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AFL folds after 32 years

The Arena Football League, a staple on the U.S. sports landscape since 1987, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and ended its operations on Wednesday.

The league, which was down to six teams for the 2019 season, had contested ArenaBowl XXXII in August, with the Albany (N.Y.) Empire defeating the Philadelphia Soul 45-27 for the final championship. The other remaining teams were the Atlantic City Blackjacks, Baltimore Brigade, Columbus (Ohio) Destroyers and Washington Valor.

AFL commissioner Randall Boe said in a statement on Wednesday, “We simply weren’t able to raise the capital necessary to grow the league, resolve the substantial legacy liabilities and make it financially viable. We’re all disappointed that we couldn’t find a way to move forward, and we wanted to thank our fans, our players, coaches, everyone who loved Arena League Football.”

The league was known for its pass-heavy, high-scoring nature, played indoors on a 50-yard field with much narrower goal posts than traditional football and no punts.

When David Baker was the AFL commissioner from 1996-2008, the league had as many as 19 teams. After the exit of Baker, currently the president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the AFL canceled its 2009 season, then reappeared in 2010 rebranded as Arena Football 1 with 15 teams.

After going up to 18 teams in 2011, the league dwindled gradually to a low of four teams in 2018 before adding Atlantic City and Columbus this year.

The AFL’s most prominent alumnus was quarterback Kurt Warner, who played for the Iowa Barnstormers from 1995-97 before moving on to the NFL. He went on to reach three Super Bowls, winning one with the then-St. Louis Rams, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

The demise of the AFL follows the short-lived existence of the Alliance of American Football, which folded in April, midway through its inaugural season with eight teams.

However, another pro football league is set to start, with the relaunched XFL due to kick off on Feb. 8 with eight teams: the Dallas Renegades, DC Defenders, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats, New York Guardians, St. Louis BattleHawks, Seattle Dragons and Tampa Bay Vipers.

–Field Level Media