The Alliance of American Football (AAF) launched the weekend after the Super Bowl with plenty of promise. A slate of exciting games and curiosity about the new league brought viewers in – one game that debut weekend garnered higher ratings than ABC’s weekly NBA contest the same night.
But ratings and buzz haven’t translated into financial success, at least not yet. In fact, the AAF had to rely on a substantial infusion of cash from Raleigh investor and Carolina Hurricanes majority owner Tom Dundon. The billionaire had to drop $250 million to allow the league to make payroll and pay its bills.
The investment has helped the AAF, and the league is taking its rough start in stride. The Athletic quotes once source about the matter:
“The hope and belief now is that years from now, (the AAF) can look back and consider these some scary growing pains, because this league clearly has a chance to become incredibly successful,” one source said. “The opening weekend provided a lot of excitement and hope, even beyond the TV numbers. Obviously, though, the original plan did not include a financial crisis in Week 2.”
The AAF has not sought to be competition to the NFL; rather, personnel have thought of the upstart league as a potential developmental pipeline for the NFL. After all, many of the players were either cut from NFL teams or didn’t make it in the big leagues for whatever reason. There’s a definite “second chance” vibe to the AAF.
Add to it the unique rules changes designed to make play quicker and more exciting: things like no kickoffs or extra points and 30-second play clocks. The AAF tries to make the viewer experience more engaging, with live mics on players and coaches and limited commercial interruptions, and their app is excellent to boot.
Of course, time will tell if the AAF has staying power. Fledgling sports concepts that failed litter the modern athletic landscape, so the AAF certainly has a hard road to travel. It’s certainly a lot of fun to watch and can even be inspiring from time to time, so here’s hoping the AAF really is here to stay.