From 1987 through 2019 the Arena Football League served as a niche sport with a cult following. The AFL had its moments and became something of a force in its early years. In fact, the years 1987 through 1999 featured national TV exposure. That included a contract with ESPN. With this quick found momentum Arena Football betting handles surprised sportsbooks. However, a combination of expanding too fast with too many rule changes wore down the league. By 2009 the AFL went bankrupt for the first time. The second time bankruptcy was announced in November of 2019.
Arena Football Basics
Jim Foster drew up the concept of Arena Football on a napkin. It was based on putting a padded carpet over a hockey rink with the boards left up. Foster ran a test game that was well attended and received. From there he fine-tuned the game as a full-time job. Specifically, Foster ran more test games as he plotted an entire Arena Football League. After raising capital and enlisting partners he launched the AFL.
AFL games quickly gained popularity for their offense and excitement. The action was fast with an emphasis on the passing game. Hence, scoring was quite high. Furthermore, the league schedule was in spring and summer. Competition with the NFL was avoided. Sports betting activity quickly increased on AFL games. Commencing with this start was the feeling that the sky was the limit. Ironically enough the Arena Football League was victimized by its early success.
Reaching the Summit
Although it was nowhere near close to reaching the status of America’s “Big Four” sports the AFL found its niche. Among the gambling community and sportsbooks, it was widely accepted as a regular offering. Major American cities inquired about AFL franchises. The thought was that an Arena Football League team would complement NBA and NHL tenants. Those extra building dates were seen as a lot of potential revenue. It follows that a quick expansion followed. It proved to be too much too fast.
Drowning by Saturation
The careful planning that went into the successful start of the AFL was forsaken. Instead, the expansion was hurried with obvious details that were missed. Not all owners were actually capable of keeping teams afloat. Many of the new cities failed to take to the game. Fans and gamblers became overwhelmed keeping up with all of the new teams and players. As a result, Sportsbooks became weary of Arena Football Betting. The final straw was the worldwide economic collapse and the Great Recession. By 2009 the AFL filed for bankruptcy.
Relaunch of the Arena Football League took place in 2010. Subsequently, the circuit never regained credibility with its fans. Even with an ESPN TV contract the relaunched AFL never gained traction. Finally, at the conclusion of the 2019 season, the league was down to six teams. And was completely ignored by the sports gambling public. The first bankruptcy was declared. Formal folding of the league followed.
Once the American economy recovers from COVID-19 it’s likely that some sporting entrepreneurs could relaunch a version of Arena Football. In comparison to many other sports, the AFL thrived and was on a major TV network for several years. For all that it simply lost control of the business model. Starting with a prudent plan could this exciting sport one day return.