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Soul, 5 Other Arena Football League Teams Close Local Operations

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By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

The Philadelphia Soul, and each of the five other teams that make up the Arena Football League (AFL), have ceased local business operations as the league looks to restructure.

Ron Jaworski, part of the Soul ownership group and AFL Chairman of the Executive Committee, told NBC Sports Philadelphia that each of the six teams in the league, including the Soul, are not ceasing all operations, however. The AFL has not yet determined whether it will suspend operations entirely, as they explore other options and seek a path for "financial solvency, a verdict that is said to be forthcoming," writes The Times Union.

Coaches, front-office staff and the players union were informed Tuesday of the AFL's decision. AFL Commissioner Randall Boe released the following statement shortly after:

Earlier today, the Arena Football League was forced to make the difficult, but necessary decision to close our team services and business operations units in our local markets.

These closures have resulted in the elimination of various staff positions, and is a direct consequence of the current financial constraints facing the AFL, which include extensive legacy liabilities and a recent multimillion-dollar litigation filed against the League by an insurance carrier that provided coverage for the AFL between 2009 and 2012. Those liabilities, which are all related to prior League operations, severely constrain the League’s ability to expand and operate.  

The financial challenges we are now dealing with do not, however, reflect the determined efforts of our current shareholders to maintain the viability of the AFL. Our shareholders have made significant investments to restructure and re-launch the AFL and make it successful. Additionally, they have continued to work actively with the League office to grow the sport in their respective markets. Every touchdown celebrated and every ArenaBowl trophy ever hoisted can be credited to their efforts and to our incredibly loyal and growing fanbase.

The AFL is innovative, brave and fun. Our teams push barriers and continually experiment with dynamic ways to engage fans, creating some of the most memorable live action sports experiences.

We would like to thank our employees for their tremendous service during their time with the AFL and we value the important role they played in being our front-line ambassadors for the sport.

Looking forward, the AFL will continue to push ahead with efforts to identify solutions to address the aforementioned financial constraints. We have not yet made the final determination that it will be necessary to suspend all League operations, but we expect that decision to be made within the next few weeks. Should we not be able to move forward, we will issue information about all applicable refunds at that time. We are exploring every possible avenue to continue bringing AFL football to our fans, including further evolutions to the current business model, and are engaging with prospective investors and supporters who are interested in seeing the League continue to grow.

Boe told The Times Union that the AFL has been evaluating it becoming a traveling league "as a potential model to go forward and keep the league alive." He adds, "“I hesitate to say that we have a sense that that is likely to be successful. It’s the thing that we're looking at. We really don't see an alternative to that.”

Such a model would be similar to the Premier Lacrosse League, whose "players practice in a centralized location and fly to a different city each weekend to play games," The Times Union writes.

The three-time-champion Soul played 14 seasons in the league from 2004 to 2019; under Jaworki's leadership, the Soul recently won back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017.

All AFL operations will continue to run through the Philadelphia-based AFL office as the league determines its next step. AFL teams in addition to the Soul include: Albany Empire, Atlantic City Blackjacks, Baltimore Brigade, Columbus Destroyers, and Washington Valor.

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