Expansion on the horizon for AFL?
Successful season: First year will come to a close Saturday as Red Bombers battle Seawolves

By Jon MacNeill
Published in the Daily Gleaner on Friday November 20, 2009
Appeared on Page B7

SAINT JOHN - The inaugural season of the Atlantic Football League hasn't even ended and Barry Ogden is already excited for the next campaign.

That's because there's a possibility the fledgling three-team league will add two new squads to the mix for the 2010 edition.

Ogden, the driving force behind the loop's formation, said organizers in Charlottetown and Halifax have expressed interest in joining the fold next fall.

"I've been talking to two individuals who have some people around them who are very keen on next year. They really like the idea that we've kept costs down and that we've promoted local players," Ogden said.

"I think it shows that this is an idea who's time has come." Terry Allen says that's certainly the case on Prince Edward Island. The general manager of the P.E.I. Privateers, which competes in the Maritime Football League, is spearheading the effort to form an AFL team from the province.

"This whole concept of the Atlantic league is really interesting to us, mainly because there's been such a push to have football in the fall at the inter-collegiate level," Allen said.

He is working with the University of Prince Edward Island in hopes the school will consider a combination club team with Holland College, the same format of the existing AFL squads in Saint John and Fredericton.

"Once we have a commitment from a major body, like the schools, that would be enough impetus to go out in the community and look for sponsorship," Allen said.

He's organizing a meeting next month to gauge community interest and hopefully establish a preliminary executive for the team.

"It's not a definite that we'll be in there yet, but we think that it's very viable. There's a lot of interest in football in Price Edward Island." Ogden said the individual from the Halifax area didn't wish to be identified at this time but said they "expressed a high interest" in forming a team for next year.

Two new additions would bring the number of teams in the AFL next season to five, as the Moncton Junior Raiders confirmed their participation next season.

The Raiders forfeited from the league semifinal last weekend after a scheduling conflict with the University of New Brunswick Fredericton Red Bombers.

Head coach Peter Comeau said the incident is water under the bridge and he's looking forward to next year.

"It would be great to have more teams, more teams means more games," he said.

That's exactly why league commissioner Pat O'Brien is excited by the prospect.

O'Brien said having a three-team circuit made for fewer games with fairly long gaps between matches.

"It would be nice if we had two or three games going on every weekend. Going from mid-September to mid-November is a long time to play (three to) five games," he said.

"So I'm looking forward to it in a lot of ways." Teams interested in joining the loop have until next spring to apply to the league executive.

The only downside of an expansion O'Brien could identify is the increased cost of traveling between provinces.

"That's probably the biggest drawback" he said. "It's not just the cost, it's how many hours do a player or coach have tied up in doing that." Still, that's not reason enough for the commissioner to second guess an expansion.

"I really think we have to give it a go and see if these teams can raise the funds." Nor is it for Ogden, who also serves as president and general manager of the UNBSJ Seawolves.

"We want to develop opportunities for local kids, that's paramount," Ogden said.

The AFL season will come to a close Saturday as the Red Bombers and Seawolves clash for the Moosehead Cup in the league championship at 2 p.m. at Millidgeville Field.