One of my favorite things to do when I was growing up was attending Arena Football League games with my parents and family friends. I had grown up seeing the games broadcast on NBC on the weekend and became enamored with the novelty of such an attraction.
Ohio State Football tickets proved hard to come by and expensive but the AFL offered a chance to quench the need for football at a discounted price.
Following a less than successful return to Central Ohio and other markets in 2019, financial trouble may doom the league and alter the structure that fans have come to know and love.
According to an article in an October 2019 edition of the Times Union, a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against the AFL by an insurance carrier that provided workers' compensation coverage between 2009 and 2012, before current management became involved, caused the league to reevaluate its current business model.
The AFL restructured its ownership model following the single-entity structure of leagues like Major League Soccer and the forthcoming XFL. This means the league controls all six teams with the former owners becoming shareholders in the league.
The league released a statement in October telling fans it was closing up local operations for all six teams.
“Earlier today, the Arena Football League was forced to make the difficult, but necessary decision to close our team services and business operations units in our local markets.
These closures have resulted in the elimination of various staff positions, and is a direct consequence of the current financial constraints facing the AFL, which include extensive legacy liabilities and a recent multimillion-dollar litigation filed against the League by an insurance carrier that provided coverage for the AFL between 2009 and 2012. Those liabilities, which are all related to prior League operations, severely constrain the League’s ability to expand and operate.
The financial challenges we are now dealing with do not, however, reflect the determined efforts of our current shareholders to maintain the viability of the AFL. Our shareholders have made significant investments to restructure and re-launch the AFL and make it successful. Additionally, they have continued to work actively with the League office to grow the sport in their respective markets. Every touchdown celebrated and every ArenaBowl trophy ever hoisted can be credited to their efforts and to our incredibly loyal and growing fanbase.
The AFL is innovative, brave and fun. Our teams push barriers and continually experiment with dynamic ways to engage fans, creating some of the most memorable live action sports experiences.
We would like to thank our employees for their tremendous service during their time with the AFL and we value the important role they played in being our front-line ambassadors for the sport.
Looking forward, the AFL will continue to push ahead with efforts to identify solutions to address the aforementioned financial constraints. We have not yet made the final determination that it will be necessary to suspend all League operations, but we expect that decision to be made within the next few weeks.
Should we not be able to move forward, we will issue information about all applicable refunds at that time. We are exploring every possible avenue to continue bringing AFL football to our fans, including further evolutions to the current business model, and are engaging with prospective investors and supporters who are interested in seeing the League continue to grow.”
This past Wednesday the league made a decision to close its doors effectly ending a 30 year run for the league. AFL commissioner Randall Boe released a statement through the league's website and social media channels.
Would you like to see the AFL come back? Could it follow a model like the Premier Lacrosse League?
Let us know your thoughts.
Author's note: To the staff, players, and coaches of the Columbus Destroyers. Thank you for your warmth and hospitality thoughout the year. You provided a professional experience.