December 10, 2008
The Philadelphia Soul may have picked the best time to win the Arena Bowl, as it seems that the 2009 AFL season may be suspended. The decision is based on putting together a solid plan for the future of the league which states that the plan is to reopen in 2010.
Excuse me if I seem skeptical.
The AFL has grown in its 20 plus years but of course will never be viewed as a major league such as the NFL, MLB or NBA. That said there has been some success to boats. Attendance has gone up as a league over the last decade and the league has expanded in to the Philadelphia market, home of the most recent league champions. But there are too many negative signs for me to have faith that a return will happen in 2010.
For starters the long time league commissioner David Baker resigned two days before the championship game. To date no replacement has been named. Baker watched the league grow from it's start and to get out as quickly as he did should send smoke signals that something is not right. With no replacement yet at a time when the league's schedule has been postponed three times and the draft has been put on hiatus it should be clear that there are major problems.
Add to the mix that ESPN holds a share of ownership in the league and it would be easy to think that they will have some way of determining what happens. Does ESPN want to continue broadcasting the league's games or would they rather attempt to spend that money trying to buy broadcasting time for the NHL again? I wouldn't be surprised if that happens.
As is the case any time ESPN gets involved, the AFL was given MTV style treatment focusing on the celebrity owners like Jon Bon Jovi and John Elway rather than the players on the field. Taking the easy way out to showcase the owners rather than explore the game itself was ESPN's mistake. I am not saying this is why the league is where it stands now, but it may be time to end that relationship, or at least the way the game is presented.
The af2, the developmental "minor" league to the AFL will continue to operate in 2009.
As of today it seems that the Philadelphia Soul will be holding the "world championship" title for two years.
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