Monday, December 22, 2003
Baker re-signs for four more years
NEW YORK -- David Baker will remain as commissioner of the
Arena Football League for another four years.
Baker agreed Monday to an extension of his deal through 2007.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
"There is no job I would rather have in all of sports," said
Baker, who has been in the job for seven years. "I think we are
right now strong and stable with, a long future ahead of us."
Since Baker took charge of the indoor league, Arena Football has
seen its teams' values increase from $400,000 to $16 million and
the overall league sponsorships reach more than $20 million. The
league also has a unique 50-50 television agreement with NBC in
which no rights fees were paid.
He also has overseen labor peace in the AFL, which has a
collective bargaining agreement with its players through 2010.
"In the past seven years, David Baker has shown he is as
innovative a leader as there is in sports," said Mark Hamister,
Chairman of the AFL Board of Directors and co-owner of the Columbus
Destroyers. "The AFL's unprecedented growth during that time would
not have been possible without David at the helm."
The AFL is in eight of the top 10 media markets and will open
the season in February with 19 franchises and 27 teams in its minor
league, arenafootball2. Nine NFL team owners operate current Arena
League teams or have the rights to future teams.
One of the newest owners is rock star Jon Bon Jovi, whose
Philadelphia Soul begins play in February. Bon Jovi actually
approached the league.
"It wouldn't have happened if he wasn't so persistent and
wanted it so bad," Baker said.
What Baker wants badly is to see his league continue growing. He
has hopes for as many as 32 teams in North America, including
franchises in Canada and Mexico, plus a European division and a
Pacific rim division.
He also foresees more than 100 af2 teams as a farm system.
"This is our 18th season and that is more than twice as long as
any other professional football league in the United States, other
than the NFL, and we are going to be here a long time," Baker
said. "We talk about looking at a triangle of stability, and we
have kind of got that partnership at its peak between our players
and officials and network television and our business partners."
Still, Baker acknowledges, the biggest kick he gets is simply
sitting in the stands watching AFL games, which he does weekly.
"The end result of all this," he said, "I get to go to those
games and work for the 8-year-old and 10-year-old and 12-year-old
kids. If that kid is happy, I have done a good job."