Arena League adopts new business model

The business model the Arena Football League used previously was broken. That’s why there was no AFL last season.

They’re working to re-start the franchise in Chicago, where the Rush were one of the more successful teams in the old league, and the numbers certainly give you an idea of why the previous outfit was doomed to fail.

According to a report by Ed Sherman in Crain’s Chicago Business, the Rush lost more than $1 million in 2008 despite average crowds of nearly 16,000 people at Allstate Arena. If the Rush did better than most of the competition, two questions come to mind. First, how much were the others losing? Second, how is the revamped league going to succeed where the other one failed?

"It didn't make any money because of a flawed business model," Ken Valdiserri, the Rush's president, told Sherman. "The pay structure for players was way out of whack. We had guys making $200,000. Something had to be done."

What’s been done is the players aren’t going to be seeing six-digit incomes from the league. Valdiserri said the league is now a means for players to “supplement their incomes as opposed to it being a lifestyle.”

In the past, Arena players have held offseason jobs. Chicago Bears wide receiver Rashied Davis worked at Best Buy in the offseason when he wasn’t playing for San Jose in the Arena League. He also had a gig as a bouncer. You have to wonder, though, if the league is going to struggle keeping better players if it’s not going to pay them. They’re all playing for a dream to move to the NFL.

"It goes back to the days when football players played for the opportunity," Rush co-owner Mike Ditka told Sherman. "I like that. They have a lot of quality people there."

Valdiserri said expectations for the first season back aren’t over the top. The Rush are hoping to be able to average close to 10,000 fans per game. It’s affordable family entertainment. The league has wisely aligned itself with the NFL Network. But will it work? We’ll see.

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