The Arena Football League declared bankruptcy on Wednesday, shutting down after 10 years in its current form and 32 years overall.
It’s a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, meaning the AFL is past the point of being able to reorganize. The league was at the same point in 2009 when it canceled that season after 22 straight years of operation. But that bankruptcy was reclassified as Chapter 11, which is voluntary, and the league came back in 2010.
In late October, the AFL shut down all of its “team services and business operations” in local markets. AFL commissioner Randall Boe said in a statement at the time that the league faced “extensive legacy liabilities and a recent multimillion-dollar litigation filed against the League by an insurance carrier that provided coverage for the AFL between 2009 and 2012.”
The year had started out well, with expansion to Atlantic City and a return to Columbus. Philadelphia Soul owner Ron Jaworski was optimistic about the league’s future plans, and the new teams were a good sign. But the league was unable to raise the money it needed to keep going.
“We’re all disappointed that we couldn’t find a way forward and we wanted to thank our fans, our players, coaches, everyone who loved the Arena Football League,” Boe said in a statement on Wednesday. “We all love the game and tried very hard to make it successful, but we simply weren’t able to raise the capital necessary to grow the league, resolve our substantial legacy liabilities and make it financially viable.”
The Soul won three AFL titles — 2008, 2017 and 2016 — and lost in the ArenaBowl title game three more times, including this year. When the team launched in 2004, its ownership group included Jaworski, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. Bon Jovi and Sambora left amid the 2009 shutdown.
When the league came back in 2010, Jaworski was the Soul’s lead owner and one of the league’s most public faces. That included trips to China in 2012 and 2013 to try to plant the AFL’s flag there. He was joined along the way by former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil (for whom Jaworski played in the late 70s and early 80s), Chickie’s & Pete’s owner Pete Ciarrocchi, and other investors.