Marty Judge, the co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League, has an agreement in place with Chinese officials to launch a new football league in China, he tells Richard Sandomir of the New York Times. The new Chinese American Football League wouldn’t emulate the NFL’s outdoor, 100-yard fields, but rather would follow the blueprint established by the AFL — 50-yard indoor arenas, with eight players per side.
The league, which has a targeted launch date of August 2015, will feature 20-man rosters comprised of Chinese and American players. Many of those players are expected to be drawn from the AFL, as well as colleges. While six to eight teams are anticipated for the league’s debut, Judge told Sandomir confidently that the CAFL will have up to 30 teams in just in a few years. Still, in spite of Judge’s optimism, it’s too soon to know how the league will be received in China.
“Like any endeavor, there is some risk involved,” said ESPN’s Ron Jaworski, who co-owns the Soul with Judge. “No one else has tried it. I don’t have a crystal ball, but we’re highly confident this will work. I think we can find great passion for football in China.”
Judge suggested that he felt the arena football model would fail in Europe, but says he says a golden opportunity in China. He has invested in training players at six Chinese universities, and those schools will play a season of games starting this October.
Former Eagles, Rams and Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil is among the investors in the new Chinese American Football League, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter links). In addition to being a league partner, Vermeil is expected to serve as a spokesman and perform ambassadorial work for the CAFL.