Bowing to economic pressures, the indoor football league is calling off its 2009 season, but it plans to return in 2010, officials said earlier today. The 22-year-old league currently has 16 teams and plans to spend the off year working on a new business model to improve its long-term viability.
“Every owner in the AFL is strongly committed to the League, the game, and, most importantly, the fans,” Acting Commissioner Ed Policy said in a statement. “Owners, however, recognize that, especially in light of the current unprecedented economic climate, the AFL, as a business enterprise, needs to be restructured if it is to continue to provide its unique brand of this affordable, fan-friendly sport.”
Published reports said the league has been struggling for a few years and was facing the possible folding of several teams. In addition, ESPN, which televised games, was supposedly not interested in broadcasting games for a league with significantly less than 16 teams.
Recently, the National Football League announced it was laying off 150 employees due to the weakened economy, and other sports leagues are also feeling the pinch.
“We, the owners of the Arena Football League, realize we have the most fan-friendly, affordable and accessible sport anywhere,” said Bon Jovi, co-owner of the ArenaBowl champion Philadelphia Soul, in a statement. “These are trying economic times. The revamping will ensure that the AFL continues to provide value to its fans and not only survives but thrives in the years to come.”