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Old 12-20-2018, 12:16 AM
Asuka Asuka is offline
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Why are people constantly trying to make Arena style Football a thing?

As of 2018 there's 5 indoor football leagues in operation in the United States, totaling 41 teams total, not counting the two offshoots, the all-female Legends football league (with 4 teams) and the China Arena Football League (six teams but hasn't played a game since it's inaugural season in 2016). Looking at the history of each league it's pretty obvious the leagues and teams are constantly on shaky ground with teams folding in each league every year and even teams jumping from one league to the other and back. It also seems like most teams are only operational for one year before folding due to lack of interest which leads to a lack of funds.

Is there a reason why we have so many indoor football leagues? Every single Wikipedia page for them mentions low attendance as a constant problem and yet new teams and leagues seem to pop up every single year. Who exactly is funding these teams and leagues and why despite their constant failures? And why don't all these Arena Leagues just merge already?

Last edited by Asuka; 12-20-2018 at 12:16 AM.
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Old 12-20-2018, 05:11 AM
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I think the reason leagues keep popping up is because football is a ridiculously popular and lucrative sport in the US. Arena football is easier to set up than normal gridiron football because the field is smaller (so it can be held in smaller and cheaper locations) and has smaller teams (8 players per team on the field) and games are faster. So it requires less investment to start a team/league. Also, the original patent for the game expired in 2007 so for the past 10+ years anyone can start a league (as long as they’re careful to not use the actual term “Arena Football” itself which is still under trademark).

It keeps failing because people want “real” football.
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Old 12-20-2018, 09:22 AM
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What sports organization that is something other than the absolute highest level really works?* The problem is you can only ever get casual fans, you don't get die hard fanatics with lower level leagues. But don't get me wrong, arena football is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

* Yes, college sports is the obvious example, but they create die hard fans thanks to a connection to a university. Minor league baseball could also be an example of something that works, but there too is a connection to the bigger organization with their farm system.
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Old 12-20-2018, 09:46 AM
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A few years ago, I did some work for one of the minor-league indoor teams -- a friend of mine was their statistician, and I helped out with stats and spotting, and ran the scoreboard and clock at their home games.

I suspect that, at the minor league level, their budgets are miniscule. The teams that I saw were usually wearing hand-me-down uniforms from other teams, and the attendance at the games I worked at was very small -- if you excluded the hundred or so people who were clearly friends and family of the players, I'd guess that they were drawing 200-300 fans to their games (and this was in a large market, too). And, they wound up having several of their games cancelled, because the opposing teams folded in mid-season, or didn't have the money to travel to another city to play.

I also suspect that the people who own the teams (and who are playing on the teams, too), particularly in the small leagues, are doing it out of love for the sport, because I seriously doubt that anyone's making any money at it.
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Old 12-20-2018, 10:24 AM
EscAlaMike EscAlaMike is online now
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I went to an arena football game in Cincinnati years ago. It was fun, but not something I would care to do regularly - especially if I had to pay for the tickets (mine were free).

This hasn't been a problem exclusively with arena-style football either. Think of the USFL, XFL, and other outdoor football leagues that have come and gone.

It has just been (so far) impossible to compete with the NFL.

I think minor league baseball has been successful because it is directly connected to the MLB.

The only way a semi-pro football league could work is if it were directly connected to the NFL, like a farm league, and financially subsidized by the NFL until it got off the ground.

The NBA has this with the G League.
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Old 12-20-2018, 10:32 AM
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I think minor league baseball has been successful because it is directly connected to the MLB.
There are, in fact, a number of independent minor leagues, whose teams are independent from MLB. Like the affiliated minor league teams, they, too, tend to stress low-cost, family-friendly entertainment, but I suspect that teams (and leagues) tend to be more transient than the "farm team" minors.
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Old 12-20-2018, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
There are, in fact, a number of independent minor leagues, whose teams are independent from MLB. Like the affiliated minor league teams, they, too, tend to stress low-cost, family-friendly entertainment, but I suspect that teams (and leagues) tend to be more transient than the "farm team" minors.
In "The Only Rule Is That It Has To Work," a book about a couple of sabermetricians who buy an independent team and try to make it a winner with analysis, their biggest problem as the story goes on is that once a guy proves he's good, he leaves mid season for the real minor leagues.
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Old 12-20-2018, 10:56 AM
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Why are there so many donut shops?

People try to make money, they like the game, there is an oversupply of lower tier players available, so they think Arena Football is worth a shot. Not much else to it.

Heck, if you could ever get TV money flowing then they would all be in solid footing. Even ESPN recently showed a professional Cornhole tournament.

Hope spring eternal!
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Old 12-20-2018, 11:19 AM
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NFL Europe was connected to the NFL and it did pretty well for a while but then was shutdown by the league
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Old 12-20-2018, 11:26 AM
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It has just been (so far) impossible to compete with the NFL.


That's the fallacy- stuff like arena football, indoor soccer and minor league sports in the US at least, have as their main competition other leisure activities- on a Saturday afternoon, do you take your kids to the minor league baseball game, or do you take them to the park? Do you go out to a bar with your buddies, or do you grab an Arena football game?

That's the market they're competing in; major league pro sports and higher level college sports are more of a lifestyle event, in that people plan their lives around those games- book hotel rooms months in advance of important games, etc....

And so far, Arena football doesn't seem to compete too well with the alternative entertainments it seems. Part of the problem I suspect is that in a lot of places, the arena football teams use the local basketball arena as their venue, with all the parking and concessions price shenanigans that you would expect. In other words, the ticket prices may not be super-expensive, but the associated stuff is. Which makes it a less attractive alternative to say... going to dinner and a movie.

I'd think the trick would be to make it as cheap as reasonably possible and have a lot of fan interaction / engagement.
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Old 12-20-2018, 12:00 PM
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Part of the problem I suspect is that in a lot of places, the arena football teams use the local basketball arena as their venue, with all the parking and concessions price shenanigans that you would expect. In other words, the ticket prices may not be super-expensive, but the associated stuff is. Which makes it a less attractive alternative to say... going to dinner and a movie.
That may well be.

For the minor-league indoor football team I worked with (the Chicago Blitz, which is still apparently around, at least technically, though they're league-less right now), they were playing in an arena that was built for indoor soccer (and also hosts various other small-scale shows). Parking was inexpensive, and the concessions were also pretty affordable, but the venue itself was fairly unattractive -- it was located in a light-industrial park, with a gravel parking lot, and it was kind of dimly-lit.

The AFL team that Chicago had for a while folded a few years ago; they played at the Allstate Arena (formerly known as the Rosemont Horizon), which also hosts college basketball and minor-league hockey. It's definitely a step up from where the Blitz played, and even if it's not the United Center, parking was still expensive there.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 12-20-2018 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 12-20-2018, 02:22 PM
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The simplest answer is probably, "It fills arenas" - something that is getting harder and harder to do (case in point: there's no more Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus to take up 2-3 days).
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Old 12-20-2018, 03:43 PM
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The economics of sports is often bizarrely different from what you'd expect, and so the idea that there's more going on here than just straight profits and expenses is one that might merit exploring.

In the case of arena football I think, absent further study, that a lot of it is trying to capture underserved markets. The National Indoor Football League tried to capture markets the Arena Football League was not serving. United Indoor Football broke off from the NIFL, which merged with the wonderfully named Intense Football League, which had kind of been a Texan regional league. That all died in 2008, though. The American Indoor Football League tried a regional approach on the West Coast, but for some reason some teams left to create the National Arena League.

What is for sure is that the Arena Football League fell onto hard times about ten years ago and had a cancel a whole season and I think that spawned a lot of attempts to do something else.
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Old 12-20-2018, 03:49 PM
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What is for sure is that the Arena Football League fell onto hard times about ten years ago and had a cancel a whole season and I think that spawned a lot of attempts to do something else.
It looks like their financial woes coincided with the recession in 2008/2009, so I have to believe that bad economic conditions played a role; regardless, it's clear that the league never really rebounded from that (even though they brought in several high-profile owners).

The AFL is down to four active teams now, and that just doesn't feel sustainable.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 12-20-2018 at 03:52 PM.
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Old 12-20-2018, 04:33 PM
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There's always going to be a "poor man's" version of things. Arena football lets fans get to view football up close (instead of from 500 feet away in the nosebleed section,) pay super-cheap, get a game with a lot more fun and much less of the red-tape BS of the NFL, and also lets the players have lots of fun too without the NFL extreme competition or pressure. People like it cheap. It's like drinking beer as opposed to a $400 bottle of wine.
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Old 12-20-2018, 05:00 PM
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It looks like their financial woes coincided with the recession in 2008/2009, so I have to believe that bad economic conditions played a role; regardless, it's clear that the league never really rebounded from that (even though they brought in several high-profile owners).

The AFL is down to four active teams now, and that just doesn't feel sustainable.
As I said upthread, something like arena football can only hope to capture casual fans. The kind of fans who aren't going to spend money on the product when their wallets aren't as fat. A friend of mine was a head coach for a semi-pro indoor football team and they actually did pretty well attendance-wise from about 2011-2015. But in that time they had to switch leagues at least twice because other teams around them were folding. And then they folded last year. Seems like semi-pro basketball would be a lot less expensive to fund. Would probably be some fun games and yet I'm not aware of any notable leagues. Not counting NBA G League.
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Old 12-20-2018, 05:18 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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The ABA , WHA and AFL all were able to survive long enough to put some of their teams into the main pro leagues. That was before there was so much money in TV for pro sports. The way things are now rival leagues cannot get enough money to last.
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Old 12-20-2018, 05:39 PM
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Heck, if you could ever get TV money flowing then they would all be in solid footing. Even ESPN recently showed a professional Cornhole tournament.
I think this is the answer. The amount of money that can be made from advertising is vastly more than from in-person ticket sales. And the number of people watching any televised sporting event is vastly larger than those watching in-person, and I would guess the remote fan base is far larger than those who attend in-person, thanks to TV. TV is where the money is in sports.

IMHO Arena style football will never catch-on until there is at least a regular regional broadcast of games, if not national, with advertising dollars supporting the league. I would expect that is the main reason the NFL and the other major leagues are successful.

Last edited by snowthx; 12-20-2018 at 05:42 PM.
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Old 12-20-2018, 06:21 PM
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IMHO Arena style football will never catch-on until there is at least a regular regional broadcast of games, if not national, with advertising dollars supporting the league.
In fact, the AFL has had several national TV contracts -- at various points, they've been on NBC, ABC, NFL Network, CBS Sports Network, and ESPN (which had a minority stake in the league for a time).

But, not too surprisingly, as they've struggled in recent years, their TV presence has also suffered -- it looks like, for last season, they were still technically on CBS Sports Network, but only streaming (i.e., not on the cable feed).
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Old 12-21-2018, 01:37 AM
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It looks like their financial woes coincided with the recession in 2008/2009, so I have to believe that bad economic conditions played a role; regardless, it's clear that the league never really rebounded from that (even though they brought in several high-profile owners).

The AFL is down to four active teams now, and that just doesn't feel sustainable.
How exactly does a season work with just four teams? Is the winner determined just by total wins?
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Old 12-21-2018, 09:32 AM
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How exactly does a season work with just four teams? Is the winner determined just by total wins?
Iíd imagine that you could have each team play each other team twice (once at home, once away). That would give 12 total games. So with teams A, B, C, and D youíd have these games:

A@B
A@C
A@D
B@A
B@C
B@D
C@A
C@B
C@D
D@A
D@B
D@C

Each team plays 6 games, 3 home and 3 away. At the end of the regular season you play a championship with the two teams with the best record, and whoever wins that game gets the ďArena CupĒ or whatever. In this structure itís easy to have tied records at the end of the year, so I might just use something like overall point differential as a tiebreaker.

Itís not perfect but it gets you a reasonable number of games and resembles a real schedule despite only having 4 teams.

Again I donít know how they actually do it but I can see it being doable.
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Old 12-21-2018, 09:38 AM
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Every play in Arena is either a touchdown or an incompletion. That gets old. There's no drama, no tension, just pinball scoring.
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Old 12-21-2018, 10:07 AM
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Iíd imagine that you could have each team play each other team twice (once at home, once away). That would give 12 total games.
That, in fact, is exactly what they did for a 2018 schedule. All four teams made the playoffs, with round 1 being the #1 seed vs. #4, and #2 vs. #3, then the Arenabowl game being between the two winners from round 1.
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Old 12-21-2018, 10:09 AM
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Every play in Arena is either a touchdown or an incompletion. That gets old. There's no drama, no tension, just pinball scoring.
That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not entirely unfair. I've long referred to arena football as being like a video game.
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Old 12-21-2018, 02:31 PM
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Go back 119 years and you could ask the same thing about baseball.

Baseball had an advantage: it was enormously popular as a spectator sport. Every town of any size had a semipro team and it was a major source of entertainment. But sports fans were fickle even back then: if the team performed poorly, attendance would drop and they'd go under.

It's not a coincidence that MLB stabilized about the time radio became popular. This brought a new income stream to a business that previously depended solely on attendance. Minor League baseball only stabilized (to some degree) as MLB teams started using them to develop talent, giving them a marketing hook (See tomorrow's stars!) and a MLB team that had a vested interest in their survival.

Pro football was in the same boat until the collapse of the AAFC.

Arena football struggles because it competes with the cheap versions of the sport on TV.
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Old 12-21-2018, 10:23 PM
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I too am mystified by the constant proliferation of Arena Football and Indoor Soccer franchises and leagues popping up even though there is a decades long history of almost 100% failure of these teams.

A recent article on MLS expansion might offer some insight. There is now a record amount of millionaires and billionaires in the United States now but still only 120 or so franchises to buy; for that reason the price of entry into even the MLS has risen from a $10 million franchise fee to $250 million!

For a male there may be few ego strokes that match owning your own sports team. So what we have in an unprecedented number of rich guys with a few million burning a hole in their pockets making easy marks for those running these leagues.

Who wins? I’m guessing commissioners and league officials creating jobs for themselves over and over again and other franchise owners collecting franchise fees until they also go six feet under. At the end of the day if you are worth $50 mil and lose a couple on a fun 1-2 year ride you probably don’t give that much of a shit anyway.


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Old 12-22-2018, 12:11 PM
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For a male there may be few ego strokes that match owning your own sports team. So what we have in an unprecedented number of rich guys with a few million burning a hole in their pockets making easy marks for those running these leagues.
At least at the highest level of indoor football (the AFL), I can see that point, especially given that they've had several rock musicians as owners in recent years (Jon Bon Jovi, Vince Neil, and Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons).

At the minor-league level, I don't get the impression that the team owners are millionairs with money to burn -- I rather get the impression that it's people who do have a little (not a lot) of money to spare, whose love for the game may well be overriding their business sense.
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