The Arena Football League is the latest casualty of the weak economy. The league announced it has canceled the 2009 season. Its goal is to return with a more viable economic model in 2010. Among the changes AFL team owners claim need to occur are linking players' salaries to revenues, generating more revenues at the league level, and streamlining costs across franchises. Even if those changes and others are implemented, there are no guarantees the AFL will survive.
The problems with the AFL are not operational, they are relational. That is, fan relationships with the AFL and its team brands are insufficient to sustain the league. Arena football has been positioned as sport entertainment, which is both a good and bad proposition. Positioning as entertainment is good because it expands the potential market beyond those people who are interested in the core product: indoor football. Positioning AFL as entertainment is bad because it expands the number of competitors the AFL battles for consumers' entertainment dollars. The idea of complementing the NFL season by having the AFL be a spring league has not worked. Also, in too many AFL markets there is simply too much sports competition for the AFL team to gain widespread acceptance.
The decision to suspend the 2009 AFL season surely disappointed many fans. Unfortunately, the absence of the AFL next spring may go unnoticed by even more people. I hope the AFL can solve its problems, but I am not too optimistic.
Link: ESPN.com - "AFL Cancels 2009 Season"
Labels: Arena Football League, Sports Marketing