Arena Football League on the brink of folding

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Plenty of non-football-season football leagues have come and gone over the years. One has largely persisted since the late ’80s. But the Arena Football League looks to finally be on its last legs, at least in its current form.

Via the Albany Times Union, the league’s six teams are closing local operations. A decision on whether to suspend the business entirely has not yet been made, but it seems to be pointing in that direction.

The likely death blow comes from lingering litigation arising from workers compensation insurance from 2009 through 2012.

“We haven’t made a decision on whether to completely suspend operations,” Commissioner Randall Boe told the Times Union. “That’s a decision that will probably be made in the next several weeks. We do know, under any set of circumstances, we will not be continuing to operate business operation units in our local markets. We will be closing those business operations in our local markets, including Albany.”

The Arena Football League launched in 1987. The league went bankrupt in 2009 but then returned. By 2018, the league had shrunk to four teams, with a single-entity structure and a goal of returning to double-digit franchises. In 2019, the Arena Football League had six teams, in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlantic City, Columbus, and Albany.

On August 11, more than 12,000 attended ArenaBowl XXXII in Albany, where the Empire beat the Philadelphia Soul, 45-27.

If the AFL continues, it likely would become a traveling league, with players headquartered in one city and games played in different locations, similar to the operation of the Premier Lacrosse League.