Arena Football League
|Upcoming season or competition:
2015 Arena Football League season
Arena Football League
|Formerly||Arena Football 1 (2010)
NET 10 Wireless AFL (2012–2014)
|No. of teams||9|
|Most recent champion(s)||San Jose SaberCats (4th title)|
|Most titles||Tampa Bay Storm
& Arizona Rattlers (5 titles)
|TV partner(s)||CBS Sports Network,
ESPN, local tv broadcasts
The Arena Football League (AFL) is the highest level of professional indoor American football in the United States. It is currently the third longest-running professional football league in North America, after the Canadian Football League and the National Football League. It was founded in 1987 by Jim Foster. It is played indoors on a 50-yard field, not including each eight-yard endzone (half the distance of an NFL field), resulting in a faster-paced and higher-scoring game. The sport was invented in the early 1980s and patented by Foster, a former executive of the United States Football League and the National Football League.
For its 2015 season, the league consisted of 12 teams, all from the United States; however, upon the completion of the regular season, the league announced that two teams it had assumed operation of during the season would cease all operations effective immediately; a regular season game slated between the two had previously been canceled and declared a tie. The AFL is divided into two conferences – the American Conference and National Conference. Each conference had two divisions of three teams each.
The regular-season is a 20-week schedule during which each team plays 18 games and has two bye weeks. Each team plays three games against the other two teams in its division, two games against the teams in its conference from the other division, and one game against each team in the other conference. The season currently starts during the last week of March and runs weekly into late August. At the end of each regular season, four teams from each conference (the division winners and two wild card teams) play in the AFL playoffs, an eight-team single-elimination tournament that culminates with the championship game, known as the ArenaBowl. From 1987 to 2004, 2010 and 2011 and again starting in 2014, the game was played at the site of the higher seeded team. From 2005 to 2008, the games were at neutral sites, Las Vegas and New Orleans. In 2012, the league championship returned to a neutral site and ArenaBowl XXV was held at the New Orleans Arena; ArenaBowl XXVI was held in Orlando.
From 2000 to 2009, the AFL had its own developmental league, the af2. The AFL played 22 seasons from 1987 to 2008; internal issues caused the league to cancel its 2009 season, though the af2 did play. Later that year both the AFL and af2 were dissolved and reorganized as a new corporation comprising teams from both leagues, and the AFL returned in 2010. The Arena Football League has its headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.
The league's average game attendance since returning in 2010 has been approximately 8,000.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Creation
- 1.2 Early years (1987–1999)
- 1.3 The new millennium (2000–2008)
- 1.4 Decline (2008–2009)
- 1.5 Relaunch, title sponsor and rock star owners (2010–2014)
- 1.6 New era, first-ever president and new commissioner (2015–present)
- 2 Teams
- 3 Postseason
- 4 Rules
- 5 Growth of the league
- 6 Media
- 7 Commissioners of Arena Football
- 8 League office locations
- 9 League finances
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Jim Foster, a promotions manager with the National Football League, conceived of indoor football while watching an indoor soccer match at Madison Square Garden in 1981. While at the game, he wrote his idea on a 9x12 envelope, with sketches of the field and notes on gameplay. He presented the idea to a few friends at the NFL offices, where he received praise and encouragement for his concept. After solidifying the rules and a business plan, and supplemented with sketches by a professional artist, Foster presented his idea to various television networks. He reached an agreement with NBC for a "test game".
Plans for arena football were put on hold in 1982 as the United States Football League was launched. Foster left the NFL to accept a position in the USFL. He eventually became executive vice-president with the Chicago Blitz, where he returned to his concept of arena football. In 1983, he began organizing the test game in his spare time from his job with the Blitz. By 1985, the USFL had ceased football operations and he began devoting all his time to arena football, and on April 27, 1986, his concept was realized when the test game was played.
The test game was played in Rockford, Illinois, at the Rockford MetroCentre. Sponsors were secured, and players and coaches from local colleges were recruited to volunteer to play for the teams, the Chicago Politicians and Rockford Metros, with the guarantee of a tryout should the league take off. Interest was high enough following the initial test game that Foster decided to put on a second, "showcase", game. The second game was held on February 26, 1987 at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago with a budget of $20,000, up from $4,000 in the test game. Foster also invited ESPN to send a film crew to the game; a highlights package aired on SportsCenter.
Following the successes of his trial-run games, Foster moved ahead with his idea for arena football. He founded the Arena Football League with four teams: the Pittsburgh Gladiators, Denver Dynamite, Washington Commandos, and Chicago Bruisers. Foster appointed legendary Darrel "Mouse" Davis, godfather of the "run and shoot" and modern pro offenses, as executive director of football operations. Davis hired the original coaches and was the architect of the league's original wide-open offensive playbooks.
The first game in Arena Football League history was played on June 19, 1987, between the Gladiators and Commandos at Pittsburgh Civic Arena in front of 12,117 fans. The game was deliberately not televised so that it could be analyzed and any follies and failures would not be subject to national public scrutiny. Following the inaugural game, tweaks and adjustments were made, and the first season continued. The Dynamite and Bruisers played in the first-ever televised AFL game the next night, on June 20, 1987, at the Rosemont Horizon in suburban Chicago on ESPN with Bob Rathbun and Lee Corso calling the play. The broadcast showed a short clip of the Commandos-Gladiators game. Each team played six games, two against each other team. The top two teams, Denver and Pittsburgh, then competed in the first-ever AFL championship game, ArenaBowl I.
Patenting the game
On September 30, 1987, Foster filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to patent his invented sport. The patent application covered the rules of the game, specifically detailing the goalposts and rebound netting and their impact on gameplay. Foster's application was granted on March 27, 1990. The patent expired on September 30, 2007.
Early years (1987–1999)
From its inception, the AFL operated in a state of semi-obscurity; many Americans had heard the term "arena football" but knew little to nothing about the league itself.
From the 1987 season until the late 1990s, the most exposure the league would receive was on ESPN, which aired tape-delayed games, often well after midnight, and often edited to match the alloted time slot. The league received its first taste of wide exposure in 1998, when Arena Bowl XII was televised nationally as part of ABC's old Wide World of Sports.
On Saturday, July 23, 1989, much of America learned of the AFL for an unintended reason, when the Pittsburgh Gladiators' head coach, Joe Haering, made football history by punching commissioner Jim Foster during a game with the Chicago Bruisers. The national media ran with the story, including a photo in USA Today. The game was played between the two teams in Sacramento's Arco Arena, as part of the AFL's 'Barnstorming America' tour. Foster had walked onto the field of play to mediate an altercation between the two teams when Haering, a former NFL assistant, punched him in the jaw. Haering was suspended without pay.
One of the league's early success stories was the Detroit Drive. A primary team for some of the AFL's most highly regarded players, including George LaFrance and Gary and Alvin Rettig, as well as being a second career chance for quarterback Art Schlichter, the Drive regularly played before sold out crowds at Joe Louis Arena, and went to the ArenaBowl every year of their existence (1988–1993). The AFL's first dynasty came to an end when their owner, Mike Ilitch (who also owned Little Caesars Pizza and the Detroit Red Wings) bought the Detroit Tigers baseball team and sold the AFL team.
Although the Drive left the league, the AFL had a number of other teams which it considered "dynasties", including the Tampa Bay Storm (the only team that has existed in some form for all twenty-eight contested seasons), their arch-rival the Orlando Predators, the San Jose SaberCats of the present decade, and their rivals and current champions the Arizona Rattlers.
In 1993, the league staged its only All-Star Game in Des Moines, Iowa, the future home of the long-running Iowa Barnstormers, as a fundraiser for flood victims in the area. The National Conference defeated the American Conference 64–40 in front of a crowd of 7,189.
While some teams have enjoyed considerable on-field and even financial success, many teams in the history of the league have enjoyed little to no success either on or off of the field of play. There are a number of franchises which existed in the form of a number of largely-unrelated teams under numerous management groups until they folded (an example is the New York CityHawks whose owners transferred the team from New York to Hartford to become the New England Sea Wolves after two seasons, then after another two seasons were sold and became the Toronto Phantoms, who lasted another two seasons until folding). There are a number of reasons why these teams failed, including financially weak ownership groups, lack of deep financial support from some owners otherwise capable of providing it, lack of media exposure, and the host city's evident lack of interest in its team or the sport as a whole.
The new millennium (2000–2008)
The year 2000 brought a heightened interest in the AFL. Then-St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, who was MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV, was first noticed because he played quarterback for the AFL's Iowa Barnstormers. While many sports commentators and fans continued to ridicule the league, Warner's story gave the league positive exposure, and it brought the league a new television deal with TNN, which, unlike ESPN, televised regular season games live. While it was not financially lucrative, it helped set the stage for what the league would become in the new millennium. Also, the year also brought a spin-off league, the af2, intended to be a developmental league, comparable to the National Football League's NFL Europe. There was a lot of expansion in the 2000s. Expansion teams included the Austin Wranglers, Carolina Cobras, Los Angeles Avengers, Chicago Rush, Detroit Fury, Dallas Desperados, Colorado Crush, New Orleans VooDoo, Philadelphia Soul, Nashville Kats, Kansas City Brigade, New York Dragons and Utah Blaze. Some of these teams, including the Crush, Desperados, Kats, and VooDoo, were owned by the same group which owned the NFL teams in their host cities. The NFL purchased, but never exercised, an option to buy a major interest the AFL. Of all of these teams, only the Soul still compete in the AFL as of 2015.
In 2003, the season expanded to 16 games. There were also several rule changes in this period. In 2005, players were no longer allowed to run out of bounds. The only way for a player to go out of bounds presently is if he is tackled into or deliberately contacts the side boards. This was also the first year the ArenaBowl was played at a neutral site. In 2007, free substitution was allowed, ending the "iron man" era of one-platoon football. And in 2008, the "jack" linebacker was allowed to go sideboard to sideboard without being penalized for "illegal defense".
After 12 years as commissioner of the AFL, David Baker resigned unexpectedly on July 25, 2008, just two days before ArenaBowl XXII; deputy commissioner Ed Policy was named interim commissioner until Baker's replacement was found. Baker explained, "When I took over as commissioner, I thought it would be for one year. It turned into 12. But now it's time."
Three months later, "based on circumstances currently affecting the league and the team", Tom Benson startlingly announced that the New Orleans VooDoo were ceasing operations and folding. Shortly thereafter, an article in Sports Business Journal announced that the AFL had a tentative agreement to sell a $100 million stake in the league to Platinum Equity; in exchange, Platinum Equity would create a centralized, single-entity business model that would streamline league and team operations and allow the league to be more profitable. Benson's move to shut down the VooDoo came during the Platinum Equity conference call, leading to speculation that he had folded because of the deal.
Because of the sudden loss of the New Orleans franchise, the league announced in October that the beginning of the free agency period would be delayed in order to accommodate a dispersal draft. Dates were eventually announced as December 2 for the dispersal draft and December 4 for free agency, but shortly before the draft the league issued a press release announcing the draft had been postponed one day to December 3. Shortly thereafter, another press release announced that the draft would be held on December 9 and free agency would commence on December 11. However, the draft still never took place, and instead another press release was issued stating that both the draft and free agency had been postponed indefinitely. Rumors began circulating that the league was in trouble and on the verge of folding, but owners were quick to deny those claims. It was soon revealed the players' union had agreed to cut the salary cap for the 2009 season in order to prevent a total cessation of operations. However, the announced Platinum Equity investment never materialized.
Canceling the 2009 season
Although the Arenafootball2 league played its tenth season in 2009, a conference call in December 2008 resulted in enough votes from owners and cooperation from the AFLPA for the AFL to suspend the entire 2009 season in order to create "a long-term plan to improve its economic model". In doing so, the AFL became the second sports league to cancel an entire season, after the National Hockey League cancelled the 2004-05 season because of a lockout. The AFL also became the third sports league to lose its postseason (the first being Major League Baseball, which lost its postseason in 1994 because of a strike). Efforts to reformat the league's business model were placed under the leadership of Columbus Destroyers owner Jim Renacci and interim commissioner Policy.
High hopes for the AFL waned when interim commissioner Ed Policy announced his resignation, citing the obsolescence of his position in the reformatted league. Two weeks later, the Los Angeles Avengers announced that they were formally folding the franchise. One month later, the league missed the deadline to formally ratify the new collective bargaining agreement and announced that it was eliminating health insurance for the players. Progress on the return stalled, and no announcements were made regarding the future of the league.
On July 20, 2009, Sports Business Journal reported that the AFL owed approximately $14 million to its creditors and were considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In early August 2009, numerous media outlets began reporting that the AFL was folding permanently and would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The league released a statement on August 4 to the effect that while the league was not folding, it was suspending league operations indefinitely. Despite this, several of the league's creditors filed papers to force a Chapter 7 liquidation if the league did not do so voluntarily. This request was granted on August 7, though converted to a Chapter 11 reorganization on August 26.
Relaunch, title sponsor and rock star owners (2010–2014)
Current teams Future teams Team moved to alternate indoor league Former teams
Following the suspension of the AFL's 2009 season, league officials and owners of af2 (which had played its season as scheduled) began discussing the future of arena football and the two leagues. With its 50.1 percent ownership of af2, the AFL's bankruptcy and dissolution prompted the dissolution of af2 as well. That league was formally considered disbanded on September 8, 2009, when no owner committed his or her team to the league's eleventh season by that deadline. For legal reasons, af2 league officials and owners agreed to form a new legal entity, Arena Football 1 (AF1), with former AFL teams the Arizona Rattlers and Orlando Predators joining the former af2.
All assets of the Arena Football League were put up for auction. On November 11, 2009, the new league announced its intention to purchase the entire assets of the former AFL; the assets included the team names and logos of all but one of the former AFL and af2 teams. The lone exception was that of the Dallas Desperados; Desperados owner Jerry Jones had purposely designed the Desperados' properties around those of the Dallas Cowboys, making the two inseparable. The auction occurred on November 25, 2009. The assets were awarded to Arena Football 1 on December 7, 2009, with a winning bid of $6.1 million.
On February 17, 2010, AF1 announced it would use the "Arena Football League" name. The league announced plans for the upcoming season and details of its contract with NFL Network to broadcast AFL games in 2010. AF1 teams were given the option of restoring historical names to their teams. In addition to the historical teams, the league added two new expansion franchises, the Dallas Vigilantes and the Jacksonville Sharks.
For the 2011 season, the Philadelphia Soul, Kansas City Brigade, San Jose SaberCats, New Orleans VooDoo, and the Georgia Force returned to the AFL after having last played in 2008. However, the Grand Rapids Rampage, Colorado Crush, Columbus Destroyers, Los Angeles Avengers, and the New York Dragons did not return. The league added one expansion team, the Pittsburgh Power. Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann was one of the team's owners. It was the first time the AFL returned to Pittsburgh since the Pittsburgh Gladiators were an original franchise in 1987 before becoming the Tampa Bay Storm. The Brigade changed its name to the Command, becoming the Kansas City Command. Even though they were returning teams, the Bossier–Shreveport Battle Wings moved to New Orleans as the Voodoo, the identity formerly owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. The Alabama Vipers moved to Duluth, Georgia to become the new Georgia Force (the earlier franchise of that name being a continuation of the first Nashville Kats franchise). On October 25, 2010 the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz did not return. The Milwaukee Iron also changed names to the Milwaukee Mustangs, the name of Milwaukee's original AFL team that had existed from 1994 to 2001.
In 2012, the AFL celebrated its silver anniversary for its 25th season of operations. The season kicked off on March 9, 2012. The Tulsa Talons moved to San Antonio, Texas and Jeffrey Vinik became owner of the Tampa Bay Storm. The Dallas Vigilantes were left off the schedule for the 2012 season with no announcement from the management, raising speculations that either the team had suspended operations for the season or was ceasing operations altogether. (Apparently the latter was the case as the organization did not field a team for the 2013 season or any subsequent one either.) Like the National Football League, the AFL postponed the free agency period to October 31 due to Hurricane Sandy.
It was announced on December 12, 2012, that the AFL reached a partnership agreement with NET10 Wireless to be the first non-motorsports-related professional sports league in the United States to have a title sponsor, renaming it the NET10 Wireless Arena Football League. The redesigned website shows the new logo which incorporates the current AFL logo with the one from NET10 Wireless. The title sponsorship agreement ended in 2014 after a two-year partnership.
In 2013, the league expanded with the addition of two new franchises to play in 2014, the Los Angeles Kiss (owned by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the legendary rock band Kiss) and the Portland Thunder.
In 2014, the league announced the granting of a new franchise to former Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil, previously part-owner of the Jacksonville Sharks. That franchise, the Las Vegas Outlaws, were originally to play in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in 2015, but instead played their home games at the Thomas & Mack Center, previous home to the Las Vegas Sting and Las Vegas Gladiators. After 20 years as a familiar name to the league, an AFL mainstay, the Iowa Barnstormers, departed the league to join the Indoor Football League. The San Antonio Talons folded on October 13, 2014, after the league (which owned the team) failed to find a new owner. On November 16, 2014, despite a successful season record-wise, the Pittsburgh Power became the second team to cease operations after the 2014 season. This resulted from poor attendance. It was later announced by the league that the Power would go dormant for 2015 and were looking for new ownership.
New era, first-ever president and new commissioner (2015–present)
On August 9, 2015, ESPN reported that the New Orleans VooDoo and Las Vegas Outlaws had ceased operations, effective immediately. On September 1, 2015, the Spokane Shock officially left the AFL and joined the IFL, becoming the fifth active AFL/af2 franchise to leave for the IFL since bankruptcy (Iowa Barnstormers, Tri-Cities Fever, Green Bay Blizzard and Arkansas Twisters - now the Texas Revolution - left previously).
Rumors began swirling with regards to bringing the AFL back to Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Both cities have hosted franchises in the past (Austin Wranglers, San Antonio Force and San Antonio Talons), but an AFL spokesman, BJ Pickard, was quoted as saying, "News to me." Announcements have yet to be made on any sort of expansion plans. 
|South||Jacksonville Sharks||Jacksonville, Florida||Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena||Les Moss||2010|
|Orlando Predators||Orlando, Florida||Amway Center||Rob Keefe||1991|
|Tampa Bay Storm||Tampa, Florida||Amalie Arena||Lawrence Samuels||1987|
|East||Cleveland Gladiators||Cleveland, Ohio||Quicken Loans Arena||Steve Thonn||1997|
|Philadelphia Soul||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Wells Fargo Center||Clint Dolezel||2004|
|Pacific||Portland Thunder||Portland, Oregon||Moda Center||Andy Olson||2013||2014|
|San Jose SaberCats||San Jose, California||SAP Center at San Jose||Darren Arbet||1995|
|West||Arizona Rattlers||Phoenix, Arizona||Talking Stick Resort Arena||Kevin Guy||1992|
|Los Angeles Kiss||Anaheim, California||Honda Center||Bob McMillen||2013||2014|
From the league's inception through ArenaBowl XVIII, the championship game was played at the home of the highest-seeded remaining team. The AFL then switched to a neutral-site championship, with ArenaBowls XIX and XX in Las Vegas. New Orleans Arena, home of the New Orleans VooDoo, served as the site of ArenaBowl XXI on July 29, 2007. This was the first professional sports championship to be staged in the city since Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. The San Jose SaberCats earned their third championship in six years by defeating the Columbus Destroyers 55–33. Arena Bowl XXI in New Orleans was deemed a success, and the city was chosen to host ArenaBowl XXII, in which the Philadelphia Soul defeated the defending champion San Jose Sabercats. In 2010, the location returned to being decided by which of the two participating teams was seeded higher. In ArenaBowl XXIII, the Spokane Shock defeated the Tampa Bay Storm at their home arena, Spokane Arena, in Spokane, Washington. In ArenaBowl XXIV, the Jacksonville Sharks, coming off of a victory in their conference final game four nights earlier, traveled to US Airways Center in Phoenix and defeated the Arizona Rattlers 73–70. ArenaBowl XXV returned to a neutral site and was once again played in New Orleans, where the Rattlers returned and defeated the Philadelphia Soul. Since 2014 the ArenaBowl has been played at the higher-seeded team.
- The Field: An indoor padded surface 85 feet (26 m) wide and 50 yards (46 m) long with 8-yard (7.3 m) endzones. Goal posts are 9 feet (2.7 m) wide with a crossbar height of 15 feet (4.6 m) (NFL goalposts are 18.5 feet (5.6 m) wide with the crossbar at 10 feet (3.0 m)). The goalside rebound nets are 30 feet (9.1 m) wide by 32 feet (9.8 m) high. The bottom of the nets are 8 feet (2.4 m) above the ground. Sideline barriers are 4 feet (1.2 m) high and made of high density foam rubber.
- Equipment: the official football is the same size and weight as a National Football League ball
- Players and formations: eight players on the field; 20-man active roster; four-man inactive roster
- Substitutions: free substitution, but some players play both ways either by choice or to step in because of injury. (The free substitution rule was adopted in 2007; prior to this, the AFL mandated a one-platoon system, from which two players on each side of the ball, the "specialists" and the quarterback or kicker, were exempt.)
- Formation: four offensive players must line up on the line of scrimmage. Three defensive players must be down linemen (in a three or four-point stance). Only the "Mac" linebacker may blitz on either side of the center. Alignment is two or more yards off the line of scrimmage. No stunting or twisting. Offensive motion in the backfield: one receiver may go in a forward motion before the snap.
- Timing: four 15 minute quarters with a 12-minute halftime (in the ArenaBowl, 30). The clock stops for out-of-bounds plays and incomplete passes only in the last minute of each half and overtime and when the referee deems it necessary for penalties, injuries or timeouts. Each team is allowed three time-outs per half. In the last minute of the game, the clock stops if the team with the lead has the ball and fails to advance the ball past the line of scrimmage; this discourages teams with the lead from "taking a knee" (i.e., having the quarterback kneel shortly after taking the snap from center) near the end of a game.
- Movement of the ball and scoring: four downs are allowed to advance the ball ten yards for a first down, or to score. Six points for a touchdown. One point for a conversion by place kick after a touchdown, two points for a conversion by drop kick and two points for successful run or pass after a touchdown. Three points for a field goal by placement or four points for a field goal by drop kick. Two points for a safety.
- Kicking: kickoffs are from the goal line. Kickers may use a one-inch tee. All kicks must be made by either place kick or drop kick; punting is prohibited. The receiving team may field any kick that rebounds off the net and lands in the field of play. Any kickoff that goes out of bounds untouched or hits an overhead structure is be placed at the 20-yard line or the place where it went out of bounds, whichever is more advantageous to the receiving team. If a kickoff goes beyond the end zone and stays in bounds (such as kicking it into the field goal "slack net" or if the ball goes under the net), the ball will come out to the five-yard line. The touchback is not automatic; players must attempt to advance the ball out of their own end zone if it is caught there. The same is true if a missed field goal attempt goes beyond the end zone and under the net. If the receiving player chooses not to take the ball out of the endzone (takes a knee) or is tackled in the endzone, the ball is placed on the 2½-yard line. Any field goal or extra point attempted by drop kick is worth one additional point (thus four points for a drop-kicked field goal or two for drop-kicked conversion).
- Passing: passing rules in arena football are the same as outdoor NCAA football in which receivers must have one foot inbounds. A unique exception involves the rebound nets. A forward pass that rebounds off of the endzone net is a live ball and is in play until it touches the playing surface.
- Overtime: overtime periods are 15 minutes during the regular season and the playoffs (teams get three timeouts per two OT periods). In the first overtime each team gets one possession to score. Whoever is ahead after one possession wins. If the teams are tied after each has had a possession, whoever scores next wins. If a game is still tied after 15 minutes a new period will begin and play continues in true sudden death thereafter.
Growth of the league
Average attendance for AFL games were around 10,000–11,000 per game in the 1990s, though during the recession connected to the dot-com bubble and the September 11, 2001 attacks average attendance dropped below 10,000 for several years. From the start of the 2004 season until the final season of the original league in 2008, average attendance was above 12,000, with 12,392 in 2007. Eleven of the seventeen teams in operation in 2007 had average attendance figures over 13,000. In 2008, the overall attendance average increased to 12,957, with eight teams exceeding 13,000 per game. In 2010, the first year of the reconstituted league following bankruptcy, the overall attendance average decreased to 8,135, with only one team (Tampa Bay) exceeding 13,000 per game.
Expanding the season
The practice of playing one or two preseason exhibition games by each team before the start of the regular season was discontinued when the NBC contract was initiated, and the regular season was extended from 14 games, the length that it had been since 1996, to 16. Since 2011, the regular season league expanded to 18 games, with each team having two bye weeks and the option of two preseason games.
China American Football League and AFL Global
In August 2012, the AFL announced a new project into China, known as the China American Football League. The CAFL project is headed up by ESPN NFL analyst and Philadelphia Soul majority owner president Ron Jaworski. The plans were to establish a six-team league that would play a 10-week schedule that was slated to start in October 2014. The AFL coaches and trainers will travel to China to help teach the rules of the sport to squads made up of Chinese and American players with the goal of starting an official Chinese arena league. Ganlan Media International were given exclusive rights to the new Chinese league.
AFL Global and Ganlan Media were created in 2012 by businessman Martin E. Judge, founder and owner of the Judge Group. The company, called AFL Global, LLC, looks to introduce and launch professional Arena Football teams and franchises in various locations throughout the world (like NFL Europe). After their successful trip to China to help promote the game, they formally announced plans to further develop AFL China by the fall of 2014 by starting a comprehensive training program in May 2013 with exhibition games planned for the cities of Beijing and Guangzhou in October. This is the first time professional football of any kind will be played in China with the support of the Chinese government and the CRFA (Chinese Rugby Football Association). Key persons involved include founder and CEO. Martin E. Judge, partner Ron Jaworski, CAFL CEO Gary Morris and president David Niu. Ganlan Media has since dropped this name and will carry the league's name as its corporate identity.
The 2014 scheduled beginning proved to be too ambitious for the group; its official website now cites an anticipated beginning of play in 2016.
Beginning with the 2003 season, the AFL made a deal with NBC to televise league games, which was renewed for another two years in 2005. In conjunction with this, the league moved the beginning of the season from May to February (the week after the NFL's Super Bowl) and scheduled most of its games on Sunday instead of Friday or Saturday as it had in the past. In 2006, because of the XX Winter Olympic Games, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Daytona 500, NBC scaled back from weekly coverage to scattered coverage during the regular season, but committed to a full playoff schedule ending with the 20th ArenaBowl. NBC and the Arena Football League officially severed ties on June 30, 2006, having failed to reach a new broadcast deal. Las Vegas owner Jim Ferraro stated during a radio interview that the reason why a deal failed is because ESPN refused to show highlights or even mention a product being broadcast on NBC.
For the 2006 season only, the AFL added a national cable deal with OLN (now NBC Sports Network) for eleven regular-season games and one playoff game.
On December 19, 2006, ESPN announced the purchase of a minority stake in the AFL. This deal included television rights for the ESPN family of networks. ESPN would televise a minimum of 17 regular season games, most on Monday nights, and nine playoff games, including ArenaBowl XXI on ABC. The deal resulted in added exposure on ESPN's SportsCenter. However, after the original AFL filed for bankruptcy, this arrangement did not carry over to the new AFL, which is a separate legal entity.
The AFL also had a regional-cable deal with FSN, where FSN regional affiliates in AFL markets carried local team games. In some areas, such as with the Arizona Rattlers, Fox Sports affiliates still carry the games.
After its return in 2010, the AFL had its national television deal with the NFL Network for a weekly Friday night game. All AFL games not on the NFL Network could be seen for free online, provided by Ustream.
The NFL Network ceased airing Arena Football League games partway through the 2012 season as a result of ongoing labor problems within the league. Briefly, the games were broadcast on a tape delay to prevent the embarrassment that would result should the players stage a work stoppage immediately prior to a scheduled broadcast. (In at least once incidence this actually happened, resulting in a non-competitive game being played with replacement players, and further such incidents were threatened.) Once the labor issues were resolved, the NFL Network resumed the practice of broadcasting a live Friday night game. NFL Network dropped the league at the end of the 2012 season.
For the 2013 season, the league's new national broadcast partner was the CBS Sports Network. CBSSN would air 19 regular season games and two playoff games. CBS would also air the ArenaBowl, marking the first time since 2008 that the league's finale aired on network television. Regular season CBSSN broadcast games are usually on Saturday nights. As the games are being shown live, the start times are not uniform as with most football broadcast packages, but vary with the time zone in which the home team is located. This means that the AFL may appear either prior to or following the CBSSN's featured Major League Lacrosse game.
Starting in 2014, ESPN returned to the AFL as broadcast partners, with weekly games being shown on CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS along with all games being broadcast on ESPN3 for free live on WatchESPN. ArenaBowl XXVII was also broadcast on ESPN. Most teams also have a local TV station broadcast their games locally and all games are available on local radio.
The first video game based on the AFL was Arena Football for the C-64 released in 1988. On May 18, 2000, Kurt Warner's Arena Football Unleashed was released by Midway Games for the PlayStation game console. On February 7, 2006 EA Sports released Arena Football for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. EA Sports released another AFL video game, titled Arena Football: Road to Glory, on February 21, 2007, for the PlayStation 2.
In 2001, Jeff Foley published War on the Floor: An Average Guy Plays in the Arena Football League and Lives to Write About It. The book details a journalist's two preseasons (1999 and 2000) as an offensive specialist/writer with the now-defunct Albany Firebirds. The 5-foot-6 (170 cm), self-described "unathletic writer" played in three preseason games and had one catch for −2 yards.
Commissioners of Arena Football
- Jim Foster – 1987–1992
- Joe O'Hara – 1992–1994
- Jim Drucker – 1994–1996
- C. David Baker – 1996–2008
- Ed Policy (interim) – 2008–2009
- Jerry Kurz – 2010–2014
- Scott Butera – 2014–present
League office locations
The AFL currently runs as under the single-entity model, with the league owning the rights to the teams, players, and coaches. The single-entity model was adopted in 2010 when the league emerged from bankruptcy. Prior to that, the league followed the franchise model more common in North American professional sports leagues; each team essentially operated as its own business and the league itself was a separate entity which in exchange for franchise fees paid by the team owners provided rules, officials, scheduling and the other elements of organizational structure. A pool of money is allotted to teams to aid in travel costs.
- List of leagues of American football
- List of Arena Football League seasons
- Arena Football League arenas
- NFL Europa
- List of current Arena Football League team rosters
- "Contact Us". www.arenafootball.com. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
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- Power out: Pittsburgh's Arena Football League team folds, Craig Meyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 17, 2014
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- Sources: AFL to return to Austin and San Antonio next season, Anthony Caruso III, The Capital Sports Report, August 6, 2015
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- NFL Network Schedule News Release
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- Official website
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