Arena Football League returns from the dead

via www.wallyspicephotography.com

I've always been a big fan of arena football for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that they played during the off-season of college football and the NFL so it gave me something to watch other than endless re-runs of "America's Game" on NFL Network. The second reason is because it's a ton of fun to watch. The fields are shorter and narrow, leading to faster play and higher scoring. The league isn't as uptight about things as the NFL is--players actually interact more with their fans at games than they can in the NFL. 

The sport was invented in 1981 and patented in 1987 by James F Foster Jr, a former executive in both the NFL and USFL. The first game was played Jun 19, 1987 and the league originally had four teams (Pittsburgh Gladiators, Washington Commandos, Chicago Bruisers, and Denver Dynamite). By the mid 2000s the league had expanded to 15 teams, as well as a sort of "minor league" team, Arena Football 2.

Then financial troubles struck. Large debts and low profits forced the league to suspend games for the 2009 season, followed by Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and liquidation of all assets in December of 2009. Not long after the dissolution of AFL1, a group of owners and investors met to see what they could do about restoring arena football. On September 2008 they announced that a new league would be formed, consisting of remnants of AFL1, AFL2, and some new teams. The league will begin operations on April 2, 2010.

Arena Football has kept the rule book largely intact, but the business plan is different. It truly is a single-entity organization, with the league maintaining all rights to its teams. There are currently 15 teams in the league, with another 4 teams under consideration for expansion (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Denver, and Southern California). Some former AFL teams are also negotiating to return to football.

 

2010 AFL teams

Division Team City Arena Founded First season in new AFL Previous League
American Conference
South Alabama Vipers Huntsville, Alabama Von Braun Center 1999 2010 af2
Jacksonville Sharks Jacksonville, Florida Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena 2009 2010 New for 2010
Orlando Predators Orlando, Florida Amway Arena 1990 2010 AFL
Tampa Bay Storm [14] Tampa, Florida St. Pete Times Forum 1987 2010 AFL
Southwest Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings Bossier City, Louisiana CenturyTel Center 2000 2010 af2
Dallas Vigilantes[15] Dallas, Texas American Airlines Center 2010 2010 New for 2010
Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Cox Convention Center 2003 2010 af2
Tulsa Talons Tulsa, Oklahoma BOK Center 1999 2010 af2
National Conference
Midwest Chicago Rush[16] Rosemont, Illinois Allstate Arena 2001 2010 AFL
Cleveland Gladiators [17] Cleveland, Ohio Quicken Loans Arena 1997 2010 AFL
Iowa Barnstormers Des Moines, Iowa Wells Fargo Arena 1995 2010 af2
Milwaukee Iron Milwaukee, Wisconsin Bradley Center 2008 2010 af2
West Arizona Rattlers Phoenix, Arizona US Airways Center 1991 2010 AFL
Spokane Shock Spokane, Washington Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena 2005 2010 af2
Utah Blaze[18] West Valley City, Utah E Center 2006 2010 AFL & AIFA

 

 

TV Deals

The original AFL was broadcast on ESPN, though it was on ESPN2, so there was not much in the way of revenue generated nor was there a fan base created. As part of the league's restructuring, they reached an agreement with the NFL Network to broadcast a game weekly. 

 

TV Schedule (all games begin 8pm EST)

 

  • Week 1 -- April 2: Chicago Rush vs. Iowa Barnstormers
  • Week 2 -- April 9: Cleveland Gladiators vs. Chicago Rush
  • Week 3 -- April 16: Orlando Predators vs. Jacksonville Sharks
  • Week 4 -- April 24 (Saturday): Oklahoma City Yard Dawgs vs. Iowa Barnstormers
  • Week 5 -- April 30: Iowa Barnstormers vs. Orlando Predators
  • Week 6 -- May 7: Jacksonville Sharks vs. Tampa Bay Storm
  • Week 7 -- May 14: Utah Blaze vs. Milwaukee Iron
  • Week 8 -- May 21: Arizona Rattlers vs. Iowa Barnstormers
  • Week 9 -- May 28: Tampa Bay Storm vs. Orlando Predators
  • Week 10 -- June 4: Jacksonville Sharks vs. Chicago Rush
  • Week 11 -- June 11: Tulsa Talons vs. Dallas Vigilantes
  • Week 12 -- June 18: Jacksonville Sharks vs. Orlando Predators
  • Week 13 -- June 25: Bossier City/Shreveport Battlewings vs. Tampa Bay Storm
  • Week 14 -- July 2: Chicago Rush vs. Tampa Bay Storm
  • Week 15 -- July 9: Tampa Bay Storm vs. Dallas Vigilantes
  • Week 16 -- July 16: Spokane Shock vs. Iowa Barnstormers
  • Week 17 -- July 23: Chicago Rush vs. Spokane Shock
  • Week 18 -- July 30: Tulsa Talons vs. Oklahoma City Yard Dawgs    

Last game of the season concludes on July 31, just in time for pre-season of the NFL. 

The NFL Network is bringing it's tv crew to the AFL, which should make for a great production. They're using the same producer that does the Thursday Night Football games, and will be using a rotating cast of play-by-play and color commentary from NFL Network. The opening broadcasters will be Paul Burmeister and Solomon Wilcots. The regular broadcasters will be Burmeister and Fran Charles with Solomon Wilcots, Charles Davis, and Tom Waddle doing analysis.


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