Arena football on the rocks? Maybe

A published report that the Arena Football League was on the verge of folding seemed premature yesterday, but very little information was forthcoming, either from the Philadelphia Soul or from league headquarters in New York.

On Friday, the 16-team league said it was delaying the release of its 2009 schedule, the dispersal draft to allocate players from the defunct New Orleans VooDoo, and the beginning of free agency.

The statement said, in part: "The AFL is working on long-term structural improvements which have unfortunately delayed some important events."

That was the AFL's "standing statement" on the matter, league spokesman Chris McCloskey said yesterday. He declined to elaborate.

Citing two sources, the Denver Post reported that the league could dissolve if it does not come up with financing by Dec. 19.

The Soul captured the Arena Bowl championship in July with a 59-56 victory over the San Jose SabreCats in New Orleans. Soul spokesman Chris Wiley referred all questions on the AFL's reported financial problems to the league.

The Soul do not have a general manager, but an outside source said the team was operating normally in preparation for the new season.

According to ArenaFan.com, the Soul averaged 16,477 fans per game last season, second best in the league behind Tampa Bay.

But other franchises in the 22-year-old league might be in financial difficulty.

"The business model for the league is broken," Michael Young, executive vice president of the Denver Crush, told the Denver Post. "If the rug is pulled out from under us, it's pulled out from under us."

Two AFL players told the Columbus Dispatch last week that they had received text messages warning them that the league was in jeopardy.

"We're supposed to find out sometime [Friday] whether we're even going to have a league anymore," defensive lineman Michael Landry, who played for the Columbus Destroyers last season, told the Dispatch. "From what I know, the league's in trouble."

"I've heard it," Destroyers receiver Derek Lee told the Dispatch, "but I hear that every year."

David Baker, the league's commissioner for the last 12 years, resigned in July. His former deputy, Ed Policy, is acting as commissioner.

The VooDoo, owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, folded in October.

According to ESPN.com, the VooDoo led the league in attendance in 2007 with 16,645 per game. The team was fifth in attendance last season with an average of 14,321.


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