues stole the spotlight at the start of the AFL season as players threatened a work stoppage as they sought increases in pay.
The AFL countered with a plan to use replacement players should the unionized AFL players decide to sit out. As of press time, no deal had been reached.
“The players have a right to a work stoppage and the owners have a right to hire replacement players,” said AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz. “I hope it does not come to that, but we will not miss a game.”
AFL Players Association Executive Director Ivan Soto did not return calls for comment.
The labor strife comes as the AFL begins its season with 17 teams and one new market in San Antonio. The AFL sold its Tulsa franchise to a group led by Jason Lohe of Revolutionary Sports and Game Plan Wealth, who relocated the team to San Antonio. The new team will play in the Alamodome.
The AFL this offseason also shuttered its Dallas franchise and saw Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers Holdings take ownership of the Cleveland Gladiators team.
Kurz is hopeful that the new owners will help the league, which last year averaged 8,363 fans per game, grow.
“We are still moving forward,” Kurz said. “We have coined this year the year of the fan after people questioned us after we came out of bankruptcy.”
The league ceased operations in 2009 and was relaunched in 2010 after filing for bankruptcy. The AFL was scheduled to begin its 2012 season on March 9, with each of the 17 franchises playing an 18-game schedule.
The NFL Network will televise an AFL game every Friday night throughout the league’s regular season. The NFL Network will also air playoff games and the ArenaBowl championship game.
The AFL this offseason also added a new league sponsor in wireless service provider Net10. The company joins the National Guard, Russell Athletic, Spalding and Napa Auto Parts as AFL league partners.