China Arena Football League

The China Arena Football League (simplified Chinese: 全国美式室内橄榄球职业联赛; traditional Chinese: 全國美式室內橄欖球職業聯賽; pinyin: Quánguó Měishì Shìnèi Gǎnlǎnqiú Zhíyè Liánsài), often abbreviated as the CAFL, is a professional arena football league that plays its games in the People's Republic of China. It features players from the now-defunct Arena Football League (AFL) and other indoor football leagues' rosters while also using players from China or who are of Chinese descent, The six team, eight-on-eight football league consists of four Chinese players and four "foreign" players on the field at a time. The league began play in the fall of 2016. It is the first professional American football league to play in China. The CAFL is not directly affiliated with the AFL and is instead owned by AFL Global, LLC, a company that was created by Martin E. Judge, Jr.[1][2]

China Arena Football League (CAFL)
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2019 CAFL season
FormerlyAFL China
China American Football League
SportArena football
FounderMartin E. Judge Jr.
Inaugural season2016
PresidentEd Wang (王凯)
No. of teams4
HeadquartersBeijing, China
Most recent
Wuhan Gators (1st title)
Most titlesBeijing Lions
Wuhan Gators (1 title each)
China Arena Football League
Simplified Chinese全国美式室内橄榄球职业联赛
Traditional Chinese全國美式室內橄欖球職業聯賽


In August 2012, Ganlan Media International received exclusive rights from the AFL to establish a new Chinese arena football league.[3][2] The project was headed up by Martin E. Judge, Jr. and Ron Jaworski, who are both part of the Philadelphia Soul's ownership group.[2][4] The CAFL has been branded as AFL China, the China American Football League and the China Arena Football League.[5][6] The China Arena Football League has stuck as the league's official name. AFL coaches and trainers traveled to China to help teach the rules of the sport to squads made up of Chinese and American players with the goal of starting an official Chinese arena league.[7]

AFL China and Ganlan Media were created in 2012 by businessman Martin E. Judge, Jr., founder and owner of the Judge Group. The company, called AFL Global, LLC, looks to introduce and launch professional Arena Football teams and franchises in various locations throughout the world (a la NFL Europe). After their successful trip to China to help promote the game, they formally announced plans to further develop AFL China by the fall of 2014 by starting a comprehensive training program in May 2013 with exhibition games planned for the cities of Beijing and Guangzhou in October. This would be the first time professional football of any kind will be played in China with the support of the Chinese government and the CRFA (Chinese Rugby Football Association).

On November 2, 2013, AFL China and Ganlan Media presented its first exhibition "all-star game" at the Neal Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, which was the home of the af2's Hawaiian Islanders from 2002 to 2004. The East vs. West set-up featured AFL players, led by quarterbacks Dan Raudabaugh (Philadelphia Soul) for the East All-Stars [8] and Nick Davila (Arizona Rattlers) for the West All-Stars. Clint Dolezel (Philadelphia) coached the East and Kevin Guy (Arizona) coached the West.[9] The East won that contest 67–63. On November 10, 2013, the second all-star game with the same two teams took place in front of over 6,000 fans at Capital Gymnasium in Beijing, China, making it the first-ever professional football game of any kind, outdoor or indoor, to be played in China. The East won that game 69–52.[10] Ganlan Media has since dropped its corporate name and AFL Global, LLC, has become the sole rights-holder to the league which changed its name from AFL China to the CAFL.[11]

In October 2014, the Chaoyang Sports Centre in Beijing hosted the 2014 Chinese Rugby Festival to help continue to showcase the new sport in China. Six teams, the Hebei Nirvana, Shandong Flames, Shenyang Tigers, Tianjin Pirates, Wuhan Nine Headed Birds and Xian North-West Wolves (all composed of collegiate players), played in a round-robin tournament at the first-ever CAFL University Championships to determine the inaugural champion. Shandong defeated Hebei 46–42 to win the trophy and thus cementing the CAFL's plans for a 2015 launch. Despite being marketed as an indoor game, the inaugural games were played outdoors.[12][13]

The first government-sanctioned CAFL games were to be played in the fall of 2015; this was later postponed until the next year.[14]

The 2016 season was known as the "Super Series".[15][16][17] The championship game was called the "China Bowl".[15][18] The league held its first draft on June 10, 2016.[19] 120 players were drafted with 60 of them being Americans, including 43 who have AFL experience. 60 players from China or players who are of Chinese descent were selected as well. The league's footballs are provided by Spalding.[20] In September 2016, Xenith became the CAFL's exclusive equipment partner and Legend Sportswear became the CAFL's exclusive jersey and merchandise partner.[21][22] In 2016, all of the league's games were shown in China on iQiyi and in the United States on ONE World Sports.[23][24]

In June 2017, it was announced that the 2017 season was being moved to the spring of 2018.[25] The league held the 2017 CAFL Draft on July 10, 2017.[26] The league postponed their second season again, announcing they would not play until 2019.[27]

Key personnelEdit

  • Martin E. Judge, Jr. – Founder & Chairman
  • Ron Jaworski – Partner
  • David Niu – President
  • Gary R. Morris – Chief Executive Officer
  • Dick Vermeil – League Executive
  • Ken Bozarth – Head of Football Operations
  • Ed Wang – Vice President of Football Development
  • Lou Tilley – Vice President of Creative & Broadcast Operations

Current clubsEdit

The teams for the inaugural CAFL season were announced on May 3, 2016. The inaugural teams were the Beijing Lions, Dalian Dragon Kings, Guangzhou Power, Qingdao Clipper, Shanghai Skywalkers and Shenzhen Naja.[28] After the 2016 season, the Dalian Dragon Kings and Shenzhen Naja relocated to become the Shenyang Rhinos and Wuhan Gators, respectively.[29]

Location of the current member organisations
Team City Arena Head coach Joined
Beijing Lions Beijing Wukesong Arena Clint Dolezel 2016
Shanghai Legend Shanghai Shanghai Oriental Sports Center Derek Stingley 2019
Shenyang Rhinos Shenyang, Liaoning Shenyang Gymnasium Robert Gordon 2016
Wuhan Gators Wuhan, Hubei Wuhan Gymnasium J. W. Kenton 2016

Defunct clubsEdit

Location of the defunct member organisations
Team City Arena Head coach Joined
Guangzhou Power Guangzhou, Guangdong Guangzhou Gymnasium Ernesto Purnsley 2016
Qingdao Clipper Qingdao, Shandong Guoxin Gymnasium Rod Miller 2016
Shanghai Skywalkers Shanghai Shanghai Oriental Sports Center Derek Stingley 2016


  1. ^ "About AFL Global". Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "AFL Global LLC Receives Official Rights to Establish Professional American Arena Football in China". August 30, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  3. ^ Ganlan Media International Receives Exclusive Rights to Establish Professional American Arena Football League in China, NASDAQ XMO GlobeNewswire, August 30, 2012
  4. ^ "Martin E. Judge". Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  5. ^ Hennelly, William (2014). "China to join pro football wars". Archived from the original on May 6, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  6. ^ Sandomir, Richard (August 14, 2014). "Arena Football Is Crossing Into New Territory: China". Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  7. ^ Pro football is heading to China, Mike Florio,, August 28, 2012
  8. ^ East All-Star roster
  9. ^ West All-Star roster
  10. ^ American football debut earns rave reviews from Chinese fans, Murray Creig, China Daily, November 11, 2013
  11. ^ About CAFL,
  12. ^ CAFL Video: Game Day, CAFL website
  13. ^ China to join pro football wars, William Hennelly, China Daily USA, October 31, 2014
  15. ^ a b Tilley, Lou (May 5, 2016). "China Arena Football League Announces 2016 Schedule". Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  16. ^ "China Super Series to Kick Off Historic Season". April 29, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  17. ^ "Lou Tilley Previews Super Series VI – The China Bowl Playoffs". November 1, 2016. Archived from the original on November 7, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  18. ^ Moninghoff, Mick (November 6, 2016). "Series Final: One for the Record Books". Archived from the original on November 7, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  19. ^ "CAFL To Fill Rosters with First Draft – Watch Draft Streaming Live". June 3, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  20. ^ "Spalding joins The CAFL Team!". April 19, 2016. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  21. ^ "Xenith announced as the Exclusive Equipment Partner of the CAFL". September 14, 2016. Archived from the original on September 15, 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  22. ^ "LEGEND SPORTSWEAR to Become the Exclusive Jersey and Merchandise Provider for the CAFL". September 16, 2016. Archived from the original on September 17, 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  23. ^ "CAFL Strikes Major TV Deal In China". September 1, 2016. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  24. ^ "CAFL Partners with ONE World Sports". September 12, 2016. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  25. ^ "CAFL AND CRFA EXTEND START DATE OF SECOND SEASON". June 21, 2017. Archived from the original on July 21, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  26. ^ "2017 CAFL Draft to be held July 10 – 8:00pm EST". June 14, 2017. Archived from the original on July 21, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  27. ^ "CAFL PLANS FOR LONG TERM SUCCESS". China Arena Football League. January 25, 2018.
  28. ^ "Meet the Super Six! The CAFL's Teams, Names and Official Logos". May 3, 2016. Archived from the original on May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  29. ^ Moninghoff, Mick (July 14, 2017). "Second CAFL Draft Produces "Firsts"". Archived from the original on July 21, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External linksEdit