Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

A district court in Woodbury County, Iowa, ruled in favor of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League (the “CIF”) in a lawsuit against two franchises, the Bloomington Edge and the West Michigan Ironmen. The Court ruled that the teams breached their League Affiliation Agreements with the CIF by announcing their intent to play in a rival league, the Indoor Football League (“IFL”), during the 2018 season.

District Court Judge Patrick Tott agreed in a decision handed down on January 30, 2018 that the West Michigan Ironmen and the Bloomington Edge cannot compete in the 2018 IFL season.

Both Bloomington and West Michigan signed contracts in July 2017 agreeing to play in the CIF, and no other league, for the 2018 season. Two months laters, on September 12, 2017, both owners of the Bloomington Edge and West Michigan Ironmen informed the CIF that they would not be fielding teams in the CIF for the upcoming season. The following day, the IFL announced it had signed both teams as new league members.

On September 15, 2017, the CIF notified the teams, that they were in violation of their League Affiliation Agreements and issued cease and desist letters reminding them that they are not allowed to play in any other indoor football league in the 2018 season. The CIF cautioned the teams that they should not sell tickets, advertisements, or sponsorships for the 2018 IFL season or may face claims by people who may receive no value for their payments. The CIF notified Bloomington and West Michigan that if they continued their course of action, the CIF would enforce its right to prevent the them from playing in 2018.

The IFL, the Bloomington Edge, and West Michigan Ironmen ignored the CIF’s warnings. On November 13, 2017 the IFL released its 2018 league schedule with both teams listed on the schedule. As a result, the CIF filed a lawsuit to enjoin Bloomington’s and West Michigan’s clear violations of their League Affiliation Agreements. The resulting actions culminated in a contested, day long evidentiary hearing on January 16, 2018 when both sides presented their case to Judge Tott.

 After hearing arguments and reviewing the evidence, Judge Tott prepared a detailed thirty-nine page opinion ruling in favor of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League.  Judge Tott found:

  • “…the evidence is clear that both of the Defendants have breached Paragraph 2.3’s noncompetition provisions.”
  • “The evidence clearly shows that the owner of the Arizona Rattlers of the IFL has basically offered significant bribes to members of the CIF to switch leagues despite the existence of the non-competition provisions.”
  • “Likewise, the IFL could have avoid[ed] any havoc to their schedule and fans by not bribing the Defendants to breach their non-compete agreements with the CIF and enter the IFL in 2018 and risk being prevented from playing in either league.”
  • “A sports league cannot survive without a commitment from its member teams that they will honor their obligations to the league.”
  • “[I]f the CIF loses the ability to enforce the non-competition provision there will be nothing to stop any team in the future from leaving the league at any time, whether they have signed an LAA or not, which without a doubt puts the viability of the entire league at jeopardy going forward.”

“This ruling is a landmark for the sport and industry in that it validates the legality and importance of League Affiliation Agreements to professional sports leagues,” CIF Commissioner Ricky Bertz said. This was a milestone for not only the CIF, but all teams and leagues. I have received phone calls from other league commissioners offering their support and assistance as this was a potential situation that could have easily been duplicated for them. It is reassuring knowing that we were doing the right thing despite the difficult circumstances.”

 “Sadly, in the end it is the fans, players, coaches and communities that pay the ultimate price as they go without a team to call their own. It was a difficult decision for us to pursue given that potential outcome if we were victorious, however team owners invest and risk hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly in this business venture. The CIF felt that to protect those investments, in addition to protecting the long-term interests of fans, players, coaches, etc. in their own communities, we had no choice but to pursue legal action. In the end, because of actions of others, the CIF has lost four teams for the 2018 season with several of those markets no longer having teams. We simply had to do what was right. As we look ahead, we are planning to move forward with our 2018 season, which we are extremely excited about, and hopefully will be announcing our first expansion team within two months.”

 The Champions Indoor Football league is excited to kick-off its 2018 regular season with two in-state rivalries on March 3rd when the Wichita Force visit the Salina Liberty and the Texas Revolution play at the Dallas Marshals. For more information visit the CIF website