Friday, December 19, 2008

Players' View of the AFL 

I ran across an interesting article regarding former Missouri Tiger football players who have recently played in the Arena Football League. Echoing the comments of Nick W. in this post, former Mizzou lineman Craig Heimburger isn't convinced that the league is coming back.

"You know what, I loved it. I had more fun in the Arena League, and the fans had more fun," Heimburger said. "I like to think of it as having more of a college atmosphere. And it’s a more exciting game because it’s nonstop action. Those defensive games can sometimes get boring when here, it’s you’ve done a good job if you get two or three stops a game."

Last year, he helped the Cleveland Gladiators reach the National Conference Championship Game. Heimburger figured the league was doing well. The atmosphere at games - Cleveland averaged more than 14,000 fans per game last year - was always boisterous and attendance, TV ratings and merchandise sales were up across the league.

But the AFL reportedly lost money last season, and its board of directors voted Monday to take a year off to improve the league’s economic model. Acting Commissioner Ed Policy said the league is not closing its doors, and the official word is play will resume in 2010.

"The revamping will ensure that the AFL continues to provide value to its fans and not only survives but thrives in the years to come," Jon Bon Jovi, co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul, said in a statement.

Neither Ricker nor Heimburger is buying it. Teams have already started to lay off staff members. And Ricker, who played parts of two seasons in the AFL, said one of his former coaches with the Tampa Bay Storm painted a dark picture of the league’s future during a recent conversation.

"I knew it was done for this year," Ricker said. "But the tone of his voice was that it might not come back at all, which would be absolutely devastating."

"Coming back after a year off would be a stretch," Heimburger said.

Martin Schmidt and co-blogger here at TSE Dave Berri argue that after labor strife, league attendance comes back pretty quickly (although co-blogger Victor Matheson presents evidence to the contrary). Television revenue probably comes back quickly too. But the canceling of the AFL season is for a whole different reason: a financial one, not a profit-splitting one. Does it suggest that the AFL was loose with their money, or that demand for AFL games has dried up?

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Sayonara Arena Football 

At least for 2009. As posted in the comments, here is the story.

My take (as I've said before): investments in new forms of commercial sport will see both fan interest and financial backing dry up, until some sense of order returns to our balance sheets.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Arena Football League to Go On in 2009 - For Now 

The Arena Football League has decided not to suspend the upcoming season.
The Arena Football League's 2009 season is on — for now.

The AFL's board of directors met via conference call Wednesday night but "despite rumors and reports to the contrary" did not suspend the upcoming season.

"The Board will continue to meet regularly to examine any and all long-term structural improvement options for the AFL," the league said in a statement.

But there's still a chance that the show won't go on.

Philadelphia Soul wide receiver Chris Jackson told the AP that the league's players had agreed to take pay cuts and had been told Tuesday that the season likely would be canceled.

Jackson said he still isn't convinced the AFL will play in '09.

"I'm still reluctant to get too happy," he said. "There's still a lot to plan out. We need to figure out how many teams are going to be in it, the finances of it all, and a working financial model for the future. There's still a lot to be done."

Thanks to John for the pointer.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Arena Football League Considers Cancelling the 2009 Season 

From the Kansas City Star, it appears the Arena Football League will cancel its 2009 season.

Pete Likens, the director of communications for the Kansas City Brigade, told The Star on Wednesday that the players union agreed to the decision to suspend the season, and owners will hold a final vote on the matter, probably later Wednesday.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Likens said the owners will likely approve the one-year hiatus.

“It’s pretty much a done deal to suspend the 2009 season and work toward a single entity-league,” Likens said. “We plan to start up again in 2010, if the owners vote this way. We’re prepared to play this year, and/or next.”

There's more here and a little more here.

According to the short-run shut-down condition familiar to economists, a business should shut down if it can't generate the revenue to pay its variable costs. No need to consider the fixed costs: the business can't do anything about them. Once demand "recovers", the business should open again. At least according to the public pronouncements, that's what the AFL is aiming for.

Compare that to the case of the Houston Comets, a successful WNBA franchise - successful on the court, that is - that completely ceased operations recently. This seems to be more of a case of the straw breaking the camel's back. The Comets never did that well in the past, but with the economic outlook as bleak as it's been in 2-3 decades, there was little hope that the Comets would ever grow sufficiently as a business. So the Comets disintigrated.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Marketing a Winner 

Most pre-season marketing campaigns promise some pizazz but not much more. Come see the Amazing Mets! Blast off with the Rockets! Let's go crazy with the Wild! This one from the Arena Football League is a little different:
How confident are the Arizona Rattlers that they'll make the playoffs in 2008? They are offering a money-back guarantee to their season-ticket holders: A trip to the playoffs or a full refund, no strings attached.

"We are putting millions of dollars on the line," said Rattlers managing partner Brett Bouchy. "However, we have full confidence in our new coaching staff, and look forward to returning to the playoffs in 2008."

The campaign, unveiled Tuesday, is unique in the fact that there are no caveats, clauses or fine print. If the Rattlers do not make the playoffs, fans will be refunded 100 percent of the cost of their season tickets by the team -- period.

...The Rattlers were 4-12 last season and missed the playoffs.
I'd say that's sticking your neck out. Maybe if they fail, the team can make it up on concessions. ;)

Thanks to Kurt R for the link.

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