The short-lived Alliance of American Football league filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in San Antonio this week after the league ceased operations earlier this month.
The league was founded last year by NFL Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian and Hollywood producer Charlie Ebersol with grand promises of a slow build and staying power only to founder before completing its first season.
The case filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas names Legendary Field Exhibitions LLC as the debtor, with $11.4 million in assets and $48.3 in total liabilities.
San Antonio became the de facto home of the league when the AAF decided to hold a league-wide training camp here in January with multiple preseason games played in private in the Alamodome.
The San Antonio Commanders, who called the Alamodome home for four games and numerous practices, were easily the most successful team, attracting more than 27,000 fans per game.
Teams in other cities such as Atlanta; Salt Lake City; Orlando, Florida; and Birmingham, Alabama, were far less successful in attracting fans and it quickly was revealed the founders and initial investors did not have the financial resources in place to get the eight-team league through even one season.
Tom Dundon, a Dallas-based billionaire and owner of the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL, swooped in with a $250 million commitment in February but chose to shut down the league by April after spending $70 million.
“I know everyone has conspiracy theories,” Ebersol told the SportsBusiness Journal. “But, unfortunately, this may have just died because the main investor and the founders had different visions of what the company was supposed to be. … Our long-term vision for building something slowly and getting enterprise value was not aligned with [Dundon’s] vision of how he saw the league.”
Ebersol’s reference to conspiracy theories might be directed at those who have theorized that NFL owners didn’t like how the league seemed to be showing up the NFL with faster-paced games and more effective and transparent replay system, among other rules differences.
It could also be a reference to some who believe Dundon simply wanted to get his hands on the league’s innovative app and in-game sports betting technology.
While numerous spring pro football leagues have come and gone over the years, this latest failure won’t stop more similar endeavors in the future. The second coming of the XFL is already slated for February 2020 with eight teams, including franchises in Dallas and Houston.