American Arena League

Last updated

American Arena League
Current season, competition or edition:
Sports current event.svg 2021 American Arena League season
American Arena League.png
Sport Indoor football
Founded2017
FounderTony Zefiretto, Jack Bowman, Tim Viens
Inaugural season2018
No. of teams15 (in 2021)
CountryUnited States
Headquarters Raleigh, North Carolina
Most recent
champion(s)
North Texas Bulls (2021) [1]
Related
competitions
American Indoor Football
Official website https://www.americanarenaleague.com/

The American Arena League (AAL) is a minor professional indoor football league that began playing in 2018. The league was initiated by a merger between Arena Pro Football (APF) and the Can-Am Indoor Football League (Can-Am), although it claimed only the APF history after the former Can-Am founder left the league. Teams from both leagues, new teams, and later teams from Supreme Indoor Football and National Arena League constituted the new league for its inaugural season. [2]

Contents

History

Arena Pro Football and the Can-Am Indoor Football League

Arena Pro Football (APF) was originally announced as the National Arena Football League in 2016 following the dissolution of American Indoor Football (AIF). [3] The league announced their first three teams as the Birmingham Outlawz, Myrtle Beach Sharks, and Savannah Coastal Outlaws. The league changed its name to Arena Pro Football (APF) in September 2016 after the Birmingham Outlawz accidentally posted the NAFL logo of the proposed North American Football League as their league logo. They added expansion teams in the Cape Fear Wildcats and Richmond Roughriders. The league also added the Florida Tarpons and River City Raiders from the recently defunct AIF. The Central Florida Jaguars and Palm Beach Phantoms were also listed as members until both moved to the Jaguars' self-created league, Elite Indoor Football Conference. The Cape Fear Wildcats were later postponed to a presumed 2018 season. The Birmingham Outlawz later changed their name back to Alabama Outlawz after they failed to secure an arena in Birmingham. The Myrtle Beach Sharks announced they had joined the outdoor Gridiron Developmental Football League on March 7 and had left the APF. [4]

The Can-Am Indoor Football League (Can-Am) was also formed from the remnants of the AIF when Tim Viens, the owner of the announced 2017 AIF expansion team Vermont Bucks, started his own league. With Viens serving as league president, the league added the Buffalo Blitz and Ontario-Niagara Spartans (both run by owners of established semi-professional teams, the Buffalo Gladiators and Steel City Patriots, respectively), as well as the Connecticut Chiefs (travel-only), Glens Falls Gladiators (travel-only), Niagara Falls Thunder (also operated by the Blitz ownership), New Hampshire Brigade, Rochester Kings, as well as Viens' Vermont Bucks. During the Can-Am's first few months, it added and removed the Baltimore Lightning, [5] Cleveland Saints, an unnamed team in Erie, Pennsylvania, Lockport Lightning, and Reading Raptors as league members without playing a game.

Prior to its first season, the APF formed several agreements with other upstart leagues. The first affiliation was with United States Indoor Football, a summer league that was to play all its games in Savannah, Georgia, and operated by the Coastal Outlaws (the organization that also runs the Savannah Coastal Outlaws). On November 3, 2016, the league announced inter-league play with the Central Florida Jaguars' Elite Indoor Football Conference. [6] However, all references to the EIFC were removed in January 2017 even after the Jaguars and Phantoms had attended the December 2016 league meetings as APF affiliates. None of these inter-league games were ever played and the EIFC played one weekend outdoors before ceasing operations.

On November 14, 2016, both the APF and Can-Am announced an alliance with each other where the playoff champions of each league meet for an inter-league championship game. During the two league's first seasons, the Can-Am's founder Tim Viens announced on April 14, 2017, that for the 2018 season the APF and Can-Am leagues would officially merge and create the American Arena League, which the APF would later confirm. [2] [7] The championship between the two leagues was never played or referenced by either league again.

The APF played its first game on March 10, 2017, between the Alabama Outlawz and Florida Tarpons, which Florida won, 42–18. After playing three away games, all losses, the Alabama Outlawz canceled their first home game. On April 26, they then announced that they had canceled the rest of their season, which had originally been scheduled as all home games. The Myrtle Beach Sharks appeared to have rejoined the APF mid-season; however, it was for away games only and the team called the Sharks were wearing the defunct Myrtle Beach Freedom uniforms. After playing all five home games to open the season, the River City Raiders declined to travel to play the Richmond Roughriders for their scheduled May 20 game. The Roughriders were able to secure an opponent in the Atlanta Furious, a team that primarily played in the Southern Steam's Elite Indoor Football (although many of those league's games were played outdoors). The only other away games the Raiders had originally been scheduled for was one of the canceled Alabama home games and against the Myrtle Beach Sharks. By the end of the season, the only remaining teams operating were the Richmond Roughriders and Florida Tarpons. The Roughriders defeated the Tarpons, 74–61, in the championship game on June 10, 2017, after the Roughriders finished the season undefeated. [8]

The Can-Am also had significant inconsistencies in team members and scheduling. By the end of the season, there were only five teams remaining: the Buffalo Blitz, Glens Falls Gladiators (as a travel-only team, had a short winless season and were disqualified from playoff participation), Rochester Kings, Vermont Bucks, and the Tim Viens-owned Boston Blaze, a travel-only team that only played the second half of the season. The Rochester Kings finished their season undefeated with the Vermont Bucks and Boston Blaze each losing one game (Vermont lost to Boston, and Boston to Rochester). The Kings announced they were to host the Buffalo Blitz in the Western Division championship on June 3. The Bucks were to host the Boston Blaze in the Eastern Division championship. However, the Bucks later announced they were facing the semi-professional Central Penn Chargers, a team that primarily played in the Mid-Atlantic Indoor Football League, in their postseason game. [9] The Kings defeated the Blitz 64–12 and the Bucks defeated the Chargers 46–6. The Bucks defeated the Kings in Rochester for the league championship on June 12 by a score of 61–41.

American Arena League

2018 season

In June 2017, the now-merged league announced its inaugural members over its social media page. From the Can-Am, the league added the Boston Blaze, Buffalo Blitz, Connecticut Chiefs, Glens Falls Gladiators, Rochester Kings, Vermont Bucks, and the Central Penn Chargers (the team that played in Can-Am playoff game against the Bucks). From the APF, the league added the Florida Tarpons, Richmond Roughriders, and the announced expansion team Hampton Roads Riptides. [10] [11] The Roughriders had previously stated that they were looking to join to the Indoor Football League (IFL) or the National Arena League (NAL) and that they had not committed to joining the AAL yet. The AAL then deleted all references of the Roughriders from their social media posts within two days and the Roughriders later announced they had joined the National Arena League (NAL). By early July, the only teams that had not been deleted from their social media posts were the Bucks, Gladiators, Kings, and Tarpons. On July 13, the league added the Georgia Doom of Macon, Georgia. The Doom organization had played a few games as a travel team fill-in for the Dayton Wolfpack of the NAL the previous season. [12] [13] [14] The league also added the Triangle Torch and Upstate Dragons after they previously played in Supreme Indoor Football (SIF), [15] with the SIF's Cape Fear Heroes (the ownership group that operates the SIF) joining the AAL shortly thereafter. [16] By September 13, the Roughriders returned to the AAL when the NAL had increased its criteria for new teams. On September 20, the High Country Grizzlies, formerly of the NAL, also joined the AAL. [17]

By fall 2017, the teams began releasing their inaugural schedules and expansion teams, the Atlanta Havoc (owned by league president Viens) and the Carolina Energy, were added to the league. The AAL also added three affiliated teams that would fill in for home games of the league members and count for league games: the Austin Wild (formerly the Cap City Bulls of Austin, Texas, which had played as a traveling team in the SIF during 2017), the New England Cavalry (operated by the outdoor semi-professional organization out of Concord, New Hampshire), and the Savannah Coastal Outlaws (originally announced as an AAL member from the APF merger). In December 2017, another previously announced NAL expansion team, the Jersey Flight of Trenton, New Jersey, was added to the league. In January 2018, Tim Viens sold his first team, the Vermont Bucks, to solely operate the Atlanta Havoc. The new Bucks' owners then folded the team a month later and another new team, called the Peach State Cats (originally announced in the semi-professional Elite Indoor Football), was added but were only scheduled for away games. The Glens Falls Gladiators ceased operations just prior to the season, while the Coastal Outlaws would also never play an AAL game with many of their games replaced with the Carolina Cowboyz, also originally of Elite Indoor Football, to bring the league to twelve members and three affiliates to start the 2018 season.

Partway through the first AAL season, co-founder Tim Viens resigned from his positions within the league on April 14, 2018, and would also no longer be involved with his team, the Atlanta Havoc. [18] The league then moved their website and retroactively claimed to have been founded as Arena Pro Football and changed its name when the Can-Am teams joined. [19] [20] The league continued to have scheduling issues and canceled games, leading to the Florida Tarpons, [21] East Carolina Torch (formerly the Triangle Torch until they were forced to relocate), and Upstate Dragons [22] choosing to end their seasons early. The last Can-Am team, the Rochester Kings, also appeared to have ceased playing league games altogether during the season. The Georgia Doom defeated both the league-leading teams, the Atlanta Havoc and Richmond Roughriders, but then chose not to participate in the playoffs. [23] The Havoc went on to win the championship over the top-seeded Roughriders 58–50.

Shortly after the 2018 season ended, the Atlanta Havoc announced their relocation to Florence, South Carolina, as the Carolina Havoc and that they would host the All-Star Game at their new arena. The AAL then announced the game would be broadcast on ESPN3 with Mick Moninghoff as play-by-play commentator on August 25. The game was held and the Stripes defeated the Stars by a score of 34–29, but the game was broadcast on Facebook instead and all references to their ESPN3 announcement were taken down on game day. [24]

2019 season

On August 15, 2018, Richmond Roughriders' owner Gregg Fornario announced his intentions of creating a new league called Northern Arena Football (NAF). [25] His Roughriders team, despite the possibility of losing its home arena in Richmond for 2019, was not initially planning on leaving the AAL with the NAF only having teams north of the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. [26] The AAL affiliate team, the New England Cavalry, were the first team added to the NAF. However, by August 28, Fornario had rebranded the new league as Professional Arena Football (PAF) with multiple divisions, Northern Arena Football and Southern Arena Football, [27] and the Roughriders were announced as part of Professional Arena Football on August 30, leaving the AAL. [28]

By September 2018, the AAL confirmed five teams were returning for a 2019 season: the Cape Fear Heroes, Carolina Energy, Georgia Doom, High Country Grizzlies, and Peach State Cats (with the Cats relocating to Athens, Georgia, and no longer a travel-only team). [29] The Florida Tarpons left the league and formed a new Florida-based league while rebranding as the Lakeland Tarpons. The defending champion Carolina Havoc later announced they would remain in the league. The Roughriders returned to AAL, now as the Wheeling-based West Virginia Roughriders, after Fornario's plans for the PAF fell through. [30] On December 12, 2018, the league announced its 2019 alignment split into a four-team Northern Division and an eight-team Southern Division. The league also announced the return of the Jersey Flight, as well as the additions of the Carolina Cowboyz (now full-time members with a home arena in Pendleton, South Carolina), the traveling team Carolina Predators, the New England Bobcats (formerly of Elite Indoor Football), and the Burgh Defenders (Pittsburgh). The AAL then split the Southern Division into a Southern and Mid-Atlantic Division prior to the scheduled release. In January 2019, the league then added a Midwest Division composed of three teams that had been in the developmental Midwest Professional Indoor Football (MPIF): the Chicago Aztecs, Indianapolis Enforcers, and West Michigan Ironmen. [31] Less than a month prior to the start of the 2019 season, the High Country Grizzlies ceased operations and the Chicago Aztecs withdrew for the season reducing the league to 13 teams. The Georgia Doom and New England Bobcats later folded during the season. There were many other canceled or rescheduled home games either due to arena issues or the away team not traveling.

On April 27, 2019, league co-founder and president Jack Bowman died after an illness and the league championship was then named the Jack Bowman Trophy. [32] The Carolina Energy traveled to face the West Virginia Roughriders for the newly renamed championship on June 29, and the Roughriders won 55–29. After the season, Fornario again stated he was removing the Roughriders from the AAL. [33] The Roughriders, as well as the Jersey Flight, were accepted to join the National Arena League (NAL) for the 2020 season. The league also lost the Burgh Defenders (removed from league), Carolina Havoc (loss of lease), and Peach State Cats (left league).

2020 season

The AAL announced several new teams for the 2020 season including the Louisville Xtreme, Music City Fire, [34] Pennsylvania Copperheads, [35] Pennsylvania Union, [36] South Florida Thunder (as a travel-only team), and the Tampa Bay Tornadoes. [37] The league also merged with the semiprofessional Mid-Atlantic Indoor Football League, adding the Central Penn Chargers, Jersey Bearcats, Maryland Eagles, Reading Raptors, and Western Maryland Warriors. However, before the season could start, most venues were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the season was subsequently cancelled. During the following offseason, the league lost the Louisville Xtreme and Tampa Bay Tornadoes to the NAL without the teams playing a game in the AAL.

2021 season

As of December 2020, the league had not confirmed any new teams and repeatedly stated it would not announce any 2021 season plans or teams until there were further developments in regards to teams being able to actually play due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. [38] [39] [40] However, several teams have announced they would be joining the league in 2021. In September 2020, a new team called the West Texas Buccaneers in El Paso, Texas, announced itself as a league member of a Texas-based division, along with several other potential cities for the 2021 season. [41] New Texas teams called the San Antonio Gunslingers [42] and Allen Tiger-Cats then announced they were joining the AAL. The Topeka Thundercats then announced they would join the AAL in a new Midwest-based division. [43] [44] In December, the league announced that some of the teams that had announced themselves had already been evaluated and were not members of the AAL. [45]

The league then updated its website in December 2020 with a list of 17 teams in three divisions for the 2021 season, including Allen, San Antonio, and El Paso. It also re-added the Austin Wild and Tampa Bay Tornadoes, as well as new teams in the Chicago Power, North Texas Bulls, Mississippi Raiders, and St. Louis Bandits. Previously listed 2020 teams, the Carolina Cowboyz, Central Penn Chargers, Maryland Eagles, South Florida Thunder, and Western Maryland Warriors were no longer listed as members. [46] The Music City Fire remained listed as a member, but were not scheduled to play any games. Allen was removed in January 2021 and replaced with a team called the Texas Takeover based in Fort Worth, which was also removed in February. [47] The season started with two games on March 13, 2021. Reading left the league March 27 without playing a game. St. Louis withdrew from the season in May after two league games played citing COVID-19 concerns. [48] Tampa Bay did not play its final three scheduled games.

The league announced it would not have a championship game and would instead name three division champions. [49] The East Division champion Charlotte Thunder and West Division champion North Texas Bulls then scheduled their own league championship game regardless of the league's approval; the Midwest Division champion West Michigan Ironmen were not involved. In June 2021, it was reported that league president and commissioner Tony Zefiretto had sold the league to the ownership of the Jersey Bearcats and Indianapolis Enforcers. [50] The new ownership reportedly approved of the game between the Thunder and Bulls, [51] which was won by the North Texas Bulls 60–43 on June 26. [52]

Teams

2021 members

As of March 2021. Italics represent travel-only teams.

DivisionTeamLocationArenaCapacityFoundedJoinedHead coach
EastCarolina Predators Fayetteville, North Carolina Crown Coliseum [lower-alpha 1] [53] 10,00020182019Andy Slagle
Charlotte Thunder Charlotte, North Carolina Bojangles Coliseum 8,60020172018Ervin Bryson
Jersey Bearcats Jackson, New Jersey [53] Trophy Park [lower-alpha 1] 20182020 [lower-alpha 2] AJ Roque
Mississippi Raiders Hattiesburg, Mississippi Forrest County Multipurpose Center 2,5862019 [lower-alpha 3] 2021
Pennsylvania Union Harrisburg, Pennsylvania PA Farm Show Complex [lower-alpha 4] 7,60020192020Cornelius Roache
Tampa Bay Tornadoes Lakeland, Florida RP Funding Center [53] 8,17820192020 [lower-alpha 5] Stevie Thomas
MidwestChicago Power Hoffman Estates, Illinois Grand Sports Arena [53] 2,50020202021
Indianapolis Enforcers Carmel, Indiana Off The Wall Sports20102019KC Carter
Music City Fire Franklin, Tennessee Williamson County AgExpo Park4,18020192020Joe Campbell
St. Louis Bandits St. Charles, Missouri Family Arena [53] 9,75520202021Jeff Hunt
West Michigan Ironmen Muskegon, Michigan Mercy Health Arena 4,00020162019Nate Smith
West Austin Wild Austin, Texas Traveling team [53] 2016 [lower-alpha 6] 2018 [lower-alpha 7] Bennie King
North Texas Bulls Fort Worth, Texas Fort Worth Convention Center 13,50020202021Victor Mann
San Antonio Gunslingers San Antonio, Texas San Antonio Rose Palace 4,50020202021Quinton Humphrey Sr.
West Texas Buccaneers El Paso, Texas El Paso County Coliseum 6,00020202021
  1. 1 2 Pending post-pandemic opening
  2. Joined in the 2020 season following the Mid-Atlantic Indoor Football League merger.
  3. From Elite Indoor Football. [54]
  4. Venue is unavailable for the 2021 season; Union to play all games on the road.
  5. Joined for 2020 season, left for National Arena League for 2021, but returned to AAL instead.
  6. Originally in SIF as the Cap City Bulls.
  7. Left for IAFL after 2018 season, returned to AAL in 2021.

Former AAL members

Former listed AAL members

Champions

YearWinnerRunner-upScore
2018 Atlanta Havoc Richmond Roughriders 58-50
2019 West Virginia Roughriders Carolina Energy 55–29
2020Season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic
2021 North Texas Bulls Charlotte Thunder 60–43

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Indianapolis Enforcers

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The Florida Tarpons were a professional indoor football team based in Lakeland, Florida, out of the RP Funding Center. Originally established in Estero, Florida, and playing out of Germain Arena, they began play in 2012 as an expansion team of the Ultimate Indoor Football League (UIFL). The Tarpons joined the X-League Indoor Football (X-League) during the 2015 season when the UIFL merged with the X-League. They played in the Arena Pro Football (APF) league in 2017 before the league became the American Arena League (AAL) for 2018. For 2019, there was an ownership transition that formed their own Florida-based league, called the A-League, and the team rebranded as the Lakeland Tarpons. The team was removed from the A-League schedule at the start of the 2019 season.

The River City Raiders were a professional indoor football team based in St. Charles, Missouri. They play their home games at Family Arena. As of February 2018 the River City Raiders website and social media pages have been removed. No formal announcement has ever been publicly made by the Raiders or their ownership after their final 2017 regular season game regarding their future or folding.

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West Michigan Ironmen

The West Michigan Ironmen are a professional indoor football team based in Muskegon, Michigan, the Ironmen play their home games at Mercy Health Arena. The team joined American Indoor Football (AIF) in 2016. The AIF ceased operations following the 2016 season, leaving the Ironmen without a league. They joined Champions Indoor Football for the 2017 season. For the 2018 season, the team was originally announced to have joined the Indoor Football League, however, the team was forced to sit out the 2018 Indoor Football League season. The team was then sold and played in the regional Midwest Professional Indoor Football for the 2018 season until they could rejoin the CIF in 2019. However, they were not among the list of members for the 2019 CIF season and instead joined the American Arena League.

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Jersey Flight

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The Georgia Doom were a professional indoor football team based out of Macon, Georgia. They play their home games at Macon Coliseum. They started as a midseason road team filling in for the folded Dayton Wolfpack in the National Arena League in 2017 before becoming a charter member of the American Arena League in 2018. The team suspended operations during the 2019 season.

The Upstate Dragons were a professional indoor football team based out of Anderson, South Carolina, and played their home games at Anderson Sports and Entertainment Center in the 2018 season. They were members of Supreme Indoor Football as a travel team in 2017 and the American Arena League in 2018.

The Carolina Havoc were a professional indoor football team based out of Florence, South Carolina, as members of the American Arena League. In the 2018 season, the team was known as the Atlanta Havoc.

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  39. "Thank you for your interest in the AAL. Due to the Corona virus, we are all experiencing unique situations in our society. Instead of updating our information daily, we have decided it best to be patient. Although we currently have teams under contract for next season and additional teams waiting arena approval, we do not want to prematurely announce a team when some states may determine that it is not safe to play in 2021. Thank you for your patience and please be safe!". Facebook. August 27, 2020.
  40. "Thank you for your interest in the AAL, in the "AAL Official" facebook page. and your patience as society is going through unique times. Most of the teams in the American Arena League have now received their arena dates for 2021. Some AAL teams have already received their 2021 Tentative Schedule. Again, instead of updating our information daily, we have decided it best to be patient. As we have all learned, some states have stricter regulations which has slowed arena discussions. We will release the 2021 schedule as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience. Please be safe!". Facebook. October 13, 2020.
  41. "El Paso will be home to a new American Arena League football team". El Paso Times. September 4, 2020.
  42. "San Antonio Gunslingers to kick off in the American Arena league in 2021". KTVN \date=July 15, 2020.
  43. "Indoor Football to return to Topeka in 2021". Facebook. October 7, 2020.
  44. "Coaching Announcement and League Announcement". Facebook. September 14, 2020.
  45. "Three months ago the AAL found professional ownership groups in Texas and added a Western Division. Since then, other owners have requested to join the AAL. For a variety of reasons, their requests were turned down. For the second time in a month, this weekend a team attempted to elevate their organization and claimed to play an AAL team. This is not accurate. American Arena League teams have their TENTATIVE Schedules which will be released soon. There will be no AAL games or scrimmages until March!! Please be safe!!". Facebook. December 6, 2020.
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  48. "St. Louis Bandits Fans: We want to thank you for a great first season but sadly our season got cut short due to Covid. Our game this week has been cancelled. Covid 19 has impacted everyone over the last year and we are sad to end so soon. We will be back next year bigger and better. Bandits Football". St. Louis Bandits Facebook. May 8, 2021.
  49. @ArenaAmerican (May 21, 2021). "Team owners in the AAL have decided to take the lead from Major League Baseball and implement the same format that will take place in minor league baseball. This season will conclude with Champions from the East, Mid-West and Western Divisions" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  50. "The Brand New American Arena League". lockedinmagazine.com. June 11, 2021.
  51. "The AAL Will Crown A Champion in 2021". lockedinmagazine.com. June 14, 2021.
  52. "No Bull About It". lockedinmagazine.com. June 28, 2021.
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  54. "MISSISSIPPI JOINS THE EIF". Elite Indoor Football. November 19, 2019.
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  57. "CAROLINA PREDATORS JOIN THE AIFA!". AIFA. July 5, 2021.
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  60. "MISSISSIPPI RAIDERS JOIN THE AIFA!". AIFA. July 5, 2021.
  61. "The Union will not be a part of the AAL moving forward. As we continue to build our brand and improve as an organization, we desire to play in a situation that has the best competition possible. We thank the AAL for having us in 2021and wish the league and it's teams the best of luck in the future". Pennsylvania Union Facebook. June 2, 2021.
  62. "PENNSYLVANIA UNION JOINS THE AIFA!". AIFA. July 5, 2021.
  63. "TAMPA BAY TORNADOES JOINS THE AIFA!". AIFA. July 5, 2021.
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  67. "Expansion Alert: Louisville Xtreme Joins The NAL". National Arena League. July 22, 2020.
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  69. "Due to a total lack if transparency and integrity on the leagues behalf the Raptors will not be competing in the AAL. We have joined the EIF and will now be Kicking the Season off the 17th of April. The EIF has welcomed us with open arms and integrity we hope to forge ahead with them in the future and help them as much as they have helped us". Reading Raptors Facebook. March 27, 2021.
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