After days of speculation about its uncertain future, the Arena Football League announced Monday that it will suspend the 2009 season in hopes of returning in 2010.
The decision, which is subject to the agreement of the players union, was made by the league’s board of directors during a conference call Sunday night.
“Owners 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,” said acting commissioner Ed Policy in a statement.
The announcement should finally bring an end to a tumultuous offseason for the 16-team league, which includes the Kansas City Brigade, as the AFL had not released a schedule for the 2009 season and several times delayed the start of free-agency and the dispersal draft for the New Orleans VooDoo, which folded in October.
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Speculation about the 22-year old league’s future only intensified in recent weeks, when it became apparent that a $100 million deal the cash-strapped league struck in October with Platinum Equity, LLC, was in limbo. The deal, which was supposed to be completed in November, would have given the AFL the infusion of capital it badly needed and allowed Platinum to operate the league as a single entity.
But with the deal in a state of flux, it is believed that several owners wanted to suspend the 2009 season to find another investor or explore other financial options.
That belief was confirmed Wednesday by Brigade officials and Los Angeles Avengers co-owner Casey Wasserman, who told The Los Angeles Times that the league’s owners would soon vote to cancel the upcoming season.
Still, some grew hopeful that there would be a season, especially after the league’s board of directors held a conference call Wednesday and issued a statement afterward saying the league “has not suspended the 2009 season at this time.”
But the vote only delayed the inevitable, as the league’s owners came to the decision Sunday night and made it official Monday.