The Arena Football League (AFL) was founded in 1987 as an American football indoor league. The AFL's attendance has increased dramatically over the last few years, rising to an average of 12,415 people per game in 2007. The AFL also maintains a minor league called af2.
In 1990, Foster was awarded a patent for arena football and the equipment unique to it—the only known instance of a game being patented anywhere in the world. This means that other indoor football leagues must play under significantly different rules; the patent, however, expired on September 30, 2007, opening the door to other indoor football leagues using such rules under Foster's old patent.
From the 1987 season until the late 1990s, the most exposure the league would receive was on ESPN, which would air tape-delayed games, often well after midnight. The league would receive its first taste of wide exposure in 1998, when Arena Bowl XII was televised nationally as part of ABC's Wide World of Sports.
One of the league's early success stories was the Detroit Drive. A primary team for some of the AFL's most highly regarded players, including George LaFrance, Gary and Alvin Rettig, as well as being a second career chance for quarterback Art Schlichter, the Drive regularly played before sold out crowds at Joe Louis Arena, and went to the ArenaBowl every year of their existence (1988-1993). However, the AFL's first dynasty came to an end when their owner, Mike Ilitch (who also owned Little Caesar's Pizza) bought the Detroit Tigers, and sold the team.
Although the Drive left the league, the AFL still has a number of teams today which it considers "dynasties", including the Tampa Bay Storm (the only team that has existed in some form for all twenty seasons), their arch-rival the Orlando Predators, the San Jose SaberCats of the present decade, and their rivals the Arizona Rattlers.
In 1993 the league staged its first, and only to date, All-Star game in Des Moines, Iowa, the future home of the Iowa Barnstormers, as a fundraiser for flood victims in the area. The National Conference defeated the American Conference 64-40 in front of a crowd of 7,189.
While the aforementioned teams have enjoyed success, many teams in the history of the league have enjoyed little to no success. There are also a number of franchises which existed in the form of a number of unrelated teams under numerous management groups until they folded (an example is the New York CityHawks whose owners transferred the team from New York to Hartford to become the New England Sea Wolves after two seasons, then after another two seasons were sold and became the Toronto Phantoms, who lasted another two seasons until folding). There are a number of reasons why these teams failed, including lack of financial support from owners, lack of media exposure, to the city's plain disinterest in the team. Today, this isn't seen as much of a problem, as team owners typically own other sports franchises as well, receive adequate media coverage from their home cities, and most teams have a sizeable fan base.
There were also several rule changes. In 2003, the season expanded to 16 games. In 2005, players were no longer allowed to run out of bounds. The only way for a player to go out of bounds is if a player is tackled into the side boards. 2005 also marked the first year the ArenaBowl was played at a neutral site. In 2007, free substitution was allowed. And in 2008, the jack linebacker was allowed to go sideboard to sideboard.
For the 2006 season only, the AFL added a national cable deal with OLN (now Versus) for eleven regular-season games and one playoff game.
On December 19, 2006, ESPN announced the purchase of a minority stake in the AFL. This deal includes television rights for the ESPN family of networks. ESPN will televise a minimum of 17 regular season games, most on Monday Nights, and 9 playoff games, including ArenaBowl XXI on ABC. The deal resulted in added exposure on ESPN's SportsCenter.
The AFL also has a regional-cable deal with FSN, where FSN regional affiliates in AFL markets carry local team games.
|Eastern||Cleveland Gladiators||Quicken Loans Arena||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Columbus Destroyers||Nationwide Arena||Columbus, Ohio|
|Dallas Desperados||American Airlines Center||Dallas, Texas|
|New York Dragons||Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum||Uniondale, New York (Long Island)|
|Philadelphia Soul||Wachovia Center||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Southern||Georgia Force||The Arena at Gwinnett Center||Duluth, Georgia (Atlanta area)|
|New Orleans VooDoo||New Orleans Arena||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Orlando Predators||Amway Arena||Orlando, Florida|
|Tampa Bay Storm||St. Pete Times Forum||Tampa, Florida|
|Central||Chicago Rush||Allstate Arena||Rosemont, Illinois (Chicago area)|
|Colorado Crush||Pepsi Center||Denver, Colorado|
|Grand Rapids Rampage||Van Andel Arena||Grand Rapids, Michigan|
|Kansas City Brigade||Sprint Center||Kansas City, Missouri|
|Western||Arizona Rattlers||US Airways Center||Phoenix, Arizona|
|Los Angeles Avengers||Staples Center||Los Angeles, California|
|San Jose SaberCats||HP Pavilion||San Jose, California|
|Utah Blaze||EnergySolutions Arena||Salt Lake City, Utah|
|Year||# of Teams||Expansion Teams||Folded Teams||Suspended Teams||Returning Teams||Relocated Teams||Name Changes|
Los Angeles Cobras
New England Steamrollers
New York Knights
|1989||5||Los Angeles Cobras|
New England Steamrollers
New York Knights
|Chicago Bruisers||Washington Commandos|
New Orleans Night
|Washington Commandos||Pittsburgh → Tampa Bay Storm|
San Antonio Force
|Denver Dynamite||Columbus → Cleveland Thunderbolts|
|1993||10||New Orleans Night|
San Antonio Force
|Sacramento → Miami Hooters|
|1994||11||Fort Worth Cavalry|
Las Vegas Sting
|Detroit → Massachusetts Marauders|
St. Louis Stampede
San Jose SaberCats
|Cleveland Thunderbolts||Massachusetts Marauders|
Fort Worth Cavalry
|1996||15||Texas Terror||Las Vegas → Anaheim Piranhas|
Fort Worth → Minnesota Fighting Pike
(dormant from 1995)
(from Miami Hooters)
New Jersey Red Dogs
New York CityHawks
Minnesota Fighting Pike
St. Louis Stampede
|Memphis → Portland Forest Dragons|
|1998||14||Anaheim Piranhas||Massachusetts Marauders → Grand Rapids Rampage|
(dormant for three years)
(from Texas Terror)
|1999||15||Buffalo Destroyers||New York → New England Sea Wolves|
Los Angeles Avengers
|Portland → Oklahoma Wranglers|
|Albany → Indiana Firebirds|
Iowa → New York Dragons
New England → Toronto Phantoms
|New Jersey Gladiators|
(from New Jersey Red Dogs)
|2002||16||Dallas Desperados||Florida Bobcats|
(all four were contracted)
|Nashville → Georgia Force|
|2003||16||Colorado Crush||Toronto Phantoms||New Jersey → Las Vegas Gladiators|
New Orleans VooDoo
|Buffalo → Columbus Destroyers|
|2005||17||Nashville Kats||Carolina Cobras|
|2006||18||Kansas City Brigade|
|New Orleans VooDoo|
|2007||19||New Orleans VooDoo|
|Las Vegas → Cleveland Gladiators|
Most recently the AFL have released a press release stating that they have partnerd with German marketing group 2Plus to investigate the possibility of hosting AFL teams in Germany. Last week (middle August 2008) an AFL delegation including Jerry Kurz visited Germany to speak with 2Plus in person and to visit various possible host cities. During that week a delegation from Amsterdam traveled to Germany to speak to the AFL about Amsterdam hosting a team.
At the moment the AFL have their sight set on three possible host cities.
ARENA FOOTBALL FUSS CENTERS ON NORFOLK THWARTED IN BID FOR X-TREME LEAGUE FRANCHISE, ADMIRALS OWNERS SPEND FOR TEAM IN RIVAL LEAGUE.(SPORTS)
May 16, 1999; Byline: HARRY MINIUM, STAFF WRITER NORFOLK -- An ownership skirmish is brewing over indoor minor league football at Scope, a war...