The Arena Football League (AFL) has declared that it will relaunch in 2024, with intentions to formally return to the field under new management.
After purchasing the AFL’s rights in January 2022, investment firm F1 Sports & Entertainment will take over management of the league when it resumes play. Chairman Chris Chetty, President Anthony Rossi, and President of Operations Shan Singh will make up the league’s board of directors. Commissioner Lee A. Hutton III, Deputy Commissioner Travelle Gaines, President of Entertainment Tuo Clark, and Executive Vice President Curt Feldtkeller will make up the executive leadership team.
“We are elated to come out of hibernation and make this announcement official,” Rossi said. “Our objective when we acquired the AFL was to bring back a storied brand that deserved to be revived and showcased again, globally. We envisioned executing on the old saying ‘Bigger and Better,’ but this time, we want to incorporate the components of a modern-day business – streaming, betting, technology, virtual reality, and immerse fan engagement mixed with good old-fashioned iron-man football. The re-launch of the AFL first started with assembling a respected executive and advisory team. Each partner, member and business executive of today’s AFL was meticulously hand-selected piece by piece. We believe we have assembled a world-class, operational team made up of C-Suite executives, expert sports trainers, football personnel, performance facilities, legal partners, professional team owners and former athletes.”
Given that Hutton will be the first Black commissioner to lead an American professional sports league, his appointment as AFL commissioner has important historical ramifications. He worked as a lawyer who negotiated contracts on behalf of Fortune 500 corporations, athletes, celebrities, and artists. Hutton has worked on high-profile matters throughout his career, from NFL concussion litigation to NCAA NIL legal disputes.
“The Arena Football League brand has always sat at the promontory of indoor football by offering gridiron entertainment, fast action, and iron tough athletes in conjunction with delivering a family fun fan experience that uniquely engages the pig skin enthusiast,” Hutton said. “Ultimately, the professional sports brand speaks for itself and is proud to announce, ‘We are back!’”
The AFL will debut with 16 clubs and 10 regular season games before postseason play under Hutton’s direction.
“Our commitment is to deliver a professional sports event every week indoors, on the shoulder of the summer season when the world craves entertainment and competition,” Chetty said. “We aim to produce a family-friendly, yet equally electric atmosphere for our committed fans. As Chairman, my objective will be to change the culture of professional sports ownership and it is with great confidence that I state – from the owners to the players – we will be the most racially-diverse professional sports league in the world.”
“The AFL has an iconic legacy of 30-plus years and we plan to honor that history,” Gaines said. “We will bring teams to markets that previously boasted AFL franchises and engage with the rabid fanbases that supported our brand of football. The AFL also plans to provide year-round, sports performance training, rehabilitation resources and nutritional programs to ensure the modern athlete is better prepared for ironman football.”