The AFL's owners voted against playing next year during a conference call Sunday night. It was unclear what had changed since the league issued a statement Wednesday night that said the 2009 season had not been suspended "despite rumors and reports to the contrary."
The league said in Monday's statement it was "developing a long-term plan to improve its economic model."
"Every owner in the AFL is strongly committed to the league, the game, and, most importantly, the fans," acting commissioner Ed Policy said in a statement. "Owners, however, recognize that, especially in light of the current unprecedented economic climate, the AFL, as a business enterprise, needs to be restructured if it is to continue to provide its unique brand of this affordable, fan-friendly sport."
Last week's statement came after a meeting of the league's board of directors and did not say the AFL definitely would play next year.
The AFL's woes come at a time when the world of sports, once thought to be largely recession-proof, has felt the economic chill. The NFL has said it would cut 150 jobs, while the NBA and NASCAR also have laid off dozens of workers. The NHL is in a hiring freeze while the Internet operation for Major League Baseball also has trimmed positions.
The AFL had been in limbo for weeks. With rumors swirling about its viability, the 16-team league delayed indefinitely the start of free agency, the release of next season's schedule and a dispersal draft to award players from the defunct New Orleans Voodoo.
The AFL has not selected a permanent replacement for longtime commissioner David Baker, who abruptly resigned from the 22-year-old league two days before the ArenaBowl in July.
"These are trying economic times," rocker Jon Bon Jovi, co-owner of the ArenaBowl champion Philadelphia Soul, said in a statement. "The revamping will ensure that the AFL continues to provide value to its fans and not only survives but thrives in the years to come."
Jim Renacci, the Columbus Destroyers' co-owner and vice chairman of the AFL executive committee, will lead the restructuring process.
Since November 2007, the AFL's board of directors has been looking into various ways to bolster the league's finances.
"Although it is disappointing to suspend the 2009 season, the Arena Football League and its owners feel it is essential to reevaluate the current business model to ensure the livelihood of the AFL in the future," Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, co-owner of the Colorado Crush, said in a statement.