The ongoing financial saga of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) Spring league has apparently reached another “boiling point” with the league’s new owner apparently threatening to pull the plug without completing the first season, as soon as Tuesday.
This is because, new owner / chairman of the board and Carolina Hurricanes hockey boss Thomas Dundon, is continuing to make public statements that the league may be ceasing operations.
Dundon told Sports Business Journal on Monday afternoon that the AAF, comprised of eight franchises including one in Orlando, could cease operation, as soon as today. His continued recent stated reason is: there is no long-term agreement with the NFL and it’s Players Association about funneling talent to the Spring league. Dundon contends that this is essential for the league to have access to the best players in the off-season.
Orlando Apollos coach, and former legendary Florida Gator Steve Spurrier, downplayed that report Monday night telling Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel that his understanding is the league will finish this season, including the postseason and then assess the future after April:
Orlando Apollos Head Coach #SteveSpurrier refuses to believe report #AAF could fold by Tuesday. Then again, it's not like AAF leadership actually communicates with its employees. Here's my story after talking to the HBC: https://t.co/6RVqK2nZyy@TheAAF @aafAPOLLOS @dkaplanSBJ pic.twitter.com/64gx7riatb
— Mike Bianchi (@BianchiWrites) April 2, 2019
“I think we’re definitely good to finish out this year,” Spurrier told the Orlando Sentinel Monday evening. “But after that, who knows? We’re not thinking about anything but trying to win a championship. That was our goal and we’re sticking to it.”
Orlando is the premier team in the AAF, so far, in the regular season at 7 – 1. And, they have already locked up one of the four semifinal playoff spots.
However Spurrier, his team and the other seven franchises have to be anxiously watching and reading what their new Chairman of the Board of Directors continues to say publicly.
Dundon, who bought the NHL Hurricanes in January of 2018, worked out a deal with the upstart Spring league to take over as its Chairman in February. At that time, he infused the league with immediate capital and also laid out a plan to give the AAF more money over the course for the next couple of seasons, depending on certain benchmarks.
One of those benchmarks was obviously to obtain agreement with the NFL/NFLPA about being their developmental pipeline through off-season football.
That obviously has not happened to this point. And it is clearly part of Dundon’s motivation to continue to speak out while the AAF still has games to be played and televised. This includes, deals on the NFL Network and on CBS, a league television partner for NFL.
A source previously told F.F.I., that Dundon’s involvement had not only assured that the AAF would exist to the end of this season, but also through at least 2020. And further, that source said recently, if Dundon is not wanting to put forward the money that he pledged to the AAF in this deal, then the AAF could move forward with one of a couple of other investors that were negotiating and willing to step up back in February.
That’s when the AAF took Dundon’s deal/pledge and allowed him to take over.
For now, the teams, players and fans of the AAF must continue to wait to see what will be done in the short-term or in the coming next few weeks.
Darren Rovell, business insider of the Action Network, reported early Tuesday afternoon that the league would “suspend operations,” for now:
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
It’s unclear if Ebersol or Polian, whom Rovell mentions in his tweet, will seek another immediate investor to finish the year.
For now, The Orlando Apollos would likely be declared league champs (not that it means much) or if an investor or investors could be found, the AAF could still hold it’s four team playoff in two weeks, as well.
The Alliance is scheduled to have semifinal games on April 20th and then, play their championship game on Saturday night April 27th at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility known as “The Star” in Frisco, Texas.
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