AAF Suspends Operation, But Not Giving Up On Season Two As They Seek New Investment

This isn’t how the Alliance of American Football’s first and possibly only season was supposed to go. You can largely thank the investors for that. it was late-coming investor Tom Dundon, owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, who invested $250 million in the AAF in the early portions of its inaugural season to keep it afloat, that ultimately decided the league’s fate, pulling the plug yesterday.

Dundon was only brought on board because, as Orlando Apollos Head Coach Steve Spurrier told reporters back in February, their primary original investor also backed out. He said the investor “led us into believing he could come up with the money to get us through the first year, and then he sort of bailed out”.

The original investor was not named, but it’s clear that the pursuit of Dundon was a desperate Hail Mary. And in spite of the fact that he categorized his investment as one with long-term potential, he elected to pull out before the inaugural regular season had even concluded, stranding the eight-team league with 11 games left to play, including the postseason.

Dundon’s issue was that he wanted to see the AAF establish itself, virtually immediately, as a de facto and perhaps eventually official minor league of the NFL, employing a player loan program with the NFL and NFLPA that would allow rostered players from the NFL to participate in the AAF.

The thing is, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala, he was the first to leave the table. And the only one to do so. Founders Bill Polian and Charlie Ebersol, and even the NFLPA, were still interested in having dialogue about the idea. Dundon’s decision cost him $70 million, and his investment was always conditional and could be pulled “on almost a moment’s notice”.

But the league isn’t necessarily entirely dead. The 2019 season is certainly over, but they aren’t giving up everything just yet. As part of an e-mail that went out company-wide, it reads, “as part of this [suspension of operations] process, we expect to keep a small staff on hand to seek new investment capital and restructure our business. Should those efforts prove successful, we look forward to working with many of you on season two”.

Perhaps they can find other investors in time to return for a second and complete season in 2020, but the fact that they have already had two primary investors make the decision to pull out will surely not reflect well on them. and they would also have to compete with the resurrection of the XFL, which is set to begin next year.

Personally, I would love to see the AAF get a second lifeline with a stable investment team and greater cooperation with the NFL and NFLPA. I think the product merited that opportunity.

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