Players and employees of the defunct Alliance of American Football filed suit this week against the failed gambling-focused professional football league after it abruptly ceased operations two months into its inaugural season.
The Alliance of American Football had one team in the Mountain West – the Salt Lake Stallions – and aimed to be a spring league farm system for the National Football League. It touted sports betting as part of its business model and debuted to solid television ratings in February.
The league was founded in March 2018 and had eight teams across the South and West. It touted MGM Resorts, a Las Vegas-based casino chain, as its official sports betting sponsor. But on April 2, the Alliance of American Football announced it was suspending operations and fired most of its employees.
“Many of the employees learned on social media and on Twitter that the league was shutting down before they actually received their notice of termination,” said attorney Christopher Snow, who represents a plaintiff, Richard Muirbrook, in a federal class-action lawsuit against the league filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.
The Alliance of American Football violated a federal law that requires companies to give employees a 60-day written notice before mass layoffs, Snow said. Employees were also not given severance packages and were led to believe that the league had enough money to float for its first three years of existence.
“It’s unclear to us why the league decided to shut down without warning. Without notice,” Snow said. “It’s unfortunately impacted hundreds of employees who left jobs to come work for this league under certain promises that the league had appropriate funding for the long haul.”
League representatives were unavailable to comment. Officials posted a short statement is published on the league’s website.
“We understand the difficulty that this decision has caused for many people and for that we are very sorry,” the league said. “This is not the way we wanted it to end, but we are also committed to working on solutions for all outstanding issues to the best of our ability.”
Daniel Kaplan, a reporter with the Sports Business Journal, believes the Alliance of American Football failed because it jumped the gun.
“They came to market too quickly,” he said. “It takes a lot to put a new league together and they were running around with their hair on fire. They just had too much to do in too short a period of time and they didn’t have the financing. That was perhaps the biggest hurdle.”
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.