Despite coming off a season in which the league boasted the highest attendance and ticket revenue sales in its 22-year history, the Arena Football League suspended its 2009 season.
The hope for the future is to create a new business plan in addition to increasing revenue within the franchises and for owners who are coming up short.
"Owners recognize that, especially in light of the current unprecedented economic climate, the AFL, as a business enterprise, needs to be restructured if it is to continue to provide its unique brand of this affordable, fan-friendly sport," Ed Policy, the AFL's interim commissioner, said in a league statement.
Jim Renacci, who serves as vice chair of the AFL's executive committee as well as co-owner of the Columbus Destroyers, will lead the restructuring plan, the league said.
Over the past several weeks, ownership met with league executives to avoid cancellation. Nevertheless, talks came to an end Sunday night with a conference call among the owners.
The cancellation was pending an agreement from the players union. Players union representatives held a conference call last night.
"We haven't supported that move; then again, I don't think they need our approval," said Soul receiver Chris Jackson, a key member of the players association. "They are the owners and if they say we don't play, we don't play."
Jackson said the union was seeking assurances that the league would return in 2010.
"Every owner is committed to coming back in 2010," Renacci said.
The Soul, part of the league since 2004, is coming off a championship season that attracted a large following - average attendance of 16,477, according to the team - as well as sizable season-ticket sales for 2009. "We, the owners of the Arena Football League, realize we have the most fan-friendly, affordable and accessible sport anywhere," said Soul co-owner Jon Bon Jovi in the statement. "These are trying economic times. The revamping will ensure that the AFL continues to provide value to its fans and not only survives but thrives in the years to come."
The Soul intends to issue refunds, going as far as to contact each season ticketholder to apologize as well as posting a "frequently asked questions" page regarding the cancellation on its Web site.
A team source said layoffs are "imminent" as the plummeting economy and a lack of real work with the league "on pause" will affect front-office personnel.
"We have a very talented group of associates, and we are sorry to see them go, but we look forward to the opportunity to work with many of them again next season," acting general manger Paul Korzilius said.
Soul coach Bret Munsey did not return phone messages from the Daily News.
Jackson said that while this decision didn't come as much of a shock, it was unfortunate that a solution was not reached.
"It's not really that shocking, but more unfortunate that this situation couldn't have been avoided," he said. "I can't speak for the rest of the league, but I know that we [the Soul] were ready for this season to get started. To have it put on hold like this really puts a damper on what we're trying to do."
Jackson said this is a tough time for players who will forego a paycheck since there is no supplemental income while the league breaks down and restructures.
Commitment-wise, the Soul still has plans to continue work in the community though its Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation, which helps impoverished families and the homeless. But the 131,817 fans the Soul drew last season, who were promised a free concert by Bon Jovi after the Soul defeated the San Jose SaberCats in ArenaBowl XXII, may have to wait.
"As far as that [concert] is concerned, I couldn't even tell you because I don't think we know," said a Soul representative. "But we do promise that when we know, so will our fans." *