UPDATE (10/18/16): The Sharks announced on their website that the team has been in negotiation with multiple arena football leagues, and an announcement will be coming “within weeks.” According to The Florida Times-Union, the Sharks will be part of a newly-created arena league after being turned away from the Indoor Football League because of Jacksonville’s distance from the league’s other teams.
The Jacksonville Sharks announced today through their website that they will be leaving the Arena Football League to join a rival league.
The Sharks had made the AFL playoffs six times since joining the league in 2009, winning two conference titles and ArenaBowl XXIV.
The team said it would announce which league it was joining “as early as next week”. Other arena leagues include the Indoor Football League, the Arena Developmental League, and Champions Indoor Football.
Only the newly-formed Arena Development League has teams on the east coast, but it’s supposedly meant to serve more as a development league. There’s also the possibility that a new league is being formed.
It’s a move that the Sharks were apparently anticipating – and don’t seem too sad about making.
“It became quite obvious over the last couple of years we were going to eventually move to a rival league,” said operating manager Jeff Bouchy – who also claimed that other AFL teams will be joining them in this rival league soon.
The Sharks weren’t the only AFL team to leave the league today. The Orlando Predators announced they were out as well, but did not give details as to their future plans. Rumors are swirling that the AFL may end up collapsing.
The league had been in financial trouble for a while, but had talked of adding expansion teams within the past few months. A new franchise in Washington, D.C. was announced in July. Including the new team, the league has seven remaining franchises.
It will be interesting to see what comes of this move. Switching leagues is never a great sign – it spelled the end for the Barracudas around a decade ago. That being said, if the AFL is truly imploding, this may be the only way to save Jacksonville’s arena football franchise.
We’ll update this article when the team announces its new league.