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A-League Football season announced

Gulf Coast Fire to play at Hertz Arena

September 26, 2018
By CJ HADDAD ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Pro football is coming back to Southwest Florida.

A press conference held at Hertz Arena Monday afternoon saw the announcement of A-League Football, an arena football league exclusive to the Sunshine State, where the Gulf Coast Fire will call the newly branded arena home.

"Well, we know this is a good market, and it has a history of arena football," said A-League Commissioner Gary Tufford. "We know that people appreciate it - they know the game. We think it's something they will further embrace. We've put a little twist on the rules that bring it up to date a little bit."

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Those twists, compared to the traditional outdoor game, will include an 8-vs-8 format, no kicking and "deuce" players: those who must play both offense and defense for the entire 60-minute game.

The format is designed to speed up game play and increase numbers on the scoreboard, as no punting or field goals should lead to more scoring opportunities.

Instead of a point-after kick, teams can either go for one point from the 5-yard line, or go for two at the 10-yard line.

A second point of emphasis is that the league hopes to keep games around the two-hour mark, so that fans can come out and get their entertainment in a smaller window of time.

Active rosters will only hold 16 players, with 10 practice squad players in the mix should an injury occur.

"That will put the emphasis on coaches to find the very best players, and manage that roster," said Tufford.

The league hopes to find cornerstone players right here in Florida, with home-grown talent being the focus of recruitment.

"We really feel like the guys we want to recruit have got to be hometown heroes, that's really our mantra; we want hometown heroes," Tufford said. "We want guys that, maybe you know what, he's played at Division III or a Division I school, he's got a good level of experience, he wants to extend his football playing career a little bit longer. Great place to play, right in front of your friends, family and community."

The A-League is a sole-entity league, meaning the league owns all of the teams, pays the players and makes all executive decisions, on and off the field.

Tufford, along side President of Business for the A-League Andrew Haines, will undertake team management.

"One of the big hurdles that you find running a league is, you're only as good as your weakest owner," said Tufford, who has 20 years experience in arena football, as well as time spent in the NFL, CFL and AFL. "When we put this together, we realized that, 'You know what? We want to do this the way that we've always wanted to do it,' Which is our plan."

The A-League will be comprised of four teams: the Gulf Coast Fire, Lakeland Tarpons, Sarasota Big Cats and Manatee Neptunes (Bra-denton).

"We wanted to have a very regional, community-minded league, starting out in Florida, and make the markets reachable to every market," said Tufford. "Our furthest market is 90 minutes away."

The league does plan on upping the number of teams to six or eight in future seasons.

The expansion will remain local, as Tufford stated that sometimes it doesn't make sense to travel halfway across the country for a game, based on his longevity and experience in the football world.

"We can create some great rivalries. That's what really this is about for us, to create great rivalries, have communities say, 'Hey you know what, we really want to beat Lakeland or we really want to beat Sarasota, that's our rival,' We think that that's important at this level," Tufford said.

Each team will play four games at home, and four away - with the Big Cats and Neptunes sharing a field, a' la the Los Angles Rams and Chargers.

There will be special doubleheader opportunities across the schedule where one ticket will get you access to two games, with all four teams playing at a single venue.

"That's a first in arena football, it's a first in football, nobody really does that," Tufford said of the two-for-one weekends. "So we think that that's an opportunity for fans to see all the teams, really get a taste of what the league's about and get more football value for your money."

Single-game tickets start at $10 and go up to $50, with group discounts available.

Season tickets begin at $50.

"We really want to take the game back, to where it really is and should be, and that's right here in the community. Playing the game for the right reasons and doing the right thing," Tufford said. "We're ready to go play football."

The inaugural season begins on May 11 and runs until July 13, when the NFL is in the off-season, something Tufford hopes will get more eyes on the product.

Gulf Coast Fire home games will be select Sunday afternoons at 4:05 p.m.

The championship game is slated to take place at Hertz Arena in July.

For more information on the A-League, including scheduling, visit

Hertz Arena is at 11000 Everblades Parkway in Estero.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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