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Arena Football League Suspending '09 Season

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 15, 2008 3:00PM

2008_12_arena_football_logo.gifGiven the large numbers quoted in recent unemployment reports, we knew the recession was affecting most industries -- bankers and baristas, factory workers and football players. Wait... what?!? Yes, even professional athletes are feeling the economic downtown. While Major League baseball players continue to land record contracts, some of the lesser sports are feeling the pinch. After weeks of rumors, the Arena Football League is expected to announce on Monday that it will be suspending operations for its 2009 season, but hopes to return for 2010. The 2009 campaign was to begin in early March.

Speculation that the sixteen-team AFL was in trouble began when the league repeatedly delayed the disbursement draft for players that had been with the recently folded New Orleans VooDoo, while the league determined other financial matters. A vote by the league's board of directors confirmed the league's fate on Sunday night. We guess even Ditka is no match for this wicked economy.

Sunday's vote reversed a vote taken Wednesday night. The issue was that "too many big-name owners or teams in big-name cities said they would not return in 2009," including the Chicago Rush. Also expected to sit out the '09 campaign were teams from Dallas, Colorado, Georgia, Cleveland and defending ArenaBowl champion Philadelphia. Only five teams were definitely committed to fielding teams for the upcoming season. When so many teams suggested they would likely shut down, ESPN said it would pull the plug on its TV deal if the AFL tried to play with only six to eight teams. That left the AFL little choice but to shut the entire league down and try to restructure for 2010.

So what's the Arena Football League's shutdown mean for the Rush? Well, it sounds like they were in trouble anyway. But for how long has their ownership/management known this? And how does the league's decision affect the team's long term prospects? Would the Rush have disappeared forever if the league had carried on without them? Perhaps the league's timeout will save the franchise. That presumably is of little solace to the players, who will be unemployed. These guys weren't making the big bucks their NFL counterparts make so the loss of income will really sting. Instead of making appearances at Home Depot or Jewel, they might just end up working there instead. If they're lucky enough to even land a job in this economy. And while the players try to earn a real living, they'll have to stay in shape in hopes that the AFL doesn't end up like the USFL or XFL and disappear forever.