The Alliance of American Football’s inaugural title game will be held April 27 at Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium and now has an official name: The Alliance Championship.
Regular-season play in the new eight-team league began Feb. 9 and will continue for 10 weeks, through April 14. With the exception of Arizona and Atlanta, AAFteams represent cities without a National Football League team: Birmingham, Ala.; Memphis, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio; and San Diego.
According to Yahoo! Sports, the league’s first two nationally televised games on opening weekend on CBS posted better ratings than the weekly National Basketball Association game on ABC. “The challenge for the AAF will be to keep the good times rolling,” wrote columnist Frank Schwab. “Ratings will be harder when the games are on CBS Sports Network and not CBS in prime time. The novelty is great, but compelling football will be what keeps people engaged long term.”
“For the past 50 years, every attempt to start a new professional football league has faced the same problem,” added Dan Wolken on USAToday.com. “Though football is far and away America’s most popular sport, there is simply no evidence that enough people want to spend enough time watching a minor-league version to make it financially viable over the long-term.”
The AAF has been generating lots of news lately — much of it off the field. Here are some of the big stories surrounding the league, which reportedly was running short on cash mere days after the inaugural games kicked off:
- Dallas billionaire and owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes Tom Dundon reportedly gave the fledgling league a $250 million cash infusion, as teams struggled to make payroll for Week Two’s games. He is now listed as the AAF’s majority owner and chairman.
- Not long after the Dundon news broke, California venture capitalist Robert Vanech sued the AAF and league founder Charlie Ebersol, claiming Vanech came up with the idea for the league. He claims to have had a “handshake agreement” entitling him to 50 percent ownership of the league. The AAF subsequently issued a statement denying that claim: “Mr. Vanech’s claim is without merit. There was never any agreement, oral or written, between Mr. Vanech and Mr. Ebersol relating to The Alliance. We remain focused solely on our historic, inaugural season when each weekend over 400 players get an opportunity to showcase their talents and fulfill their dreams of playing professional football.”
- Despite all of the off-the-field action, television ratings continue to climb. As reported by profootballtalk.nbcsports.com, “the Saturday night [Feb. 23] game generated an average audience of 491,000, up from 424,000 in Week Two. On Sunday night, the prime-time game drew an average crowd of 515,000, a 90,000-viewer increase from Week Two’s comparable crowd of 425,000. Making the Sunday night number even more impressive is the fact that the game competed head to head with the Oscars.”By comparison, by Week Seven of the XFL’s one and only season in 2001, the national rating of 1.6 for a night game was believed to be the lowest in prime-time everamong the big three networks in Nielsen Media Research history.
- Viewership could increase even more if the AAF can attract such former big-name NFL players as Tim Tebow, Colin Kaepernick and Johnny Manziel. Recent reportshave connected all three to the league.