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PRO FOOTBALL

Avengers to fold Arena Football League franchise

Decision by team owner Casey Wasserman comes four months after the suspension of the 2009 AFL season.

April 20, 2009|Sam Farmer

The only pro football team in Los Angeles is calling it quits.

After nine seasons, the L.A. Avengers are terminating their membership in the Arena Football League, team owner Casey Wasserman said Sunday.

The move comes four months after the AFL voted to suspend the 2009 season to devise a new business model in hopes of restarting in 2010. That plan has not materialized, and the 16-team league is set to vote today on a new collective bargaining agreement with its players union.

The Avengers did not want to participate in that vote, Wasserman said, without a defined business plan for the future of the league.

"It's disappointing, because I don't think it was necessary to get to this point," said Wasserman, whose team was acquired for $5 million in 1999 and began playing in 2000. The Avengers won a division title in 2005 and made four playoff appearances.

The league requires team owners to vote on such a termination request, but it's highly unlikely the decision to disband will be reversed.

Wasserman sent an e-mail Saturday to Jim Renacci, owner of the Columbus Destroyers and the league's de facto commissioner, alerting him of the decision.

The Avengers are not the first team to shut its doors within the last year. The New Orleans VooDoo, owned by Tom Benson of the New Orleans Saints, ceased operations in October.

The league has been without a permanent commissioner since last July, when David Baker surprisingly resigned after 12 seasons. Ed Policy, the interim commissioner, stepped down earlier this month.

As for the future of pro football in L.A., Wasserman said: "The fans in L.A. have been passionate and supportive of professional football, and I hope one day we can all share in the excitement of its return to Los Angeles."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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