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A New Start for the Arena Football League

March 19, 2018
There are startups and then there are restarts—both offer a clean slate and the chance to build something new. The Arena Football League is a total restart; as of today, we are once again open for business.  At 7:00AM this morning, our teams began to sign players under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players’ union.

The season starts April 13th, which means we have less than three weeks to create a set of teams, initiate practices, create rosters, sell tickets, produce game day entertainment, house the players, train the players, perform medical services and tests for the players, and do positive outreach to our communities to let everyone know about the games.  That’s a tall order. But we thrive under pressure, as we demonstrated last year when we launched the Baltimore Brigade from scratch in less than 100 days, and they not only played a great season, but qualified for the playoffs, to boot.  The game of arena football is fast, nimble and exciting – makes sense that our league would be, too. 

So, starting today, out with the old, in with the new, must be our collective motto.  Think different as Apple used to say; be different—understand where we are as a league—and move forward together.

At Monumental, we as an organization will be quite busy the next few weeks relaunching the Brigade and the Washington Valor, our two AFL teams, plus hopefully qualifying and playing in the first round of the playoffs for the Washington Capitals. The NBA playoffs start soon thereafter, and we are hopeful that the Washington Wizards qualify too for the playoffs. We have many resources at our organization, and we understand the nature of making investments for the long term.

With everything we have facing us, I will admit I have been asked – why do you believe in the Arena Football League? Why do you think this can be a successful restart? What the heck are you thinking? 

Here are my answers:

First, the players I have met are in love with the game and are incredibly fan friendly—they are interactive, supportive of the league, are great athletes and want the league and teams to prosper and to be a part of something successful.  The way they bond with fans after games in quite unique in pro sports. I am proud to work with the players.  And I promise to continue to work with the league to make it the safest form of football for the players.  Come to a game and see these world class athletes perform and you’ll see what I mean.

Second, the fans who know the game love the game.  The fans have so much fun at the games.  It’s affordable, family entertainment.  I believe that we can work together with  the fans and players to grow the sport and the league.  We have a huge opportunity to introduce more young fans to this game (there is far more action than you’ll find in the NFL, where you have 15 minutes of real action in a three-hour game!). 

Third, the game itself is perfectly designed for a high speed, broadband, social media world.  It has lots of scoring, it has lots of action and it generates loads of data. And just as the NFL boomed with the advent of color television –we have an opportunity to make the Arena Football League blossom as real time gaming and betting comes into the fore.  You can’t do great technical measurement and data collection and communications in outdoor sports: it rains, it is cold, it is humid, it is too sunny, the cameras fog.  But you can do it all indoors: in cities, with fidelity of connectivity and high-speed cameras. Indoor sports and arenas in major metro areas are ascendant—whereas suburban, outdoor, gigantic stadiums seem somewhat out-of-step with the demography of Millennials and Gen Z.  To attract those audiences, you need public transportation near the arenas, you need big, high-quality screens to show the plays indoors. We have that in the AFL.

Fourth, we can innovate!  The league has no real traditions, we can create what I call “modern nostalgia” with rules changes that activate even more scoring (for example, see our new and very one-of-a-kind playoff format that we recently announced). We understand video gaming and esports. We can move the league from a 50-yard line optical vantage point—that was created more than 50 years ago—to a more in-the-moment, in-the-game viewpoint.  Our best and most popular seats are in the end zones! Why? Well, that’s the video game vantage point.  Our games feature standing room only ticketed areas—crowded areas feel like your dorm or rental apartment.  Our league can be a leader in rethinking the game experience to appeal to young fans.

We are in the last year of a media deal made many years ago – one that actually requires us to pay our cable partner to air the games. In the future, our plan is to be aggressive in pursuing DTC and OTT deals that reach a global audience – we expect to have some news on that front coming soon.

We have a leaner, smaller, more efficient league office – and they believe as I do in the future of the game.  

So, come join us at some games.  Come see the game up close.  To the local media, I ask that you please give the sport some coverage – be part of a growing community.  Get to know the teams, the players, the coaches – we are a very media-friendly league, I promise!

I remember it wasn’t so long ago that our Washington Capitals were the subject of contraction rumors in the media; tomorrow night will be our 400th consecutive sellout.  “No one knows nothing” is one of my favorite quotes.  We are building this league up for the long-term.  This is the future of football. Fast, real time, high scoring, gamified, indoor real time wagering, safe, family friendly. Created almost from scratch to be a next generation league focused on new fans, in cities -- a game for the young in spirit.  A game for those folks who live their life on the  web, on mobile, and play video games more than they watch television! 

Click here to learn more about our relaunch of our teams.  Out with the old, in with the new -- let’s go! Thank you for caring about the players and the teams of the Arena Football League!