The American Flag Football League (AFFL) will debut in spring 2018, with 1,024 amateur teams (open to public, close March 1) competing in a 7-on-7 single-elimination tournament. Winners receive $50,000 and get an opportunity to play a team of professionals for $1 million in prize money. JohnWallStreet had a chance to speak to AFFL founder Jeff Lewis and asked him a few questions about his new venture.
A lot of start-up football leagues have failed. Why does the AFFL have a chance to succeed?
Lewis: What’s tough about football is, it’s the sport that requires the most resources; the most players, the most coaches, the most gear, the biggest field and so when you start trying to run numbers, man does it add up. When you think about this (AFFL) as a business, you just don’t need that many players. Essentially, we can attack the sport with the biggest audience (football) with basketball team-size costs and that makes it an interesting prospect.
Some will argue that the gladiator aspect of football is the draw. Can you draw an audience without violence?
Lewis: We scraped some data that showed what people talk about most on social media when they watch football. What was very clear was that nobody talked about tackles or hits or anything about that aggressive element of the game. What they were constantly engaged in, was the spectacular. The run, the pass, the interception, the stuff that we still have.
How do you guys plan on making money with this league?
Lewis: We’re in the business of creating a show. We’re WWE. We’re NASCAR. We’re going to put on live events and we want people to attend the live events. Even if 65-70% of the long-term value we would garner from this, is as content, it all starts with the event itself. If you don’t make the event work, then the content value is unattainable.
Howie Long-Short: The Arena Football League, which got its start in 1987, is going to play its 2018 season with the fewest number of teams (4) since the league’s inaugural season; following an announcement that the Tampa Bay Storm are suspending operations, the second franchise to do so since Thanksgiving (Cleveland). While the league appears to be in trouble, Ron Jaworski (part owner of both the Philadelphia Soul and new Albany franchise) said the remaining owners remain “rock solid” in their commitment to the league and that the AFL could work itself back to 12 teams within 3 years. Monumental Sports & Entertainment owns the Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade franchises.
Lewis: There are GREAT athletes in the AFL. The problem with the sport is that when you shrink it down, those athletes don’t get to show themselves in the best way. Football requires scale and space. There is something dissonant to most football fans about the compressed space of the indoor game. That’s one of the reasons we are so focused on playing on a full-sized field.
Fan Marino: The AFFL player pool is going to have former NFL guys (think: Vick, Faulk) but it’s the athletes they’re bringing in from other sports that I’m far more curious to see play. An interesting name to watch: 3x NBA slam dunk champion Nate Robinson.
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