The Arena Football League (AFL) has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in a Delaware bankruptcy court. The AFL filed its bankruptcy petition a little over a month after suspending all local business operations for its remaining six teams.
Since its inception in 1986, there have been as many as 19 AFL teams in a single season. However, the number of teams dramatically decreased following a Chapter 11 reorganization in 2009. That same year, the league rebranded to Arena Football One.
This year, the AFL’s financial woes reduced the league to six teams located in Albany, Atlantic City, Baltimore, Columbus, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. In October 2019, those six teams ceased all operations after Commissioner Randall Boe released a statement that the AFL “simply weren’t able to raise the capital necessary to grow the League, resolve the substantial legacy liabilities and make it financially viable.” Boe’s statement comes after National Union Fire Insurance Company (National Union) filed suit alleging the AFL owes them more than $2.4 million for unpaid insurance premiums from 2009-2012. Notably, National Union’s suit is only one of five pending suits filed against the AFL.
Prior to ceasing all operations, the AFL explored cost-saving measures to avoid a complete shutdown. For example, the AFL researched nixing home team locations and having all AFL teams go on tour to different cities. Unfortunately, the AFL found itself in debt for more than $20 million with approximately $1.3 million in assets. Under Chapter 11, the AFL will be able to liquidate its assets, pay some debts and discharge some debts. This will allow the AFL to get a fresh start, but Boe has not expressed a desire to rebrand and restructure following bankruptcy. Boe stated his disappointment that the AFL “couldn’t find a way to move forward …” The AFL was the third oldest professional football league in North America.
There is no indication that arena football will return to America any time soon.