- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (AP) - The Arena Football League and its players reached a collective bargaining agreement that could clear the way for play to resume in 2010.

Jim Renacci, the vice chairman of the AFL executive committee, told The Associated Press the agreement was to be announced Monday.

“That was an integral part of getting us back for 2010,” Renacci said Saturday at a sports law conference at the Harvard Law School, adding an announcement on resuming play could come in the next 30 days. “We really need to if we’re going to get back into the boat for 2010.”

Renacci said the new labor agreement is just one step toward getting back on the field next year. The league also plans to restructure into a single entity ownership model and work out a deal with ESPN, which invested in the league and owned broadcast and internet rights.

A spokesman from the NFLPA, which represents the indoor league’s players, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Renacci, a partner and managing board member of the Columbus Destroyers, said the agreement with the players was the first major hurdle for the 22-year-old league.

The AFL’s possible return bucks a trend of cutbacks in sports as leagues and teams try to adjust to the deepening recession. College programs are cutting expenses, pro leagues have been laying off workers and even blue-chip teams like the New York Yankees are finding it harder to sell once-coveted tickets.

“These are trying economic times,” rocker Jon Bon Jovi, co-owner of the ArenaBowl champion Philadelphia Soul, said in December, when the league’s owners voted not to play in ‘09. “The revamping will ensure that the AFL continues to provide value to its fans and not only survives but thrives in the years to come.”

Arena football features eight-on-eight play on a 50-yard, indoor field. The AFL’s 25-team minor league, af2, was not affected by the shutdown.

Renacci said the league plans to resume play with 18 teams _ the original 16 plus two in cities he would not identify.

“We’ve had a couple of teams that want to join,” he said.

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