The Alliance of American Football emerged in early 2018. In early 2019, the relationship between the AAF and the NFL began to gradually expand.
With the new league due to launch tonight, six days after the conclusion of the NFL’s 2018 season, PFT asked both the NFL and the AAF to comment on where things stand between the league that will soon launch its 100th season and the league starting its first.
“There’s no investment,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email, in response to the question of whether the league or any owners have invested in the AAF. “It’s a programming partnership with the AAF.”
The NFL sees a clear benefit in broadcasting 19 AAF games this season.
“The AAF provides another opportunity for players, coaches, officials, personnel people to get valuable experience,” McCarthy said. “The AAF, and also the XFL, demonstrate the strength of the game and the health of football as entertainment. They reflect substantial investments and major commitments by serious and credible football and business people.”
AAF co-founder Charlie Ebersol expressed similar sentiments in a statement sent via email to PFT.
“Over the past three years we have worked diligently to promote a strong and wide-ranging partnership with the NFL,” Ebersol said. “History has clearly shown with all previous failed attempts at spring football what doing the reverse looks like. What we have created is a broad, symbiotic relationship. We allow players to move freely back and forth to the NFL from The Alliance (70 players have been released to the NFL, with 35 returning to play for us this season), we built our data system to work with the NFL (a first for the NFL) and we’ve partnered with the NFL on television rights for 19 of our 43 games. Over 30 of our 85 referees are in the NFL’s ODP, all of our coaches have NFL experience — something no other league could have or can say. In fact, our executives, G.M.’s and coaches have over 500 years of combined NFL experience. In short, we count ourselves lucky to have fostered such meaningful connections with America’s most popular and dominant sports and entertainment brand.”
Where those connections are for now is one thing. Where they may go could be quite another. If the AAF thrives (and having relationship with the NFL can’t hurt), the ties could deepen and, ultimately, the NFL could end up absorbing the AAF and making it an official arm of the National Football League.