With the Philadelphia Soul claiming its third Arena Bowl title on Saturday, and second consecutive, the 30th season of the Arena Football League came to a close, and a number of questions about where the league goes from here.
Here is a 2017 season that saw bye weeks every week due to there only being five teams in the league, and saw attendance dip by an average of 92 fans per game over the course of the season. Of course it hurts average attendance when you only have five teams, and one of them averages less than 6,000 fans per game because they threw the team together a couple of months before the season started, but that’s for another time.
But the league made it through the season with no major issues, and it doesn’t sound like any of the five teams from this year are folding, so what does the Arena Football League need to do to try to get back to where it was 10 years ago?
Here is my short list of goals for them to accomplish during the off-season:
Sign a new CBA
This is the first step, because the current collective bargaining agreement ends this off-season, and before you can sell potential new owners or players on joining the league, you must have some guidelines in place for compensation.
Per Career Trend, players make an average of $925 a game, roughly half what they made 10 years ago when the league was at its peak. You can bet that the players will want another raise, especially in a league with only five teams where travel costs were cut way down with every team on the east coast.
So that’s the first step. And once that falls into place, then you move onto the bigger, more exciting things.
Add new teams
This goes without saying, but a five-team league is hardly a league at all. Give credit to the owners of those teams for sticking around, because if they had to miss another year like they did in 2009, it likely would have meant the end of the AFL.
Now, rumors have already been swirling that the AFL has added at minimum two teams for next year, but nothing has been confirmed by the league yet. And even then, that would only be seven teams for 2018, you’d want at least one more, and potentially two more after that to get to 10.
Let’s assume that Albany and Newark are in for next year, where else could teams pop up? Rumor is that Orlando is still waffling between the NAL and AFL, and that the league wants to be in the East with potential spots like Pittsburgh and Detroit mention. The league was also reportedly heavily interested St. Louis after the Rams left, and one wild one I’ve heard recently is Michael Jordan potentially adding a team in Charlotte.
More teams means more games, and different opponents, something the fans have been asking for all season long. Basically, the AFL should be looking at every big market possible to try to plunk down a team.
And that brings me to the next thing they need to work on…
I like to think I know a little bit about media, having work in it for the past six years, but the league is almost non-existent when it comes to any sort of news outlet covering it, except when it’s bad news.
And having your biggest game of the year, Arena Bowl XXX, only streaming on Twitter is probably not the biggest and best way to draw fans in.
Yes, they have games on CBSSN, but nobody gets that channel, and this year it was only one game a week due to the lack of teams. I know next year they’re adding a streaming service like every other league offers, and that’s good in terms of being able to watch more games and make more money, but you have to find a way to get more games on actual TV, and on channels that people get. You can’t sell a product if nobody is watching.
And really, that’s all I have right now. The biggest items being the first two things on this list, because if you can’t agree on money, you can’g get new teams and players.
Ideally, I’d like to see the league be at 10 teams next year, and then wait a couple of years after that for them to stabilize before adding any more or expanding west.
The easy part was playing the 2017 season, now the challenge is somehow making the league bigger and better going forward.