Arena League Board Votes To Cancel Season

The New York Times reports that the Arena Football League’s board of directors voted Sunday to cancel the 2009 season, pending the approval of the league’s players’ association Monday, according to a league owner involved with the decision.

The owner and chief executive of the Cleveland Gladiators, James L. Ferraro, said the AFL executives and team owners met in an hour-long conference call and moved to suspend play so the financially troubled league could fix its economic model. The decision comes after the board’s initial vote Wednesday not to cancel the coming season.

“I think it’s a historic day for the league,” Ferraro said Sunday night in a telephone interview. “I think this league will be much, much stronger, and it will be here for a long time because of what happened.”

He added, “This is the farthest thing from the league folding. This is, in my opinion, just showing us the league will not fold.”

The AFL had no comment. If the players’ association approves the vote, the league is expected to issue a statement Monday announcing the cancellation of the season. It is uncertain how the league will proceed if the players association does not approve the vote.

With the step toward suspending play in 2009, the AFL appears to be in position to buy time to examine ways to reducing spending. Those cuts may come from players’ and executives’ salaries, as well as streamlining the league’s front office.

There has been concern recently about the AFL’s financial stability. Although the 16-team league typically opens play in March, it had delayed the release of its 2009 schedule. It also postponed the start of its free-agency period and the dispersal draft of players on the New Orleans VooDoo, which folded during the off-season.

Earlier this year, the AFL contacted Platinum Equity, a buyout firm, which started a review of the league to consider making an investment. The firm’s current relationship with the AFL is unclear.

There has been friction among league owners about the best plan for the AFL’s moving forward, specifically whether canceling the coming season would be the best remedy for the league’s financial troubles. Although some owners wanted to play, executives in the league said that the majority thought it best to take a year off during a tough economic climate.

“We have a very passionate group of owners,” Shanna Silva, president of the New York Dragons, said Thursday in a telephone interview. “And I think the ownership group as a whole recognizes that the financial model for the league needs some redoing, and there may be some disagreement about how to do that.”

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