- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2018

The Arena Football League announced Friday it reached an agreement with the Arena Football League Players Union on a new, four-year collective bargaining agreement, avoiding the possibility that the league would cancel the 2018 season or fold altogether.

The deal will nearly double player compensation and expand players’ health care coverage, the AFL said in a press release.

The 2018 AFL season will begin next month with four teams: the Washington Valor, Baltimore Brigade, Philadelphia Soul and Albany Empire. Albany is an expansion team.

“We believe passionately in this league,” said Ron Jaworski, chairman of the AFL Executive Committee and owner of the Philadelphia Soul. “We love the game, and our players and coaches show incredible talent, dedication and heart every time they step on the field.”

Founded in 1987, the AFL played 30 seasons in the past 31 years. Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner are among the notable names to have played in the AFL.

Some arena fans speculated that the league might fold after Philadelphia Soul color commentator Coffee Jones tweeted this on Tuesday:

The league had as many as 19 teams in 2007 but underwent major retraction during this decade. The 2009 season was canceled as the league considered filing for bankruptcy. Though 17 teams played as recently as 2012, the league shrank to five teams by 2017.

Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the Ted Leonsis-led company that owns the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics, brought indoor football back to the region in 2017. MSE owns both the Valor and Brigade, which debuted as expansion clubs last year.

The Valor and Brigade are scheduled to kick off the 2018 season on April 13 at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.

“A special thank you from executive director Ivan Soto to Randy Boe of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Ted Leonsis and especially Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski for your consummate professionalism and ‘never give up’ attitude which helped us get the ball across the line with not much time left on the clock,” the Arena Football League Players Union wrote in a statement.

Leonsis was not immediately available for comment on the new agreement.

The league said in its press release that the new CBA positions the league for “growth and expansion opportunities.”

“We are thrilled that we were able to reach this agreement, and we look forward not only to an exciting 2018 season, but to big potential for league growth and expansion through new tech, digital and virtual gaming partnerships,” Jaworski said. “We are only just getting started.”

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