Despite having two regular season games left, the San Diego Fleet and the other seven teams in the Alliance of American Football apparently suspended all operations Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
Pro Football Talk reported rumblings of the league’s demise Monday night, followed by the Action Network’s Darren Rovell.
Tom Dundon, the league’s majority owner and the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, raised the specter of closing the league in an interview last week with USA Tuesday.
Representatives of the San Diego Fleet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The San Diego squad was scheduled to play the Orlando Apollos on Saturday before closing the regular season at home April 14 against the Arizona Hotshots. At 3-5, the Fleet needed to win out to have a chance at making the playoffs as one of the top two teams in the league’s Western Conference.
The fledgling league was only eight weeks into its first season, but faced immediate and future questions of funding and where each team’s players would come from. AAF co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian intended to run the league independently for three years, with each season coming as a reprieve for football-starved fans during the NFL offseason.
Ebersol and Polian planned to eventually form a partnership with the NFL as a developmental league.
According to Rovell and others, Dundon, who purchased a majority stake in the league in February, wanted to form that partnership this season and pressured the NFL Players Association to share players on NFL practice squads. Dundon argued the league could not survive without NFL support.[contextly_sidebar id=”ocX1ts5sEBrDQdvczvp9jztbhhPTx134″]
The NFLPA balked at the rushed relationship and the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement made some of his demands impossible. Dundon apparently chose to suspend the league rather than continue committing money to it. Pro Football Talk reported Monday night that the league required $20 million to make it through the April 27 championship game.
The Fleet played its games at SDCCU Stadium, with estimated turnouts growing to nearly 20,000 by season’s end. The Fleet also led the league in merchandise sales.
Tuesday morning, ESPN sports business reporter Rovell tweeted: “Sources: The AAF will suspend all football operations today. New owner Tom Dundon will lose approximately $70 million on his investment. Dundon makes decision against wishes of league co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian.”
Sources: The AAF will suspend all football operations today. New owner Tom Dundon will lose approximately $70 million on his investment. Dundon makes decision against wishes of league co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 2, 2019
The Fleet (3-5) was scheduled to play Saturday in Orlando before finishing at home April 14 at SDCCU Stadium. It’s not immediately clear if tickets will be refunded.
The eight-team AAF has been in a state of flux from its onset with a new lead investor Dundon taking over chairmanship. The AAF was founded in March 2018 by television producer Charlie Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian.
The aim, according to reports, was creating a league that would be a feeder system for the NFL.
But Dundon believed the AAF needed a formal deal with the NFL in order to survive–specifically, it needed NFL practice and back-up players.
Last week, Dundon told USA Today Sports that the NFL Players’ Association would not allow the AAF to use practice squad players from NFL rosters. According to the report, the NFLPA felt the decision would violate terms of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Dundon told USA Today, “If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can’t be a development league.”
AAF players have three-year, non-guaranteed contracts for $250,000, Rovell reported.
— City News Service and Toni McAllister contributed to this report.
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