The Arena Football League announced today that it is suspending the 2009 season. The real question is, is this the unofficial end to the league? I unfortunately think it is.
League officials said that they were going to re-organize and emerge as a lean mean machine, but that will be a tough thing to do.
As long as you are playing in arenas that big, you need to draw an average of 12,000 fans a night to keep the lights on. The official attendance numbers showed close to 13,000, but the legit number of those who got in on non-discounted tickets is likely way short of that number.
There are four things going against the league.
- In order to get off the ground for 2010, a lot is going to depend on what the economic state of our country is at the time. That doesn’t really lend itself to any sort of planning. Sure, there is time on their side, but some economists have us coming out of this in 2011.
- When you start up a business again, there’s the burden of making it better than before in order to get the financial support to make another go-around. That’s going to be difficult for the Arena Football League whose 22-year tenure can best be described as steady.
- There’s no one real backer who cares about this league that will take it under its wing. ESPN’s stake isn’t big enough for them to care about it, the NFL certainly isn’t going to be involved in any welfare programs at this point and John Elway, Jon Bon Jovi and Ron Jaworski don’t count.
- The year off is going to hurt. Sitting it out doesn’t make you any more attractive to sponsors or fans. The NHL managed to do it, but it doesn’t work with a second-tier sports league. The strange irony is that one of the league’s biggest sponsors, Aaron’s, is actually one of the best performers on the market this year. The renter and seller of home and office furniture and appliances is actually up 26 percent from this time last year.
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