• Loading stock data...
Monday, May 20, 2024

Folding Franchises, Cattle Fencing, a Nixed TV Deal: Can the AFL Survive?

  • The NFL Network kills a distribution deal with the AFL after seeing the extent of the league’s issues.
  • One franchise has already folded and another is calling for the commissioner’s resignation.
John David Mercer

A quarter of a century ago, the Arena Football League was riding so high that the NFL held an option to purchase a majority interest in the league. But the NFL’s move to not exercise that option, two bankruptcies, and years of additional turmoil later, the third attempt of the AFL is showing further issues almost immediately out of the gate. 

Just since the beginning of the revived league’s 2024 schedule April 27, the AFL has faced a litany of problems that once again call the entity’s long-term survival into question. Among them:

  • The Iowa Rampage folded after just one game, with team owners Trevor Burnett and Mike Taliaferro blasting league officials for failing to disclose the full costs associated with the reboot. “[Commissioner] Lee Hutton and his team have destroyed not only the revival of the AFL, but they have destroyed the hopes of players all over the U.S.,” the pair said. Hours later, the Rampage players competed in a second game, but the team is no longer listed among the AFL’s franchises.
  • The Philadelphia Soul’s initial game, against the Louisiana VooDoo, involved mostly replacement players from the American Arena League 2’s Dallas Falcons in a last-minute switch after coach Pat Pimmel resigned the day before the contest and much of the original roster did not make the trip. 
  • The Billings Outlaws changed a Week 2 game against the Oregon Blackbears to one against the Washington Wolfpack due to concerns about unsafe field conditions at The Pavilion in Salem, Ore., including the alleged use of cattle fencing. Nonetheless, the Blackbears went on to host a game there, anyway, on Saturday against the Georgia Force. When asked how that was possible, Outlaws owner Steven Titus said, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
  • Even a team fully committed to the league, the Rapid City Marshals, released a statement acknowledging they “expect to see some schedule shuffling in [the] coming weeks]” amid “complexities that have emerged.”
  • The NFL Network was due to show 30 AFL games this season in a distribution deal announced in March, but no games were aired and the pact has been terminated, industry sources tell Front Office Sports. Non-payment by the AFL to a production company working with the network initially scuttled the Week 1 broadcasts, but sources said “it became quickly apparent they had much bigger issues that were likely hard to overcome,” leading to a full demise of the agreement. 
  • Much of the league that still exists is located in smaller markets such as Salina, Park City, and Dodge City, Kan.; Rapid City, S.D.; Odessa, Texas; and Billings, Mont. 

Titus is now calling on the league’s current leadership, including Hutton, to step down from their roles. 

“Some questions need to be answered sooner rather than later about what’s going on,” Titus told SWX Local Sports

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Apr 17, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Coyotes left wing Lawson Crouse (67) celebrates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Edmonton Oilers at Mullett Arena.

New Stadiums, New Hurdles: Coyotes and A’s Face High Stakes

The former Coyotes owner takes further steps to try to advance his proposed arena project.

PGA Championship Drama Nearly Delivers a Major Boost to LIV Golf

Xander Schauffele takes home $3.3 million for his victory.

DSG’s Path to Revival Faces Major Pushback from MLB, NBA, and NHL

Three major pro leagues raise further concerns about the bankrupt Bally Sports parent.

NFL’s Christmas Shake-Up: Netflix and Amazon Will Take It Over in ’25

This is the new-age NFL, where anything goes, if the price is right.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Bare Knuckle Fighting Comes Out of the Shadows


Featured Today

Michael Block signs autographs on the 18th hole during day three of practice for the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

‘I Prefer It This Way’: How Life Works for PGA Club Pros

Here’s how life works for the qualifiers at golf’s second major.
February 5, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; The grounds of the Capitol Building empty out following the conclusion of President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech on February 5, 2019.
May 18, 2024

‘A Breathtaking Lobbying Campaign’: The NCAA’s Sophisticated Effort to Save Amateurism

Inside the carefully coordinated, multimillion-dollar operation to end the athletes’ rights era.
May 14, 2024

The WNBA Was Forged in Houston. Why Won’t It Go Back There?

Houston’s a perfect fit for expansion. The league isn’t considering it yet.
May 9, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) stands with the team during the national anthem on Thursday, May 9, 2024, during the preseason game against the Atlanta Dream at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
May 12, 2024

‘Perfect Storm’: The Rise of Local WNBA Broadcast Pacts

With national attention reaching new heights, regional coverage could dictate the future.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Live Nation
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers
Multiple - USA Careers

The WNBA Rookies Are Creating a New Celebrity Row

Major celebs like Kim Kardashian and Latto are showing up for the newbies.
May 15, 2024

PGA Championship Setting Revenue Records, but LIV Drama Still Looms

The PGA Championship tees off Thursday morning at Valhalla Golf Club.
May 16, 2024

Preakness in Spotlight: Chance of a Triple Crown Winner Bolsters Status

The presence of Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan gives a big boost to the Triple Crown’s middle leg.

Major League Rugby’s Vision for American Rugby

How Major League Rugby is leading the Rugby renaissance in the U.S.
May 15, 2024

Caitlin Clark Debuts With WNBA’s Most-Watched Game in Decades

The game averaged 2.12 million viewers, the WNBA’s highest since 2001.
May 15, 2024

NFL Signs Three-Year Christmas Day Deal With Netflix

The streamer will show two holiday games in 2024 and one apiece in ’25 and ’26.
Kendall Coyne Schofield
May 14, 2024

PWHL Playoffs Experience Surge in Attendance. Is Expansion Coming?

The first five games of the postseason drew nearly 40,000.
May 14, 2024

Architect of LIV Golf Deal Departs the PGA Tour. What Happens Next?

PGA Tour policy board member Jimmy Dunne has resigned.