CHICAGO, Dec 15 (Reuters) - The Arena Football League has canceled its 2009 season, but will resume play the following year, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The New York Times reported on Monday.
League officials could not be reached to comment, but have previously denied the indoor football league would cancel the 2009 season. The AFL, founded in 1987, has 16 teams after New Orleans folded in October.
However, the owner of the Cleveland Gladiators told the Times that AFL executives and team owners moved to suspend the 2009 season, pending approval by the players’ union, so the league could fix its economic model.
“It’s a historic day for the league,” James Ferraro told the paper. “This league will be much, much stronger, and it will be here for a long time because of what happened.
“This is the farthest thing from the league folding,” he added. “This is, in my opinion, just showing us the league will not fold.”
Ferraro could not be reached to comment.
The Plain Dealer cited an unidentified league source in saying an announcement would come on Monday. The paper said too many teams in big-name cities or big-city owners said they would not return in 2009, including teams in Dallas, Philadelphia, Colorado, Georgia, Chicago and Cleveland.
“We couldn’t be taken seriously if we lost too many teams, especially in big markets,” the source told the Cleveland paper. “That’s what was going to happen. We needed to shut down and reorganize.”
The source also told the Plain Dealer that Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) ESPN sports cable channel said it would not televise games for a league with only six to eight teams. ESPN, which declined to comment, has a minor financial interest in the league. (Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Dave Zimmerman)