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Arena Football League decides not to shut down yet

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

By DAN GELSTON

AP Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The Arena Football League voted Wednesday not to suspend play in 2009 for now, a shift during a tumultuous week in which the league seemed poised to cancel the season.

The AFL's board of directors voted via conference call.

"The Board will continue to meet regularly to examine any and all long-term structural improvement options for the AFL," the league said in a statement.

The 16-team league repeatedly has delayed the start of free agency and the release of its 2009 schedule after an offseason of uncertainty. No replacement has been named for longtime commissioner David Baker, who abruptly resigned in July two days before the ArenaBowl championship game.

"I have yet to hear anything from our ownership, but I am happy for the league and happy to possibly have the opportunity to defend our championship," Philadelphia Soul coach Bret Munsey said Wednesday evening after the vote.

"We all know there are some things that need to be corrected, and that's what they're working on. They're working on the economic model, and it needs to be corrected. Maybe this makes the league stronger. We're looking to be around for another 20 years."

The AFL's woes come at a time when the world of sports, once thought to be largely recession-proof, has felt the economic chill. The NFL has said it would cut 150 jobs, while the NBA and NASCAR also have laid off dozens of workers. The NHL is in a hiring freeze while the Internet operation for Major League Baseball also has trimmed positions.

It's still possible there could be big changes to the 22-year-old league.

Philadelphia Soul wide receiver Chris Jackson told the AP that the league's players had agreed to take pay cuts and were told Tuesday that the season likely would be canceled.

Players' union spokesman Carl Francis declined to discuss specifics about the 2009 season.

"We definitely are in discussions with the Arena Football League on these issues," he said.

Officials from several teams said they were proceeding with business as usual for the time being.

"We're readying contracts right now for when we're ready to move forward with free agency," said Luke Stahmer, vice president of operations for the Colorado Crush. "We're buying helmets and jerseys as if it's a regular season. We don't want to get caught with our pants down, so to speak."



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