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Reports: Arena Football League will cancel ’09 season

SHARE Reports: Arena Football League will cancel ’09 season

According to Internet reports from ESPN.com, the Arena Football League, which has grown steadily in popularity and fan attendance during the past decade, is expected to cancel what would have been its 23rd season in 2009, according to multiple media reports.

The Rocky Mountain News reported Wednesday that league officials are expected to make the announcement before the end of the week. The Kansas City Star later reported that Pete Likens, communications director for the Kansas City Brigade, said the AFL players' union agreed late Tuesday to the decision.

"It's pretty much a done deal to suspend the 2009 season and work toward a single entity-league," Likens said, according to The Star. "We plan to start up again in 2010."

The league, which has been seeking ways to improve its financial footing, said Tuesday it still is not ready to announce a long-term plan. On Tuesday, the release of the 2009 schedule was delayed for the third time, and the league also put off its dispersal draft and the start of free agency.

In a statement released Wednesday, the AFL said: "Despite rumors and reports to the contrary, all AFL teams are continuing to work towards ArenaBowl XXIII. As it has previously stated, the AFL continues to work on long-term structural improvement options.

"Some of the options may impact the 2009 season. There is currently no timetable for an announcement of any kind. We remain grateful to our fans for their enthusiasm and patience."

ESPN acquired national TV rights to the AFL in 2006 and has a minority stake in the indoor league. ESPN signed a five-year deal to have multimedia rights that included everything from Internet to radio to publishing to international distribution.

"We've always admired the AFL fan-first philosophy, but we have no comment on their business activity," ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer said.

The AFL's New Orleans franchise folded despite being near the top of the league in attendance the past two seasons. Saints owner Tom Benson, who also owned the VooDoo, said the decision was based on "circumstances currently affecting the league and the team."

The AFL has endured an offseason of uncertainty. No replacement has been named for longtime commissioner David Baker, who abruptly resigned in July two days before the ArenaBowl championship game.

Since November 2007, the AFL's board of directors has been looking into various ways to bolster the league's finances. One proposal involved individual franchise owners ceding control of the league to new investors.

Sports Business Journal reported in October that AFL owners had approved a tentative deal with Platinum Equity, in which the company would invest up to $100 million and assume management control of the league. That deal, however, has yet to be completed, and there are no guarantees of an AFL bailout. A message seeking comment was not immediately returned by Platinum Equity.

The arenafootball2 league, the official development league of the AFL, said it will continue to operate as usual and will play in 2009—its 10th anniversary season. The af2 operates entirely on its own and is not directly affected by the AFL's current situation.

Contributing: The Associated Press