Statement from Mr. Ivan Soto the Executive Director or the AFL Players Union:

I can assure you that the CBA and the law does not contain some option clause or condition. There just isn't an option and if there were I would have been the one to negotiate the terms of the option with the league. Anyone that says there is some "option" in the CBA is just misinformed and wrong. As far as 2018, the league looks like they are going to play the schedule they released and all that remains is if it will be with labor peace and a contract, or without labor peace and a contract. That has yet to come to a final resolution as of this minute but there is active bargaining going on each day and discussions being held in an attempt to reach an agreement between the parties. We have sent the owners proposals that are very fair and in line with nearly the same economics from 2017 just in a different system than a fixed salary system. Our players want a salary cap and benefits. They want the best to get paid the most and for everyone to have a minimum living wage to play this dangerous yet great sport.

Ivan Soto, Executive Director AFL Players Union

Dear Reader,

The question arose about how the AFL and Players Union could move forward with league play without a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place.  Arena Football Insider had learned through a variety of sources that the league had picked up an option year at the end of the expiring contract.  After some back and forth on social media, Mr. Soto sent the above statement.  There isn't an option year as such within the expiring CBA.  What happened is the league and the union agreed to continue playing under the terms of the 2017 season, the last season covered by the contract.  Our assumption is that as long as good faith negotiations are ongoing and an amicable conclusion is within reach, league play will occur as scheduled.  Without a CBA in place, if negotiations break down, the league would be free to execute a lockout and hire new players and the union would be free to strike at any time.  Hopefully, it won't come to that.  Special thanks to Mr. Ivan Soto.


Skodnick: Down to four teams,

Arena Football League's instability can't go much lower

Published 10:29 pm, Saturday, December 23, 2017

And then there were four, as we found out on Thursday, when the Arena Football League's Tampa Bay Storm announced they would be the second team in the past month to suspend operations for the 2018 season.

Couple that with the two-year suspension of operations by the Cleveland Gladiators and the lack of a collective bargaining agreement with the players' union, and you'd be fair to question the health of the Arena Football League's business model.

In the two months since an as-yet-unnamed Albany AFL expansion team was announced, the league has lost one-third of its teams for the coming season. The 2018 season will be played with four teams. A source told the Times Union that there is, at best, a remote chance of a fifth team for 2018. Washington and Baltimore owner Ted Leonsis said in a blog post after the Tampa Bay announcement that the league is planning to move on with four teams for 2018, so those rumors of teams in Newark, N.J., or out on Long Island would seem to be dead.

That Arena Football has been successful in Albany, where 13,652 packed the Times Union Center for Arena Bowl XIII to watch the Albany Firebirds defeat the Orlando Predators 59-48 on Aug. 21, 1999, or that the game provides exciting family entertainment is beyond the pale of debate.

The league's model is to build the league around franchises that would be owned by NHL or NBA ownership groups. The Washington Valor and the Baltimore Brigade, both of which will play in 2018, are owned by Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the corporation that owns the NBA's Washington Wizards and the NHL's Washington Capitals.

"We'll take our best owners, and we're building the league around them," AFL commissioner Scott Butera said after the news conference announcing Albany's team.

Calls to the AFL league office in Las Vegas requesting comment from the league and voicemails left for Butera went unreturned. Multiple requests for interviews with the executive director of the Arena Football League Players' Union, Ivan F. Soto, have also gone unanswered.

The Tampa Bay Storm, owned by the same group that owns the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, are out for the 2018 season, citing the rising costs and declining revenues of doing business in the AFL in the news release announcing their suspension of operations.

Despite shrinking AFL, owner of Baltimore Brigade says league will 'make this work'

Jonas Shaffer, Contact Reporter,The Baltimore Sun

22 Dec, 2017


Ted Leonsis: owner of The Baltimore Brigade and The Washington Valor

Despite the suspension of operations by two Arena Football League teams over the past month, the owner of the Baltimore Brigade said Thursday that he still believes in the league’s “great positioning” as a sport.

Ted Leonsis, founder and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which also owns the AFL’s Washington Valor, acknowledged on his “Ted’s Take” blog that the Tampa Bay Storm’s decision Thursday to sit out the 2018 season less than a month after the Cleveland Gladiators announced a two-year hiatus was a “step back” for the league.

The AFL has shrunk from 18 teams in 2011 to five last season — the first for the Brigade and Valor — to just four ahead of next season. Along with the Brigade and Valor, only the Philadelphia Soul and an as-yet-unnnamed franchise in Albany, N.Y., are set to compete this spring and summer.

But Leonsis, citing the turnaround of the NBA, which the Monumental-owned Washington Wizards compete in, as well as of the Washington Capitals, which he also owns, wrote he believes in “taking on challenges if it benefits the community, the fan base, the players and can build long term value,” even if doing so requires patience.e Storm, a founding member of the league, said rising league costs and reduced revenue drove their decision to suspend operations.The Gladiators will not play while $140 million in renovations are made to Quicken Loans Arena.

AFL Commissioner Scott Butera

AFL commissioner Scott Butera said in a release Thursday that the league “remains steadfast in building our organization to be stronger than ever," and Leonsis wrote that “we will continue to support the league.”

“We invested much last season, I am proud of our organization for what it accomplished—we carry on,” he wrote. “We go forward, we will make this work.”

The Tampa Bay Storm Suspend Operations

Joe Smith
Times staff writer
December 21, 2017

                                                             The Storm, a five-time Arenabowl Champion and the last team left from the original AFL, has folded.  With the AFL struggling, down to a handful of teams, Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment decided to reallocate its resources. "This was not an easy decision, but after deep consideration, evaluation and introspection, we have elected to reallocate the resources dedicated to arena football for other uses within our organization, including the growth of Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties," said president Steve Griggs.  This shouldn't be a huge surprise.  The AFL has been struggling. Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment cited rising league costs and reduced revenues in reason for suspending operations of the Storm. Griggs said the organization is pleased to explore future opportunities in "stronger, reinvented" AFL at right time. The Storm made Tampa Bay its home in 1991 and set league records for wins, championships and attendance. "We are eternally grateful to the Storm fans, current and former players, our sponsorship partners and the Tampa Bay community for their continued support during the team's 26 years of operation in Tampa Bay," Griggs said.  "We are proud of the five ArenaBowl Championships they all earned throughout our history."

Chris Thompson Named Albany AFL Director of Football Operations, Offensive Coordinator

Former Lehigh Valley Steelhawks head coach Chris Thompson has been named the director of football operations for the Albany-based Arena Football League team. Thompson stepped down as the Steelhawks head coach yesterday to take the role. Thompson will also serve as the team’s offensive coordinator.

During his seven seasons in Lehigh Valley, Thompson was the Steelhawks head coach and offensive coordinator. He won the 2017 National Arena League (NAL) Coach of the Year. They also played in the postseason all seven seasons under him.  Continued Here

Albany gets Arena Football League franchise for 2018

By David Johnson, The Saratogian

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. >> Pro indoor football is officially returning to the Capital District in 2018.

A new Albany Arena Football League franchise was announced by the team’s local ownership group, which includes Times Union Publisher George Hearst III, Dan Nolan and Ed Swyer at the Hearst Media Center Tuesday. The local owners have partnered with owners of the two-time defending AFL champion Philadelphia Soul, including former NFL stars Ron Jaworski and Marques Coleston, current Green Bay Packers lineman Jahri Evans and ex-NFL head coach Dick Vermeil.

“When you talk about a partnership that’s second to none, you’re marrying a brand new city that I think is going to be outstanding with regard to area football with what has become our proudest franchise right now with two straight championships and running,” AFL Comissioner Scott Butera said.

John Adams will serve as president of both teams but individual staffs for each franchise will be unique. The union of the ownership between the Soul and Albany’s unnamed team will not affect the competition on the field, Jaworski said.

“The ownership group doesn’t play,” Jaworski said. “We invest our money, we organize the teams and it will be a fierce competition on the field. We have nothing to do with the outcome of the game on the field.”

Albany will play it’s games at the Times Union Center, the former home of the Albany Firebirds, an AFL team who played until the team moved to Indianapolis in 2000.

Another area indoor football franchise called the Albany Conquest played in Arena Football’s development league from 2002-09.

“I’ve been around the AFL long enough to remember the Albany Firebirds. Watching them on ABC in an Arena Bowl game, fans going crazy up here in Albany,” Jaworski, a 17-year NFL veteran who is now an analyst, said. “It’s back. The good times are back in Albany.”

Many of the speakers Tuesday mentioned the opportunities the franchise will provide to the area as things to look forward to, including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

“This wonderful world-class facility is going to have premier professional football,” Sheehan said. “It’s going to bring tremendous excitement to downtown.”

Fans can go to and submit a team name suggestion. Final choices will be selected and made available for fan vote. The winning name will be announced after the voting period. The person that submitted the team name that was ultimately selected will receive a special team prize pack.

The ownership cited the league’s exciting product at an affordable family price as an advantage for the AFL in any market.

“I love being around kids who play football,” Vermeil a Super Bowl-winning coach of the St. Louis Rams, said. “It gives people an opportunity to play, people an opportunity to coach and people an opportunity to go to a game. You can afford to come. The first time I took (my wife) Carol to a game she intercepted a pass. It’s fun to identify with a team to feel close to other than a TV screen.”

The Albany team will be the sixth team to join five current franchises listed on the league website. Although that number may grow before the 2018 season kicks off in the spring of 2018.

Butera also mentioned a large fantasy sports company will soon partner with the league and sports betting options going forward.

There are several other competing indoor football leagues around the country, including the Indoor Football League and the fledgling Can-Am Indoor Football League, which will field a first-year team in the Glens Falls Civic Center in the spring of 2018.



Wells Fargo Center, the home of the 13-1 Philadelphia Soul, was the site of Arena Bowl XXX, the 2017 AFL Championship Game. The visiting Tampa Bay Storm, with a regular-season record of 10-4 came in hoping to gain their sixth AFL title game and their first win of the season over The Soul. 0-3 during the regular season vs. The Soul, The Storm came in with determination as well as four All-AFL offensive starters, including QB Randy Hippeard, WR’s Joe Hills, and Kendrick Ings. The Soul, playing in front of 13,648 boisterous fans, defeated the team from Tampa the last eight meetings in a row including three times in this season. Those victories were hard-fought affairs but in the end, Philadelphia always took home the W by an average score of nearly 13 points. With that kind of dominance Head Coach Clint Dolezel had every reason to be confident Philly would reward their fans support with their second straight Foster Trophy.

On the opening drive, Hippeard missed a wide-open Kendrick Ings for an easy six. Missed opportunities would plague both teams throughout the first half. A couple of plays later, Hippeard was bumped from behind causing an errant pass which was picked off by Soul DB #25 James Romaine. With the ball for the first time, Soul QB Dan Raudabaugh hit #24 Torez Jones for a long gain into the Tampa Bay end of the field. Unable to close the deal and backed up by penalties Philadelphia chose to try a field goal. It went wide and was played off the net and returned for a Tampa TD by Ings.  

All season long the Soul’s special teams had played spotty and Tampa knew it was a weakness they could exploit. They kicked off and pinned Philadelphia on their own 7. Raudabaugh missed a wide open #7 Darius Prince for an easy touch, and then Prince dropped another big gainer on 4th and one. With the ball back in Tampa’s hands, #81 Joe Hills missed a gimme 6 after falling in the end zone on 4th down. Philly got the ball back on their own 11, and after a Raudabaugh run for a 1st down the quarter ended with Tampa up 6-0.  

The jittery play continued into the 2nd quarter as Raudabaugh missed #21 Shaun Kauleinamoko for an easy big gainer which would have put the Soul, if not in the end zone, then at least inside the Tampa 5-yard line. After that, Philadelphia chose a more methodical approach. The drive ended with a Darius Prince 2-yard reception for a TD giving the Soul a one-point lead 7-6.  

After a kick-off through the goal posts for a touchback, Hippeard and the Storm finally began exploiting the opportunities the Philly D were giving them. Hills hauled in a 35-yard pass for the TD and this time Kicker Mark Lewis hit the PAT giving Tampa the lead at 13-7. Philadelphia’s return unit sputtered again and a couple of plays later, Raudabaugh threw a pick 6 to Storm Jack Linebacker, Alvin Ray Jackson. Lewis hit the PAT and Tampa extended their lead to 13 points 20-7. With another poor kick return and the crowd quieted, Philly appeared to be on the ropes. Continuing their methodical approach The Soul fought their way back. They worked the ball down to the 1-yard line and All-Arena First Team FB Mykel Benson powered his way into the end zone for the 6. K Adrian Trevino tacked on the PAT, and the teams went into halftime 20-14.

Having won the coin toss and deferring until the second half, Philadelphia caught Tampa by surprise. Expecting Philadelphia to continue its dink and dunk approach, they were shocked by a 40-yard strike to Darius Reynolds for the tie. After Trevino tacked on the PAT, The Soul regained the lead 21-20. The Lewis missed PAT appeared to be having major consequences for The Storm and with the crowd coming back to life Tampa had their work cut out for them.

Three minutes and thirty-two second later, The Storm retook the lead with what was possibly the best pass throughout the night from either quarterback. From their own 22 playing over the left hash, high-motion man Kendrick Ings streaked down the right side of the field and hauled in the strike just ahead of Soul DB #22 Dwayne Hillis. He ran the last few yards into the end zone and The Storm retook the lead by 6, 27-21.

Raudabaugh hit Prince with a short pass and after breaking a tackle, he turned it into a 34-yard gain down to the Tampa 6. That is when the most controversial play during the night occurred. Mykel Benson ran right side off-tackle but was called down by contact just short of the end zone. On replay, it appeared he might have been in and with crowd's encouragement Soul Head Coach Clint Dolezel threw out the challenge flag. The end zone view clearly showed when Benson’s knee went down, but not where the nose of the ball was at that moment. The sideline camera angle clearly showed the ball, but it was hard to see when the knee came down. Though it appeared to be a six-point play, without incontrovertible proof, the Referees were forced to uphold the ruling on the field. Undeterred, Raudabaugh hit Prince for the touch on the very next play. With the PAT good The Soul captured the

Ings plays it off the net and returns it for 6

momentum, and extended their lead to eight.  

On the kick-off Ings barely made it onto the field of play, and on the next play Philadelphia Safety # 55 Sean Daniels wrestled Randy Hippeard down in the end zone for the safety and a ten-point lead. Tampa succeeded with the surprise onside kick and Hippeard hit #15 Justin Hilton for the 42-yard TD to bring The Storm back to within 3. Then, with 5:54 left in the game, Tampa ordered up another onside kick. This time Philadelphia was ready, and they recovered the ball deep in the Tampa end. One minute and twenty seconds later, they sealed the victory with a beautiful 16-yard pass to Kauleinamoku. The Storm D bit on the Benson off left tackle run. Raudabaugh ran to his right parallel to the line of scrimmage drawing the remaining defenders towards him. They were hoping to prevent him from picking up the 1st down or possibly scoring. That’s when he spotted Kauleinamoke running from right to left along the end zone wall. Raudabaugh stopped and popped back across the middle for the clinching points. Tampa would hit for another 6 on a Hippeard to Ings pass, but it was too little too late. With five lead changes, long TD passes, some power running, and a few timely defensive and special team plays. The AFL Championship game offered everyone in attendance something to cheer about.

This past AFL season was marred by the defections of several of the leagues best teams. With the addition of Baltimore and DC, the league was barely viable with only five teams. Next year, it was announced two expansion teams will be joining the league bringing the number of teams up to the minimally adequate seven. While the AFL still considers itself to be the top league in the world, it's a claim is built on shaky ground. There's no question both Philadelphia and Tampa can claim to be two of the best teams in any league. The other three teams, however, would be competitive but not dominant in the NAL. The AFL's strength is its perceived longevity and marketing ability, but until they once again have a deep well of competitive teams throughout the country, they will only be a regional league boasting a big name with a dearth of competition. In the meantime, the nearly 14,000 fans in the Wells Fargo Center were treated to a good old-fashioned arena football game between two of the best teams in the world. Congratulations to the Philadelphia Soul taking advantage of your opportunities and delivering everything your fans could hope for two years in a row.   

                             AFL Final Standings
Philadelphia Soul 13 1 .929 817 590
Tampa Bay Storm 10 4 .714 710 662
Cleveland Gladiators 5 9 .357 696 715
Baltimore Brigade 4 10 .286 620 749
Washington Valor 3 11 .214 565 692