Alliance Of American Football

The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is a professional American football league, founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian and currently owned by Thomas Dundon. It began play on February 9, 2019, six days after the National Football League's (NFL) Super Bowl LIII championship game. The AAF consists of eight centrally owned and operated teams. All teams except Salt Lake are located in cities on or south of the 35th parallel and all teams except Birmingham are located in metropolitan areas that have at least one major professional sports franchise. Of the eight teams in the league, all but Arizona and Atlanta are located in markets lacking an NFL team.



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Alliance of American Football
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2019 AAF season
SportAmerican football
FoundedMarch 20, 2018 (2018-03-20)
Inaugural season2019
No. of teams8
CountryUnited States
HeadquartersSan Francisco, California[1]
TV partner(s)

The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is a professional American football league, founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian and currently owned by Thomas Dundon. It began play on February 9, 2019, six days after the National Football League's (NFL) Super Bowl LIII championship game. The AAF consists of eight centrally owned and operated teams. All teams except Salt Lake are located in cities on or south of the 35th parallel and all teams except Birmingham are located in metropolitan areas that have at least one major professional sports franchise. Of the eight teams in the league, all but Arizona and Atlanta are located in markets lacking an NFL team.


Filmmaker Charlie Ebersol was inspired to create the AAF in late 2016 after producing the documentary This Was the XFL for ESPN Films' 30 for 30 series; upon researching and examining the history of the XFL, he came to the conclusion that the concept was viable but that the finished product was both poorly executed and, from an on-field standpoint, bad football. He began developing the AAF in December 2017, about the same time that word had come out about XFL co-founder Vince McMahon possibly reviving the old XFL brand.[2] Exhibits in a lawsuit filed by Robert Vanech, who claimed to have co-founded the AAF, state that Ebersol had originally approached McMahon about relaunching the XFL but was unable to come to an agreement, as Ebersol wanted control of the XFL brand and was willing to pay $50 million for the trademark, which McMahon was unwilling to sell.[3]

The AAF was announced on March 20, 2018. Ebersol sought to focus on creating a solid football product in the hopes that it would attract fans. He hired a team of experienced football players, coaches and executives to prepare the league for launch.[2] The AAF is overseen by former NFL general manager Bill Polian, former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, and executive J.K. McKay. Advisers also include former Steelers receiver Hines Ward, former New York Giants and Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck, retired referee and current Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira, and Ebersol's father, retired NBC Sports executive (and co-founder of the original XFL) Dick Ebersol.[4]

Ebersol attended the first XFL game in Las Vegas in 2001, and remembered how disappointed his father was by the poor quality of play.[5] To ensure professional-level football at launch, the AAF set out to hire coaches with professional football coaching and championship experience.[6] On April 7, 2018, the first team, Orlando, was announced with its coach Steve Spurrier.[7] By June 2018, the league had announced its eight inaugural teams and their cities.[4]

On July 30, 2018, the Alliance announced the league had signed 100 players.[8] In August 2018, the league held the Alliance Scouting Combine at three locations and four dates: August 4, 2018 in Los Angeles, California; August 18 in Houston, Texas and August 25–26 in Atlanta, Georgia.[9] By August 24, 2018, 205 players were signed.[10] These dates provided an opportunity for players cut at the NFL roster deadline, and each player signed a three-year contract worth $250,000 (with a $70,000 salary in 2019), with performance-based and fan-interaction incentives allowing for players to earn more.[11]

In July 2018, Starter, through G-III Sports, which manufactured NFL jerseys in the 1980s and 1990s, was named the official on-field apparel and game-day uniform supplier for the AAF, marking a return for the brand to professional football.[12] On September 20, the league announced four eastern inaugural franchises' names and logos.[13] The western four teams were revealed five days later.[14]

In late February 2019, a lawsuit by a venture capitalist in Los Angeles became public, as the AAF issued a statement denying a claim by Robert Vanech that the league was his idea and that he had a handshake agreement with Charlie Ebersol; Vanech is seeking financial damages and 50 percent ownership of the league.[15][16]

If the AAF reaches its second season, it will find itself in direct competition with a revived XFL, which is announced to begin play in 2020.[17]

Inaugural season

On October 16, 2018, the Alliance announced its schedule (indicating the day and location, but not the time, of each game) which has two games each on Saturday and on Sunday most weekends.[18] Quarterback skills training camps were held at the Alamodome in San Antonio on November 12 through 14. On November 27, the league held a four-round "Protect or Pick" quarterback draft in the Esports Arena at Luxor Las Vegas and broadcast on CBS Sports Network.[19]

The AAF began its inaugural, 10-week season on February 9, 2019.[4] The first points in AAF regular season history were scored by kicker Younghoe Koo of the Atlanta Legends, who made a 38-yard field goal against the Orlando Apollos. The first touchdown in league history came in the same game with Orlando quarterback Garrett Gilbert connecting with Jalin Marshall for a 16-yard score.[20] The first shutout in league history was recorded by the Birmingham Iron when they defeated the Memphis Express, 26–0, in Week 1.[21]

A four-team playoff is to be capped with the league's championship game at Sam Boyd Stadium near Las Vegas, planned for April 27.[22]

Tom Dundon investment

On February 18, 2019, the league announced that Tom Dundon, whose other holdings include the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League (NHL), agreed to invest $250 million into the league.[23] He was also named the new chairman of the AAF,[24] and Dundon reportedly received a majority stake in the league in exchange for his investment.[25] Dundon's investment was initially reported to be due to the league being in danger of not making payroll.[24] It was later reported that the payroll issue was due to a glitch in the league's changing of payroll companies, and that Dundon's investment had already been planned.[26] Dundon noted, however, that the league "had the commitments to last a long time, but maybe not the money in the bank."[25] He also later backtracked on his previous claim of a $250 million investment, noting that he had not actually delivered a $250 million lump sum to the league. Dundon plans on incrementally investing in the league, using $250 million as a theoretical maximum based on if the league were to "aggressively expand," and reserved the right to pull out of the league at any time.[27][28]

Ebersol had admitted prior to the start of the season that, on numerous occasions, the AAF had come dangerously close to folding before its first game due to various unstated complications.[2] When asked whether some of the AAF's initial investors had dropped out, Ebersol declined to answer.[29]

At the same time, the league revealed that it had been unable to secure a league-wide worker's compensation insurance policy prior to the start of the season, forcing the Orlando Apollos to move its practice operations to Kingsland, Georgia, and commute to Orlando for games, as Florida does not consider professional athletes to be eligible for worker's compensation.[30]


Team[14] City Stadium Capacitydagger First season Head coach[31]
Eastern Conference
Atlanta Legends Atlanta, Georgia Georgia State Stadium 24,333 2019 Kevin Coyle
Birmingham Iron Birmingham, Alabama Legion Field 71,594dagger Tim Lewis
Memphis Express Memphis, Tennessee Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium 58,325 Mike Singletary
Orlando Apollos Orlando, Florida Spectrum Stadium 44,206 Steve Spurrier
Western Conference
Arizona Hotshots Tempe, Arizona Sun Devil Stadium 57,078 2019 Rick Neuheisel
Salt Lake Stallions Salt Lake City, Utah Rice–Eccles Stadium 45,807 Dennis Erickson
San Antonio Commanders San Antonio, Texas Alamodome 64,000dagger Mike Riley
San Diego Fleet San Diego, California SDCCU Stadium 70,561dagger Mike Martz
  • dagger Full stadium capacity. The stadiums with multiple decks usually only open the lower bowl for AAF games.
  • ‡ Operations based out of Kingsland, Georgia.
Locations of teams for the 2019 AAF season.
Eastern Conference Western Conference


Ebersol deliberately avoided making radical changes to the rules of the game so as to make it recognizable to the U.S. public. He stated that he used the average length of a feature film, slightly over two hours, as the basis for a typical fan's attention span.[2]

  • Teams have 52 players on each roster, with some selected by a territorial draft.[32] The territory assigned to a team consists of at least five colleges plus designated professional teams, one Canadian Football League, and four NFL teams (players from colleges outside the AAF footprint being allocated based on their most recent professional team). Only one quarterback can be taken from their region.[33] A quarterbacks-only "Protect or Pick" draft was conducted in November 2018 in which teams may retain their allocated quarterback or select an unprotected quarterback from another team.[34]
  • Telecasts feature no television timeouts and 60 percent fewer "full-screen commercials," with the league aiming for an approximate real-time game length of 150 minutes, down from just over 180 in the NFL.[17][35] In turn, the AAF aims to charge more money for the remaining commercial slots, also alluding to product placement opportunities that do not interrupt the game telecast.[2]
  • There are no extra point kicks; teams must attempt two-point conversions after a touchdown.
  • Defenses are forbidden from advancing ("rushing") more than five players on or across the line of scrimmage, and no defensive player can cross the line of scrimmage from more than two yards outside the offensive tackles.[36] The "illegal defense" penalty for violating these rules is a 15-yard penalty.
  • There are no kickoffs; possession at the start of each half, and after scores, begin on a team's own 25-yard line, in line with the NFL touchbacks. In lieu of an onside kick, a team can keep possession of the ball by attempting a scrimmage play from their own 28-yard line and gaining at least 12 yards.[37] (The original proposal for this play had teams making a 10-yard play from the 35-yard line.)[35][4] A team may not attempt such a play after a field goal or touchdown unless it is trailing by 17 or more points (i.e., needing three possessions to win) or if there are five minutes or less remaining in regulation.[38] The onside conversion play is also available after any safety, played from the 18-yard line.[36]
  • The play clock runs only 35 seconds, five seconds shorter than in the NFL. (The league originally proposed a 30-second play clock,[35] but Ebersol concluded it would negatively impact the quality of play).[2]
  • Players may not deliberately spike or throw the football into the stands or hand it off to a spectator following a touchdown; while other competitions (particularly the NCAA) have similar rules in place using rationale based on sportsmanship, the primary motivation for the AAF rule appears to be economic as its footballs (manufactured by Wilson Sporting Goods and marked with distinctive red, blue, and white stripes) contain expensive tracking technology. The penalty for such behavior is unsportsmanlike conduct, a 15-yard penalty, and if it is determined to be deliberate, a fine can be assessed to the offending player; if it's the player's second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, he risks immediate disqualification.[39] Other touchdown celebrations are generally tolerated.
  • There are no automatic instant replay reviews of scoring plays or turnovers as there are in the NFL. Each team is given two coach's challenges, which they can use at any time outside the two-minute warning, and receive a third if both challenges are successful. After the two-minute warning in each half & during overtime, the replay booth has sole authority to call for a replay review.[35]
  • Outside organizations handle head-safety protocols.[40]
  • In the event of a tie at the end of regulation, a single overtime period will be played, under the high school football rules of the "Kansas Playoff." Each team will begin on their opponent's 10-yard line and be given one possession (four downs) to score, with no field goals allowed. If the score remains tied after each team has been given their possession, the game ends in a tie. In the postseason, overtime periods will be played until there is a winner, with teams alternating who goes first in each overtime period. Both teams are given one timeout per overtime possession. The coin toss determines who wins it that chooses to possess first or defer.[2]
  • Playoffs will consist of four teams, the top two teams from each conference.[18]
  • Officiating has a ninth member, called a sky judge, an off-the-field official who reviews every play using technology like a booth review. The sky judge can call or take away penalties missed or made by the field officials.[36]


The Alliance operates as a single entity, with all teams owned and operated by the league, under the name Legendary Field Exhibitions LLC.[35] Some of the investors in the AAF include Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, The Chernin Group (which owns Barstool Sports), Jared Allen, Slow Ventures, Adrian Fenty, Charles King's M Ventures, and Keith Rabois.[40][17]

MGM Resorts International made an investment in the AAF tech platform,[41] and entered a three-year sponsorship agreement to become the league's official sports betting sponsor and exclusive gaming partner. The deal marks the first time any sports organization has sold exclusive in-game betting rights to a sportsbook.[42][43] Scott Butera, MGM's director of interactive gaming (the division that signed an agreement with the AAF), was formerly the commissioner of the Arena Football League before his 2018 ouster.[29]

The league is also planning player bonuses and scholarships, with player bonuses to be based on performance and fan interaction, and players would earn a year's scholarship in post-secondary education for each season of play.[35] Players are expected to get three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $250,000 plus health insurance with an escape clause to go to the NFL.[33] The three-year contract is believed to be purposely targeting the XFL to prevent second-tier professional players from signing with the XFL if they play in the AAF in 2019.[44] The league also has an incentive system that will pay members of a team's offensive and defensive units for statistical achievements and will also pay players to perform community service; the exact details of this incentive system were not yet finalized at the start of the 2019 season.[2] Players are assigned to each team by way of a centralized process that is largely a trade secret.[2] For the fans, in addition to a fantasy league built into mobile broadcasts, low ticket prices (each team will have a $35/game sideline seat option) and inexpensive food are planned.[35]

The AAF coaching salaries vary by title, with $500,000 for head coaches, $200–250,000 for coordinators, and $75–150,000 for position coaches. Each AAF team employs between 11 and 13 total coaches, putting the total coaching staff expenditures at around $2 million per staff and $16 million for the entire league.[45]

Key people

Co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol


Board of Directors


As part of its formation, the AAF announced broadcast deals with CBS Sports;[40] opening day (consisting of two regionally-televised games)[48] aired on CBS, as will the championship game.[40] The telecasts make extensive use of on-field microphones (with head coaches and quarterbacks also miked), and Skycams (with two deployed for each game, with one along the sideline, as opposed to having more than one high camera). Half of the games broadcast each week are produced off-site from Sneaky Big Studios in Scottsdale, Arizona: graphics (which were co-produced by CBS), Skycam operations, and commentary are performed remotely from the Scottsdale site, as well as studio coverage for all games (which is produced from a virtual set at the facility).[49] None of the AAF's broadcast partners are paying the league any money in rights fees, as the networks were not willing to lose money on their deals; Ebersol did not disclose whether or not they were buying the airtime or receiving the airtime for free as part of a partnership agreement.[5]

CBS Sports Network will air at least one game per week and one of the playoff games.[40] CBS Sports additionally serves as a production partner. Due to contractual agreements, the AAF themselves can not livestream games broadcast on CBS Sports Network.[50] CBS broadcast an ad for the league during its coverage of Super Bowl LIII.[51] In addition to local stations,[52] TNT will broadcast two games per season (one regular season and a playoff game) while NFL Network airs two weekly games.[53] The league's mobile app will offer live streaming of all games except those broadcast on CBS Sports Network, as well as provide integrated fantasy games,[4] while Turner's B/R Live will stream one game a week.[53] San Antonio's CW affiliate KMYS will air two Commanders games. Select games are also carried on satellite and online radio service SiriusXM.[54]

CBSSN's game of the week will be called by Ben Holden, Adam Archuleta, and John Schriffen.[48] NFL Network's broadcast team for week one consists of Dan Hellie on play-by-play and Marvin Lewis on color commentary.[55] TNT's broadcast team consists of Brian Anderson on play-by-play, Lewis on color commentary, and Maurice Jones-Drew as sideline reporter. The league will not use set announcer pairings, rotating numerous hosts (several of them from the NFL on CBS and the SEC on CBS) on both play-by-play and color commentary, depending on availability.[56]



The AAF received mixed to positive reviews opening night., in a mostly positive review, praised the league's television product and choice of markets that would embrace the league, singling out the live look-ins at the replay booth during coach's challenges as an innovation that could transfer to the NFL's television broadcasts. The on-field level of play was somewhat less well-received, being compared to NFL preseason levels, with numerous offensive miscues.[57] SB Nation had a similar assessment, criticizing the game play as "much worse than... most of major college football," while at the same time noting that the league's innovations were largely successful in making games more interesting.[58] In an admittedly incomplete review, Peter King stated that although he would not yet draw any "major conclusions" about the league, he liked some of the rule changes but feared the overtime process would be a gimmick.[59]


Overnight Nielsen Ratings stated that the league-opening regionally televised games on CBS were the highest rated telecast of the night in the key demographic, drawing more viewers than an NBA game on ABC in the same time slot. In overall viewers, both the AAF and NBA lost to a rerun of America's Got Talent on NBC.[60] The NFL Network telecast that week secured 640,000 viewers.[5] With these comparatively strong initial viewership statistics, the Week 2 ratings were highly anticipated in the interest of developing trended data. In Week 2, the afternoon and evening games on Saturday, February 16, reportedly attracted 1,018,000 and 425,000 viewers, respectively, in addition to the Sunday evening game on February 17 drawing 424,000 viewers.[61] The disparity between the afternoon and evening games is consistent due to increased competition during primetime hours and the higher market penetration of CBS and TNT compared to NFL Network and CBS Sports Network.


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