Infobox Sports league
title = af2
pixels = 150px
founded = 1999
inaugural = 2000
teams = 29
country = USA
Tennessee Valley Vipers
most_champs = (tie)
Quad City Steamwheelers& Tulsa Talons
website = [http://www.af2.com af2.com]
Arena Football League
af2 (short for arenafootball2) is the name of the
Arena Football League's minor league, which started play in 2000. The rules are the same as for the parent league. af2 plays its season from April to July.
Like most other minor sports leagues, the af2 exists to develop football players, and also to help players adapt to the style and pace of
arena football. In addition, the af2 is similar to other minor leagues because af2 teams play in smaller cities and smaller venues. While the AFL is played in cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Chicago, the af2 fields teams in cities such as Bossier City, Louisiana, North Little Rock, Green Bay, Huntsville, Manchester, Boise, Tri-Cities, Spokane, Louisville, Amarillo, Austin, and Tulsa. Players also earn less in the af2, with each player making $200 per game. [ [http://www.arenafan.com/news/?page=origcol&writer=115&article=2504 ArenaFan Online : AFL ArenaFan Originals ] ] [cite web | url=http://www.thetimes-tribune.com/site/index.cfm?newsid=2129865&BRD=2185&PAG=461&dept_id=590572&rfi=8 | title=Arena lands off-the-wall football team | date=2001-07-25]
The af2 was founded in 1999 by the Arena Football League in an attempt to bring the game to mid-sized markets following the success of AFL on the national level. [cite web | url=http://www.oursportscentral.com/footballhistory/credits/ | title=A Brief History of Arena and Indoor Football] The af2 was not intended to be a
farm systemfor the AFL like the American Hockey Leagueand Minor League Baseballare to the National Hockey Leagueand Major League Baseball, respectively. The league was instead designed as a league that would develop the players. The lack of AFL-af2 team affiliations would prevent the AFL from "stashing" players in the lower league for later use. Players in the af2 are signed to one-year contracts, after the expiration of which they essentially become free agents to sign with whichever league and team they would prefer. The one-year contracts with the individual af2 teams also prevents players from leaving for the parent league mid-season; this preserves the quality of play in the lower league and does not destroy team dynamic with players coming and going throughout the season. [cite web | url=http://www.oursportscentral.com/services/releases/?id=2707574 | title=The Jim Foster Interview Part 1 | date=2000-05-08] [cite web | url=http://www.oursportscentral.com/services/releases/?id=2707585 | title=The Jim Foster Interview Part 2 | date=2000-05-14]
The foundation of the af2 was a response to launch of several small-market leagues in the mid to late 1990s, including the
Professional Indoor Football League, Indoor Professional Football League, and Indoor Football League. Each of these leagues, though they would eventually fold, managed to last a few seasons each, proving that the game had traction in the smaller cities. With Jim Foster's patent on arena football, the af2 had the advantage of being the same game as was being seen on the national level with the use of the rebound nets. [cite web | url=http://www.oursportscentral.com/footballhistory/credits/ | title=A Brief History of Arena and Indoor Football] Working on a smaller scale, the af2 would try to capitalize on local and regional rivalries. [cite web | url=http://www.oursportscentral.com/services/releases/?id=2707506 | title=af2 Announces Kickoff 2000 | date=2000-01-11]
The Xtreme Football League was another upstart league trying to capitalize on the arena football phenomenon. Founded in
Birmingham, Alabama, the XFL (which is not related to the WWE-backed outdoor league) used East Coast Hockey Leagueownership to keep team costs low while providing established ownership and arenas for play. The league never played a game as it and its nine teams were purchased by the af2. [cite web | url=http://www.oursportscentral.com/footballhistory/credits/ | title=A Brief History of Arena and Indoor Football]
The af2 finally took the field in March 2000 in a game between the Alabama Steeldogs and
Tennessee Valley Vipers(the latter of which was one of the acquired XFL teams). Fifteen teams were fielded in 2000 with the rights for several more cities quickly secured. The Orlando Predatorsalso purchased competitor Indoor Football League; several teams would be absorbed into the af2 for the 2001 season. [cite web | url=http://www.oursportscentral.com/footballhistory/credits/ | title=A Brief History of Arena and Indoor Football]
The first season concluded with over 868,000 people attending af2 games, averaging over 7,200 per game; several teams ended with average attendances over 10,000 fans. [cite web | url=http://www.arenafan.com/history/?page=yearly&fpage=attendance&year=2000&league=2 | title=2000 af2 attendance chart] In addition over 9,200 fans attended
ArenaCup Ibetween the Tennessee Valley Vipers and Quad City Steamwheelersin Moline, Illinois. [cite web | url=http://www.arenafan.com/history/?page=abowls&league=2 | title=ArenaCup History] Deemed a success, the league returned for a second season and returned all 15 original teams as well as 13 expansion teams.
ArenaCupis the af2's championship game, held annually August. For the league's first five years, it was held at the home arena of the higher-seeded remaining team. However, as AFL has changed, the af2 has also changed. In the same year that ArenaBowl XIXwas played at a neutral site in Las Vegas, Nevada, ArenaCup VIwas the first af2 championship to be played at a neutral site in Bossier City, Louisiana. The practice continued the following year when ArenaCup VIIwas played in Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan [cite web |url=http://www.af2.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=3525&ATCLID=510967&SPID=1590&ISWIDE=1 |title=2006 ArenaCup to be played in Puerto Rico |accessdate=2007-03-26 |date= 2006-07-21|work=Af2] ; the title game returned to Bossier City in ArenaCup VIII. Citing lower attendances at the neutral site ArenaCup games, the league returned to the original arena arrangement for the 2008 season. [cite web |url=http://www.af2.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=3525&ATCLID=1415975&SPID=1590&ISWIDE=1 |title=2008 ArenaCup returns to highest seed format |accessdate=2008-03-20 |date= 2008-03-20|work=Af2]
With the exception of
ArenaCup V, all af2 championships have been televised either nationally or locally. The inaugural and second ArenaCups were broadcast on Spike TV, which carried AFL games on Sunday afternoons at the time. However, when the AFL announced that broadcast rights had been purchased by NBCthe ArenaCup national telecast was lost. The 2002ArenaCup was televised by the Vision Network, and ArenaCup IVwas televised by KWHB, a local station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After having no television coverage in 2004, the national telecasts returned to the airwaves with Fox Sports Netin 2005 and Comcast Sports Netin 2006, and 2007. ArenaCup 9 will also be broadcast on Comcast.
As of 2008, ArenaCup 9, as well as the season in its entirety, is broadcast online via NiFTy TV. [ [http://www.niftytv.com/news.php?article=64 "arenafootball2 Fans Can Watch Their Home Team Score With NFT's Online Broadcasting Technology"] , "
NiFTy Online Television", 2008-03-25.]
In a June
2003interview with Sports Illustrated, AFL commissioner David Baker briefly mentioned the af2, saying how one day, he envisions the league growing to 100 teams. Currently, this vision seems rather unlikely, as there has not been consistent expansion of the league. The af2 started off with 15 teams in 2000, then expanded to 28 teams in 2001, and finally 34 in 2002. The number of teams the league fielded dropped every year from there on after, until the 2006 season. 27 teams were fielded in 2003, 25 in 2004, and 20 in 2005. Finally, in 2006, the af2 saw its first expansion in 4 years, fielding 23 teams, and continued that into 2007 with 30 teams.
The drop in teams between 2002 and 2006 can be partially attributed to the league expanding too rapidly in its first 3 seasons. Many teams were financially unstable and folded. This can be due to higher expenses compared to similar leagues. Franchise fees in the league range from $600,000 to $1 million. [cite news |first=Mike |last=Lowe |title=Arena football discussed |url=http://sports.mainetoday.com/pirates/stories/060901arenafootbal.shtml |work=
Portland Press Herald|date= 2006-09-01|accessdate=2007-03-26] Historically, massive expansions have had little success. For instance, the National Indoor Football League, a rival indoor league, has seen large amounts of expansion teams since they began in 2001 but many struggle financially.
Nine new expansion teams were approved for 2007 in the af2: the
Boise Burn, the Cincinnati Jungle Kats, the Fort Wayne Fusion, the Laredo Lobos, the Lubbock Renegades, the Mahoning Valley Thunder, the Texas Copperheads, the Tri-Cities Fever, and the Corpus Christi Sharks. The Texas, Laredo, and Tri-Cities teams moved to the af2 from other indoor football leagues. For the 2007 season the league fielded 30 teams. After the 2007 season, three of those teams folded, the Fort Wayne Fusion, the Cincinnati Jungle Kats, and the Laredo Lobos. Also the Everett Hawks, Alabama Steeldogs, and the Bakersfield Blitzceased operations.For 2008 the league fielded one less team at 29. Two teams the Iowa Barnstormers and the Peoria Pirateswere reactivated, and the league admitted three new teams that were transferring from other leagues. The Lexington Horsemencame from the UIF, the Daytona Beach ThunderBirdsfrom the WIFL and the Austin Wranglersmoved down from the AFL.
Announced expansion teams and cities
Will begin play in 2009
Milwaukee Iron- will play at the Bradley Center[cite news | title=Milwaukee Iron become newest af2 entry |url=http://www.af2.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=3525&ATCLID=1595854&SPID=1590&ISWIDE=1]
Will begin play in 2010
Toledo, Ohio- expected to being play in 2010 at Lucas County Arena[cite web | last = Silka | first = Zach | title = Toledo football franchise to join Walleyes in arena | publisher = Toledo Blade | date = September 22, 2008 | url = http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080922/SPORTS01/809229997 | accessdatee = September 22, 2008]
Confirmed to have franchise, start date uncertain
Albuquerque, New Mexico- franchise has been awarded to ownership, but a start date and location are unknown [cite news | title=Brian Urlacher Joins Group Bringing Arena Football to Albuquerque |url=http://www.arenafan.com/news/?page=pressrel&article=6563] [cite news | title=Albuquerque Arena Football…Looking Forward |url=http://www.dynamiccampaign.net/arenafootball/LookingForward.aspx | date=2008-01-11]
Buffalo, New York- expected to begin play in 2009 at HSBC Arena[cite news| title=Buffalo gets AF2 franchise|url=http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/story/354801.html]
Potential expansion cities
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan- would begin play in 2009 at Credit Union Centre[cite news| title=Arena football looks Saskatoon's way|url=http://www.canada.com/saskatoonstarphoenix/news/sports/story.html?id=6998c959-aa4d-4df9-bc0c-eee44d92e677]
Yakima, Washington- would begin play in 2009 at Yakima SunDome[cite news| title=Finding a home in the Dome|url=http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/3728]
Defunct af2 teams
List of leagues of American football
* [http://www.af2.com Official webite]
* [http://www.arenafan.com/index.php?league=2 ArenaFan Online]
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