Whenever a new professional sports league starts, especially football, it isn’t that easy to make money and stay afloat. Just ask the XFL, USFL, UFL and now the AAF.
On Tuesday, ProFootballTalk first reported that the Alliance of American Football – or the AAF – suspended operations before its Week 9 games. Majority owner Tom Dundon made comments weeks ago about the possibility of the league folding.
$250 Million Injection Could Not Save AAF
During the first week of AAF games, Dundon, who owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, said he’d invest $250 million to help fund the league. Just a week ago, Dundon was upset that the NFL Players Association would not let their practice squad players out of their contracts and play in The Alliance.
"We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league,” Dundon said at the time.
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported that Dundon bought the AAF for one thing only: Its sports betting application.
Perception inside the AAF is that Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon bought a majority stake in the league simply for the gambling app being developed.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 2, 2019
Source: "Dundon got the technology he wanted and he's now minus one rather large headache."
North Carolina doesn’t have legalized sports gambling, but a bill is in place for the tribal casinos in the state to allow sports bets. If Dundon’s sole aim was to secure the betting app, he could have something up his sleeve yet.
All betting on the AAF stopped when the league suspended operations. The Sporting News reported that FanDuel would pay out bets on the Orlando Apollos as league champions. The Steve Spurrier-coached team had the AAF’s best record at 7-1.
Multiple sportsbooks have confirmed they will be refunding all outstanding bets on the AAF. If you placed an AAF futures bet, check with the bookmaker. Most major sportsbooks will offer refunds.
AAF Employees Out of Jobs and Stranded
Most of the employees hired by the AAF will lose their jobs, according to a letter that the Associated Press acquired. The report said a small percentage of the league’s staff would remain with paid positions.
"I am extremely disappointed to learn Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football," AAF co-founder Bill Polian said in a statement Tuesday, ESPN reported. "When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all.”
Players, according to multiple reports, were left stranded. They had to scramble to find new places to live and pay for their own travel expenses:
Unorganized is an understatement...kicked out of our rooms (that weren’t paid apparently) 17 hours away from home with a car full of my belongings and nowhere to go...#JoinTheAlliance@TheAAF@CharlieEbersol@TDCanes@espn@BleacherReport@aafexpress— Anthony Manzo-Lewis (@amanzolewis) April 2, 2019
What Will Be the Fate of XFL 2.0?
The AAF’s suspension of football operations is certainly good news for the second attempt at the XFL. The first came in 2001 when the league, founded by WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, folded after one season. This time, with the XFL set for a 2020 re-launch, McMahon has taken things slowly and mapped out a plan with a good portion of financial assistance from his own pocket.
McMahon released a statement shortly after the AAF news hit, saying he vows to execute their own business plan going forward.
There is a market for another professional spring football league, and the legal sports betting that would go with it. It remains to be seen if the XFL succeeds where the AAF failed.