It appears the Arena Football League will cancel its 2009 season.
Pete Likens, the director of communications for the Kansas City Brigade, told The Star on Wednesday that the players union agreed to the decision to suspend the season, and owners will hold a final vote on the matter, probably later Wednesday.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Likens said the owners will likely approve the one-year hiatus.
“It’s pretty much a done deal to suspend the 2009 season and work toward a single entity-league,” Likens said. “We plan to start up again in 2010, if the owners vote this way. We’re prepared to play this year, and/or next.”
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The league released a statement on Wednesday insisting that no decision about the 2009 season has been reached:
“Despite rumors and reports to the contrary, all AFL teams are continuing to work toward ArenaBowl XXIII. As it has previously stated, the AFL continues to work on long-term structural improvement options.
“Some of the options may impact the 2009 season,” the statement continued. “There is currently no timetable for an announcement of any kind.”
Speculation about the cash-strapped league’s future has intensified in recent days, as it became apparent that a $100 million deal the AFL announced in October with Platinum Equity, LLC, was in limbo.
In the deal, Platinum Equity would have purchased a large share of the 22-year old league and would have operated the AFL as a single entity. The deal would have given the 16-team league the infusion of capital it sorely needed, but it was supposed to have been finalized last month.
Likens said canceling the 2009 season gives owners more time to find another investor or explore other financial options. “The league would like to better organize it itself to enable more teams to operate on a profitable basis,” Likens said.
The decision, should the owners approve it, would not come as a big surprise. The league had not released a schedule for the 2009 season — which customarily opens March 1 — and several times delayed the start of free agency and the dispersal draft for the New Orleans VooDoo, which folded in October. Also, no site had been announced for ArenaBowl XIII.
The Brigade has operated the last three seasons in Kansas City, playing at Kemper Arena for two seasons before moving into the new Sprint Center in 2008.