The AFL is back - will resume play in 2024
Photo by Steve Kee Stadium Journey
The Arena Football League is back and will resume play in 2024. The league will continue operations after a five-year hiatus under the stewardship of investment group F1 Sports & Entertainment.
The league plans for a 10-game schedule one week after the NFL Draft next year. Former names of AFL clubs are designed with an emphasis on streaming, betting, technology, and virtual reality. There appears to be a focus on a return to ironman football, a hallmark of the league in its early years. Lee A. Hutton III will serve as the league commissioner.
In 2019 the league consisted of 6 franchises and later ceased operations. The commissioner at the time wanted to re-evaluate its business model and worked to respond to a lawsuit against the league by its former worker’s compensation insurance provider. It was contemplated that the AFL could return with a touring model similar to the Premier Lacrosse League and basketball’s BIG3. However, that never happened, and they silently shut down operations.
The press release announced 16 teams but no cities. It is assumed major markets and arenas of over 10,000 will house franchises, along with a few possible classic names like the San Jose Sabercats, Tampa Bay Storm, Detroit Drive, Philadelphia Soul, and the Denver Dynamite.
The announcement feels good for the original indoor football league that began in 1987 and completed 33 seasons. It would later inspire an alphabet of several competing leagues. These leagues include the Indoor Football League, National Arena League, and the Champions Indoor Football League, but there was a sense of loss without the original Arena League. There appears to be a niche market for this code of football, especially in former AFL markets.
There is also skepticism that a new formation could be nothing more than talk. In the past few years the Alliance of American Football and, just this week, the Professional Box Lacrosse League folded before completing a full season. Will the new AFL have a TV deal, enough capital to operate, and properly marketed franchises in major arenas?
This reporter is excited, and I am sure there are a few others like me that also have doubt, but in a land full of indoor football leagues, it's promising that the O.G. of the sport will be back in major markets in little over one year from now.
How I have missed the rebound nets.
Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com