There have been two incarnations of the Arena Football League. The original league launched in 1987 and shut down (at arguably the peak of its popularity) after the 2008 season amidst a dispute over the league’s business model and labor costs. After a year off, a group of former owners purchased the original league’s IP rights out of bankruptcy court in November 2009 and launched a much leaner, non-unionized Arena Football League in the spring of 2010.
When the AFL started in the summer of 1987, it was a single-entity business run out of Chicago by league founder Jim Foster. The league published a game day magazine – ARENABALL – which had a consistent look and feel in all league cities. Beginning in 1990, the league shifted to a franchise model and club owners gained greater control over marketing their clubs. ARENABALL continued to be the game day program throughout the league for most of the 1990’s, but local clubs could now create their own team-branded cover artwork.
Around 2000 the league signed on with a company called Fan Guides. Fan Guides had an ad-driven revenue model, which involved giving away free programs to every fan who entered the building, in order to increase the number of impressions generated for sponsors. The Fan Guides were cheap-looking junk and thankfully faded away after a season or two. From that point forward, each club has produced its own locally branded programs of varying quality.
Arena Football memorabilia presents a daunting challenge for collectors and history buffs. More than 75 franchises have come and gone during the league(s)’ quarter century of operation, many lasting only a season or two before fading from memory. You can find a complete list of clubs and their years of operation at ArenaFan.com. Despite all of those clubs, there’s not a lot of material floating around out there on the collector’s market. Chances are there is quite a bit out there in attics and storage bins, but people simply don’t know what they have or assume it has little value or interest to others.
AFL programs are presented here in chronological order from oldest to newest. Browse our Arena Football memorabilia for sale here or click on a program below to see if we have it available in our inventory today.