American Flag Football League sells Boston and Vegas franchises for $3 million

The American Flag Football League, which will launch a professional league in the spring of 2023, sold its first franchises in Boston and Las Vegas at a price of $3 million each.

“It wasn’t our intention to sell any of the teams, but we started to see a lot of interest and changed our attitude about it,” league founder Jeff Lewis said on a video call. “We will open with four to six teams, at least four of which will be owned by third parties.”

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The first two franchises were sold to private investors; Lewis declined to name them, even though the investors do not currently own any other teams in a top-tier sports league.

The AFFL wants to franchise cities with strong soccer participation and a good base of local college and professional soccer veterans. “Boston makes a lot of sense to us because we have a youth league that has about 10,000 kids and half of them are in New England,” Lewis said, “[and] Vegas, there are so many athletes out there it’s ridiculous.”

There are ongoing discussions about selling a third franchise in Pittsburgh, while football hotbeds in Florida and Texas are also being targeted by teams, according to Lewis. Sprawling metropolises with a large roster of professional teams, such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, are unlikely to be AFFL’s first cities, he added.

The AFFL has hosted flag football games since 2017 highlighted by former NFL pros including Chad Johnson and James Ihedigbo. The game is played seven on seven with no kick play and of course no tackling. Last year, the league’s men’s tournament was broadcast on various Paramount outlets, while the women’s tournament was streamed primarily on Facebook and YouTube. The athletes in those games were not paid.

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By 2023, the AFFL’s professional men’s league will pay players $1,000 per week, plus travel and away expenses, for a 10-week season that may include 16 games, given the greatly reduced attrition of players in comparison to American football.

“The beauty of this sport is that it requires so little maintenance. You are talking about 12 to 15 people in [a team’s] list and a couple of staff members,” Lewis said. “Our game is so light, if it’s clear that the market loves it, I don’t see why we can’t put out six or eight teams in one season.”

The NFL’s decision to change its Pro Bowl format to include flag football is evidence of the game’s entertainment value, according to Lewis, who also holds an unrelated executive position at investment firm Pantera Capital. “What’s really cool about the flag is when you put athletes on the field to play, no matter who they are, they’re 10 years old again… That level of intensity and competition — the Pro Bowl has been completely missing. in those elements”, said the executive. “The NFL says that the best way to put their best players on a pedestal and make them look good is to have them play our game. That’s a pretty good compliment.”

Ultimately, Lewis says flag football and the NFL should be viewed like mixed martial arts and boxing, where a hugely popular sport meets a variation that’s different enough to stand on its own and appeal to fans. a younger fan base. “Anecdotally, young people want their own world, their own stuff, so they will hug the flag, like they have cornhole and esports,” Lewis said. “They don’t value tradition. They value innovation, fresh things and… games that go faster.”

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For its part, the NFL is not allowing the AFFL to dominate the turf of youth flag football. The NFL has 500,000 participants in its flag program nationwide, making it the largest flag football organization in the US, according to its NFL Flag website.

Lewis also says that flag football will benefit from the growing enthusiasm among girls and women who play the sport. “We had four games on CBS Sports last year: three of them were men’s and one was women’s. It was the first nationally televised women’s soccer game and doubled the ratings of the three men’s games on average,” Lewis said. There’s something leaking out there.

The AFFL women’s tournament featured six teams. The league has also held girls’ flag football events at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and other locations. For now, the women’s leagues remain a fan affair, but Lewis believes women’s flag football will continue to grow as the men’s league takes hold.

“I dream of playing our championship game in [New York City’s] Central Park and let all the people in the park walk around and see something amazing.”

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