Disgruntled fans and internet trolls have united in a breathtaking grumble fest. When it comes to my favorite sport, the glory, glamour, and glitz of it all is quickly overshadowed by the incessant groans and nearly constant bellowing of would be fans yelling, "Why are there so many arena leagues!?"
In fairness, they're not wrong. Whether some want to play arena rules, and some want to play indoor rules becomes a moot point when the leagues are too small to garner national television attention. Owners scramble to make enough money to justify continuing to play, in hopes of not folding. Some owners commit shady fraud: not paying players, leaving them stranded with lodging bills, etc. . ., perhaps because some of these owners thought they had enough money, only to find out their expenses transcended their wisdom.
So why are there so many leagues? Why can't league commissioners and owners get along enough to merge into a giant arena league, that captures the attention of national television studios--and fills in the gap of springless football? It wouldn't be fair of a naive, clueless fan like myself, to speculate why commissioners and owners do what they do. Until I know, I'll assume they do the best they can. Still, from the standpoint of the fan, I can't help but think all the owners of these teams would benefit financially from a national television deal. It would mean profit and sustainability for them. It would mean more money for players, coaches, staff, and perhaps a lot more hype! From many fans, there may be a resounding call to "put your differences aside." However, the fact is there are many leagues playing in 2022.
If Arena Football united in a single league with 32 teams, like the NFL, they wouldn't compete with the juggernaut league that is 102 years old, but they would achieve a relevance that would not be overshadowed by the attempts of the XFL and USFL--to give the masses some smash-mouth spring football. The image above shows what the league would look like if the Indoor Football League (16 teams), Champions Indoor Football (9 teams), and the National Arena League (7 teams) merged. With that much national attention and competition, it's hard to imagine arenas NOT being sold out weekly.
But alas, the fact is we're not there yet. In addition to the above leagues, we have the AAL, AIFA, PAFL, the AWFC, and a Texas only league that does professional arena football. Trying to keep up with all of these is akin to enduring a whiplash inducing roller-coaster. Some fans, if they could speak to the owners and commissioners of these various leagues, might be saying, "whatever your differences are, please set them aside for the betterment and progress of the game itself." Chances are, their bottom lines could all increase. But then again, I'm naive and clueless. The game still rocks my socks off!
by Ducon Williams