The Alliance of American Football suspended all football operations on Tuesday, ending its inaugural season with several weeks still remaining on the schedule amid financial difficulties.
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The AAF broke the news to its players in a letter from its board of directors, noting that it would attempt to "restructure" the league and seek new investors. While the letter did not provide a reason for the decision, the league reportedly needed another $20 million to complete its first season, and Tom Dundon, the league’s majority owner and chairman, opted to pull funding. League employees will be paid through Wednesday.
"I'm extremely disappointed," AAF co-founder and former NFL executive Bill Polian told the Associated Press. "On the one hand it was kind of our wildest fantasies come true. It all came true and now it's all come crashing down."
AAF representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the situation. Pro Football Talk was first to report the AAF's decision.
Dundon invested $250 million in the AAF after it encountered financial problems just weeks into its first season, in a deal that reportedly gave the billionaire the option to withdraw funding at any time. If the league does fold, Dundon will lose $70 million on his initial investment, The Action Network’s Darren Rovell reported.
The AAF will end play with two weeks remaining in its regular season. Founded by Polian and Charlie Ebersol , the eight-team league had also intended to hold a multi-week postseason.
Polian expressed regret about Dundon's decision. In a statement later Tuesday, he said that he and Ebersol “that we would finish the season, pay our creditors and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all. The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity.”
Dundon warned earlier this month that the AAF would soon fold if it was unable to reach a deal with the NFL Players’ Association that would allow AAF teams to use young NFL players on its rosters. The AAF sought to become a developmental league for the NFL, but union representatives pushed back on the proposal, citing concerns about labor agreements and player health.
The AAF would join several other upstart football leagues, including the United States Football League and the original XFL, which have folded quickly after launch due to financial difficulties. A rebooted version of the XFL is set to debut in 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.