A new arena “football” league is set to begin play in four Southwest Florida cities in 2019. I put the word “football” in quotes because one of the unique rules will be no kicking. No punts, field goals or extra points will be allowed. The league has been organized by the ownership group of the Lakeland Tarpons. Other teams will include the Sarasota BigCats, Gulf Coast Fire (Ft. Myers) and Manatee Neptunes (Bradenton).
The Tarpons have bounced around several leagues since they were an expansion team in the Ultimate Indoor Football League (UIFL) in 2012. They moved to Arena Indoor Football (AIF) in 2016 and then Arena Pro Football (APF) in 2017. They played this past season in the American Arena League (AAL).
The A-League will feature several unique innovations. There will also be new rules designed to speed up game play and enhance the fan experience. Teams will only carry 16-man rosters, which must include at least two players who play both offensive and defense. Dubbed “The Deuce”, these two way players must play all 60 minutes on both sides of the ball.
There will also be no kicking in the game. The elimination of the kicking game dramatically improves the pace of the game and eliminates many dead ball fouls and timeouts. Teams will scrimmage from their own five-yard line, or if turned over on downs, will scrimmage from that spot.
A totally unique element of the A-League is the scheduled double header game concept. All four teams will host a regular-season doubleheader where all teams will play in the same arena in back-to-back games.
The A-League season will run from May to the end of July, 2019. All teams are owned and operated by A-League Sports with teams located in a tight footprint of local Florida markets including, Lakeland, FT Myers, Sarasota and Bradenton. Plans are in place for the addition of two to four new teams for the 2020 season. Each team will play an eight-game regular season with four home games in each team’s home venue.
The A-League is developing partnerships with regional semi-pro teams to develop talent for their rosters.
The A-League will join the Arena Football League (AFL), Indoor Football League (IFL), Champions Indoor Football (CIF), American Arena League (AAL), National Arena League (NAL) and National Gridiron League (NGL) on the indoor turf next season.
For more information on the A-League you can click here.