ILLUSTRATION BY CORA VELTMAN. PHOTOS COURTESY OF AFFL
The American League has sold a third franchise, in Dallas, joining Boston and Las Vegas as privately owned teams, according to AFFL founder Jeff Lewis. The league is also expecting to launch a women’s flag football league in 2025, a year after the pro men’s league.
“We’ll spend the first year getting the kinks out and getting everything up on its feet, and then the second year the women will play,” Lewis said in a phone call. “I’m really excited about it because this year is the first time you can say there is a large pipeline of female young people playing [flag] football.”
California and New York this year approved girls varsity flag football for high school competition, meaning more than half the U.S. population now are in states where boys and girls flag football are varsity sports, according to the executive.
The AFFL has organized flag football games since 2017, including contests highlighted by the participation of NFL veterans James Ihedigbo and Chad Johnson. The game is played seven players a side with no kicking game and no tackling. The AFFL aims to move from exhibition contests to a regular professional league.
Six months ago Lewis sold the first two franchises in Boston and Las Vegas for $3 million each to investors he declined to disclose. The aim is to have four to six teams that will play doubleheaders over a 10-week season. The projected start was originally slated for this spring but has been moved to next year, as the league seeks to firm up owners, franchises and playing locations.
The AFFL also runs youth leagues across the country, with its greatest concentration in Massachusetts, where the league has more than 5,000 participants on 20 teams. The organization also fields teams in nine other states including Texas, Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio.
“We’re going to be very anxious to go to places where we have a youth leagues,” said Lewis. “In cities where we don’t have youth affiliates, we’ll definitely make sure we have affiliates when the pros start play.”