Birmingham Irons’ league suspending operations 8 games into season

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - MARCH 31: J.C. Hassenauer #70 of the Birmingham Iron celebrates with receiver Quinton Patton #11 after a two-point conversion during the first half of an Alliance of American Football game at Legion Field on March 31, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)

The Alliance of American Football, which had a promising start as the latest spring league, is suspending operations eight games into its first season.

Games will not be played this weekend. The decision was made by majority owner Tom Dundon, who also owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, two people with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because league officials were still working through details of the suspension. An announcement from the league is expected later Tuesday.

Both people said league co-founders Bill Polian, a former NFL executive, and Charlie Ebersol, a television and film producer, were surprised with Dundon’s decision and did not want to suspend operations.

One of the people who spoke on condition of anonymity said league officials feared Dundon would fold the league.

The San Diego Fleet canceled practiced about a half hour before it was scheduled to start.

The AAF seemed to have a better chance of surviving than other alternative leagues, such as the USFL and the World League, because of the people and philosophies involved.

Polian and Ebersol envisioned it as a development league for the NFL with several rules tweaks designed to speed up play and make it safer. There were no kickoffs or PATs, and teams had to go for a two-point conversion after touchdowns.

Among the league’s coaches were Steve Spurrier, Dennis Erickson, Mike Martz and Mike Riley. The league included teams in Orlando, Atlanta, San Diego, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Birmingham and Memphis.

While it clearly wasn’t NFL-caliber football, it was entertaining and helped fill the post-Super Bowl void.

However, there were signs of trouble in a league put together in less than one year.

Dundon invested $250 million in the AAF shortly after play began. At the time, Ebersol said reports the Alliance was short on cash and needed a bailout from Dundon in order to make payroll were untrue. He said the league had a technical glitch in its payroll system that was fixed.

The AAF aspired to be a league for players with NFL hopes, but it could not reach agreement with the NFLPA to use players at the end of NFL rosters.

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