You know it’s a slow news day when the Internet rumor mill deigns to discuss Arena Football. And normally the AFL would be thrilled that people are even talking about them, but probably not this time; the scuttlebutt has the league alternately contracting, suspending operations, or shutting down altogether.
(The AFL is indeed, if rumor is to be believed, livin’ on a prayer.)
The sum total of the sources right now appears to be two players on the Columbus Destroyers, and a reader of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH with a “friend with close ties to one of the west coast teams.” So let’s not get our britches tied in a knot just yet. Still, there are plenty of reasons to think the AFL might be in some serious trouble.
The dispersal draft of players from the defunct New Orleans VooDoo (which folded unexpectedly) has been postponed three times, the commissioner resigned and hasn’t been replaced and a $100 million league ownership deal with Platinum Equity that was struck back in October hasn’t been completed and may be dead.
A few players claim to have received doom-and-gloom text messages about the league’s health, though it’s not clear if this is some automated AFL contraction notification service, which automatically sends out texts to alert players if their livelihood is failing.
“We’re supposed to find out sometime (last night) whether we’re even going to have a league anymore,” said Michael Landry, a free agent who played for the Destroyers last season. “From what I know, the league’s in trouble.”
The league, predictably, issued this denial:
“The AFL is working on long-term structural improvements which have unfortunately delayed some important events, such as the release of the 2009 schedule, the Dispersal Draft, and the beginning of free agency. We thank our fans for their enthusiasm for these events and ask them to be patient a little longer while we finalize our long-term improvements. All AFL teams are working toward winning ArenaBowl XXIII.”
Still, it’s instructive to check out the official employment site for the AFL. Currently, there are only eight paying jobs hiring.
We should know more soon: the dispersal draft is, of now, scheduled for Tuesday. And, if he has any journalism chops left, Tony Kornheiser will call Ron Jaworski on this during the Monday Night Football broadcast.