SAN DIEGO – The days are numbered for the Alliance of American Football.
AAF co-founder Bill Polian issued a statement saying he regrets that many believed in this project will see their hopes and efforts unrewarded.”
AAF co-founder Bill Polian issues strong statement after new owner Tom Dundon shuts league down. pic.twitter.com/YwFWaLFwwl
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 2, 2019
Despite having only two regular season games remaining, the San Diego Fleet and the other seven teams in the AAF apparently suspended all operations Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
Pro Football Talk reported rumblings of the league’s demise Monday night, followed by the Action Network’s Darren Rovell.
Tom Dundon, the league’s majority owner and the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, raised the specter of closing the league in an interview last week with USA Tuesday.
Breaking: The Alliance of American Football will suspend all football operations Tuesday, according to ESPN and multiple reports (first reported by ProFootballTalk). pic.twitter.com/f4oOsYKx0x
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 2, 2019
Representatives of the San Diego Fleet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The San Diego squad was scheduled to play the Orlando Apollos on Saturday before closing the regular season at home April 14 against the Arizona Hotshots. At 3-5, the Fleet needed to win out to have a chance at making the playoffs as one of the top two teams in the league’s Western Conference.
The fledgling league was only eight weeks into its first season, but faced immediate and future questions of funding and where each team’s players would come from. AAF co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian intended to run the league independently for three years, with each season coming as a reprieve for football-starved fans during the NFL offseason. Ebersol and Polian planned to eventually form a partnership with the NFL as a developmental league.
According to Rovell and others, Dundon, who purchased a majority stake in the league in February, wanted to form that partnership this season and pressured the NFL Players Association to share players on NFL practice squads. Dundon argued the league could not survive without NFL support.
The NFLPA balked at the rushed relationship and the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement made some of his demands impossible. Dundon apparently chose to suspend the league rather than continue committing money to it. Pro Football Talk reported Monday night that the league required $20 million to make it through the April 27 championship game.
The Fleet played its games at SDCCU Stadium, with estimated turnouts growing to nearly 20,000 by season’s end. The Fleet also led the league in merchandise sales.
AAF players have three-year, non-guaranteed contracts for $250,000, Rovell previously reported.