PHILADELPHIA, PA – The future of the AFL is on thin ice. The league said that they made difficult decisions in the midst of a potential permanent shut down.
The Albany Times Union first reported that all six teams are closing local business operations. Commissioner Randall Boe, who would be entering his second year at the helm, confirmed to Arena Insider that only the Albany Empire, Columbus Destroyers, and Philadelphia Soul are closing local operations right now.
The decision to close local operations does not mean that teams will not be playing this year. The operations includes staff positions like ticket sales, game day operations, and other services that the league believes they can centralize at their headquarters. As of right now, no teams have seized operations until the league makes a final decision first.
“We are going to have to make a go or no-go decision in the next couple of weeks,” Boe said over a phone interview. “We are reviewing all options.”
The league released a statement on Tuesday after rumors circulated about them potentially shutting down. Officials noted that they are in a predicament, and was “forced to make the difficult but necessary decision to close our team services and business operations units in our local markets.”
The unexpected news lead to an outrage amongst fans, players, and even team owners. Some, like Soul’s co-owner Cosmo DeNicola, have already said farewell.
“I’m so sad to say goodbye to Arena Football,” DeNicola wrote in a Facebook post. “Most importantly, thank you to (Soul) fans. Your energy drove us to championships.”
An issue that the AFL admitted to facing, is starting new teams in markets around the country as well as keeping them. The Columbus Destroyers and the Atlantic City Blackjacks were the newest franchises to join the league last year.
Just five years ago, there were 14 teams in the league. Now, there is only one team that remains from that group which is the Soul. The Cleveland Gladiators went on a hiatus a few seasons ago, and were expected to play soon. So far, there is no word yet on their return. Leaving the league with six teams.
“We have been trying to develop a national scale,” Boe said. “We realize that the league can’t be successful unless it is on a national scale. That’s what unlocks media dollars.”
Boe says that they will need to have about 12 teams for the league to rise to their national goal. It costs arounds three to five million dollars to start a new franchise. This week’s cuts were made to help create financial room, that may keep the show going.
The league is considering to adopt, a “touring model,” that the Premier Lacrosse League runs. It will allow the teams to play games in different parts around the country, like Las Vegas. Boe says that the advantages of that model, is that you can get on a national scale, there will be more attention, and it would help sports betting.
It is just one of the many suggestions that they are facing on a tight deadline. It is currently unclear if the league will continue, or will fold. Several players, coaches, owners, personnel, and fans will be checking around the clock to see if there will be a 33rd Arena Football League season.
“We’re trying as hard as we can to find a way forward,” Boe said. “There will be a decision soon…. The people will know.
Once we make that decision, we will go with what is the best option moving forward.”