Alliance of American Football Suspends Operations, Dispute With NFLPA Threatens League Future

Posted on: April 3, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: April 2, 2019, 12:57h.

The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is calling it quits prior to its inaugural season ending.

Alliance of American Football AAF sports betting
The Alliance of American Football is shuttering operations. It should come as little surprise, as attendance for the games has been scarce. (Image: Empty Seats Galore/Twitter)

NBC’s Pro Football Talk and The Action Network’s Darren Rovell broke the news Tuesday that the AAF is suspending operations. The league confirmed the reports during a press conference yesterday evening.

The AAF has been engaged in a battle with the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) over the use of up and coming players.

If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can’t be a development league,” AAF majority owner Tom Dundon told USA TODAY Sports late last month. “We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league.”

Dundon envisioned the league as a developmental stepping point for players who are on NFL practice squads. However, the NFLPA has refused to cooperate to allow those individuals to compete in the AAF.

The players union is under the belief that allowing practice squad players to move to the AAF for games would violate its collective bargaining agreement with the NFL. The association is also concerned regarding player injuries sustained in the minor league organization.

Fumbled Debut

The AAF kicked off its inaugural season just six days after Super Bowl 53. Excitement surrounding the eight-team league was high.

Investors bet on the recent liberalization of sports gambling into new states as one reason the timing was right to introduce another football option. Co-founder Charlie Ebersol said the goal was to “revolutionize the sports betting experience” through innovative wagering such as in-game bets made on a specific player’s performance.

“It was more than I expected,” William Hill US CEO Joe Asher said of the sports betting interest on the AAF’s week one. “Tiny in comparison to the NFL, but not bad considering it’s a brand new league.”

The Westgate SuperBook said handle was comparable to a typical regular season NBA game. While television viewership remained respectable, attendance declined. Many games saw around 10,000 fans inside the stadiums. The average attendance of a 2018 NFL game was 67,100 – its lowest mark since 2011.

Should the league formally end, the SuperBook says all futures bets will be returned.

Development Leagues

Former collegiate star and NFL bust Johnny Manziel – who has been playing for the AAF Memphis Express – tweeted Tuesday, “Just the reality of this unfortunate situation. Great concept, good football on the field and fun for fans to watch.”

Just not enough money to go around which has been the main problem with ‘other’ leagues for a long time,” Manziel concluded.

Though numerous minor league football leagues have struggled over the years, billionaire Vince McMahon is pressing on with his XFL. The billionaire WWE CEO has committed as much as $500 million to get the league up and running.

Play is scheduled to begin in 2020 with eight teams – Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and DC.