As was reported at Sports Untapped yesterday, arena football will be back this April and back on TV in the US thanks to a broadcast deal with the NFL Network. The new breed arena football league called ‘Arena Football 1’ will be made up of former AFL teams along with teams from ‘AFL2’ which was nominally the ‘minor league affilate’ of the sport.
Arena Football is actually something of a growth industry at the moment. After falling off the map with the demise of the Arena Football League, there are now three fairly significant entries into the marketplace including ‘AF1’. There’s the IFL (Indoor Football League) which will begin play in late February with 23 teams. Several former AFL2 teams passed up the opportunity to join AF1, opting instead to move to the IFL. There’s also the American Indoor Football Association, who will begin their 2010 season in March with 13 teams. So far, they’re not directly in competition with each other though my hunch is that at some point they’ll start to consolidate and work out a ‘pecking order’. Eventually, the likely scenario is that we’ll have a setup similar to the old one with a definite ‘market leader’ and a secondary ‘developmental league’.
At the moment, however, the only thing really separating the three leagues is the newly announced TV deal. This alone gives AF1 something of a ‘big league’ status relative to the other two circuits. All three leagues are committed to keeping their costs down, which was ultimately the undoing of the ‘old’ Arena Football League. The sport has always enjoyed decent fan support at the local level, but shoddy league management and planning combined with a higher cost profile and a slow economy finally nailed the Arena Football League’s coffin shut.
With the new TV deal, its only a matter of time before sportsbooks start to offer action on AF1 games and possibly at some point the other leagues. While never a significant part of sportsbooks total action, arena football has always been a good ‘niche’ sport and another thing for them to offer during the relatively slow (at least in the US market) summer months. For the sports betting enthusiast, arena football with its wide open play and high scores is a very entertaining sport to bet on. For the serious sports bettor, the more sports that are available in the marketplace the better.
AF1 will also provide a unique challenge for football betting handicappers–the opportunity to bet on a completely new sports league. There was some betting on the upstart UFL, but on a large scale this will be the first ‘new’ league to attract significant betting action since 2001 when the infamous Vince McMahon created XFL played its only season.
I actually did very well betting on the XFL and for that reason alone was sad to see it go. And I’m looking forward to the debut of AF1 for many of the same reasons not the least of which is the fascinating challenge of betting on something that is *completely* new. Based on my XFL experience, here’s a few concepts that will likely prove valuable when the ‘new’ Arena Football league begins play.
1) It’s A Completely New Game: Concepts that worked for handicapping arena football in the past may or may not work in the ‘new’ game. With the exception of a few team names, there will be no continuity with the defunct Arena Football League. More significantly, perhaps, there’s no guarantee that the game play will be exactly the same. So if, like me, you used to handicap and bet on arena football in the past just forget everything you thought you knew. Like it or not, you’ll be starting from scratch.
2) Take It Slow: Ironically, the best XFL betting opportunities didn’t begin until most of the league’s viewers had quit watching. Despite the fact that everything is starting from scratch, the astute handicapper will quickly pick up valuable knowledge and betting ideas just by watching the first few weeks of action from the sidelines. Even in established sports, it takes teams a few games to start to demonstrate form but even in a completely new league after a few games you’ll start to get statistics to work with and have a better knowledge of not only the teams but how the game itself will play out.
3) When In Doubt, Play The Underdog and Unders: Back in the XFL days, after a few weeks a couple of things became evident. First, there was a good deal of parity across the league in terms of talent which meant that the smart handicapper looked for opportunities to play underdogs. Second, the games didn’t produce as much scoring as first anticipated. Since the public quit watching after a couple of weeks, however, the ‘public perception’ never really caught up to this fact. And since the sportsbooks feed off public perception to a large degree, the O/U numbers never got adjusted downward as much as they should have. Since the public already assumes that arena football games are high scoring shootouts, both of these concepts should work in the ‘new’ AF1.
As soon as the various arena football leagues start play we’ll keep our eyes opened, and once they start showing up on sportsbook boards we’ll be ready to bring you more handicapping ideas as well as free picks in the games themselves.Tweet
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