Commentary: Why it’s a mistake to hold AAF Championship Game in Las Vegas
The Alliance of American Football announced today that they’ll be playing the championship game of the inaugural season at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. In what has been an offseason of progress for the AAF, this is their first step backwards.
On one hand it makes sense to host the championship game at a neutral site. This has become the standard in football, both professional and college. But the Alliance is supposed to be different. Why follow the NFL? The answer is obvious (money), but what’s the cost?
A disservice to the fans
From the start, the Alliance has done a great job connecting with local communities. From select-a-seat events and meet-and-greets with coaches to opening in-market offices, AAF teams have put down roots in their respective cities. Every step teams have made has been about building that relationship with cities that have often been burned by football leagues before, including the NFL. But now, with the championship game being placed outside of those markets, the league is sending a clear message – this game isn’t for you.
One of the biggest problems with the Super Bowl is that it isn’t for the fans, it’s for the corporations. Ticket prices are outrageous, and last minute travel to the game is even more expensive. You have to plan to be there, even if your team won’t be joining you. The Alliance could have bucked that trend and made a game for the fans (at least the home team’s fans), but instead are focused on the the gambling and corporate interests.
Focusing on gambling
“There was nowhere else you could do it,” AAF CEO and co-founder Charlie Ebersol told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “Las Vegas is the center of the universe when it comes to sports betting and sort of the energy around what we’re building.”
That quote from Ebersol is very telling. And while ultimately sports is a business and the league needs to make strong financial decisions to keep the league afloat, the choice to focus on other interests seems too early in the process. Why not build up to a neutral site game?
Hopefully this is just a blip in an otherwise stellar initial launch of the Alliance of American Football. If placing the championship game in Las Vegas helps grow the league, it could end up being the right decision. It just feels anti-fan. And that’s the last thing the league wants. Or needs.