Reports: AFL will cease operations
The Arena Football League soon will announce that it is folding, multiple media outlets reported Monday.
A league source told ESPN that the AFL is "suspending operations indefinitely," and an official announcement was forthcoming.
Arizona Rattlers owner Brett Bouchy said the league will also declare bankruptcy, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
"It's just unfortunate we're in this situation," Bouchy said, according to the newspaper. "Everyone knows myself and Arizona fought hard to avoid this day. The league was divided into two groups and factions. You had one group of committed owners who contributed capital and willing to do whatever it took to bring the league back in 2010. I have been in that group the entire time. Then there was another group that just wasn't willing to make the investment. We could never get a consensus."
Tampa Bay Storm owner Jim Borghesi posted a message on his Facebook page, saying: "The AFL will be having a press conference to announce that the league will not be returning," according to the Albany Times-Union.
In December 2008, the league suspended play for the 2009 season. In March, players and management agreed in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement, and in April a business plan for the league was put together for the owners to review.
But Columbus Destroyers managing partner Jim Renacci, who was in charge of coming up with the adjusted financial plan, told the Columbus Dispatch that despite efforts in the past six to nine months, and with the economy still in a recession, the requisite 75 percent of owners could not agree on the plan.
"When you have 22 different owners in 17 ownership groups, it's very difficult to get a supermajority on most any plan," Renacci said, according to the Dispatch.
A telltale sign of trouble for the league came in July 2008, when David Baker stepped down as AFL commissioner, and the owners did not bring in a replacement.
The New Orleans VooDoo folded in October 2008, and the Los Angeles Avengers ceased operations this past April, leaving the league with 15 teams.
The AFL was formed in 1987. By the late 1990s, games were broadcast on ESPN, which owns a minority stake in the league. ESPN was the last network to televise AFL games nationally.
ESPN released a statement Tuesday, saying: "This is entirely an internal AFL matter. Our telecast agreement with the league has been terminated."
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