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Owner: West Virginia Roughriders are up for sale

WHEELING — One of the most successful indoor football franchises is on the market.

According to owner Gregg Fornario, the West Virginia Roughriders are up for sale. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the franchise won’t be back in the Friendly City next season.

“As an owner, you’re pretty much taking offers every year after your season is complete,” Fornario said Wednesday morning from his home.

In their only season in the Ohio Valley, the Roughriders, who re-located to Wheeling after two years in Richmond, Va., and played their home games inside WesBanco Arena, went 13-0 and captured the American Arena Football championship in the process.

The 2020 season was canceled after a long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Fortunately, we went 32-2 in three years and won two championships. We were very successful in both cities,” Fornario said. “Unfortunately, this season was taken away, and with COVID still in sight, who knows about 2021. If we do have a season, will we have to do testing? Will we still have social distancing mandates?”

While some of that might have figured in his decision, Fornario explained that owning an indoor football team isn’t a life-long endeavor.

“When I got into this business in 2017, I wanted to build this brand to be a championship team and then sell it in 3-5 years,” he said. “I’ve seen other owners stick around for seven, eight, nine, maybe 10 years and then fold because they can’t sell the franchise. I don’t want that to be the case here.”

Fornario said he is working with a couple of potential ownership groups.

“One is local, but I don’t mean from the Ohio Valley, while the other isn’t local,” he said. “Not many people own teams in their backyards. I live near Philadelphia, and I had teams in Richmond and Wheeling, which are 3.5 and five hours away, respectively.”

He wanted to make one thing clear, however.

“I will make sure that if, or when, I release the franchise to someone that it is in good hands,” he said.

In their two seasons in Richmond, the Roughriders went 19-2, while competing in the Arena Pro Football (2017) and the AAL (2018). They won the APF title with a 71-61 victory over the Florida Tarpons. They lost to the Atlanta Havoc, 58-50, in the inaugural AAL championship game.

The Roughriders were to play in the newly formed National Arena League in 2020 with the likes of the Orlando Predators and Jacksonville Sharks.

Fornario said those individuals with only serious inquires can contact him at greggfornario@westvirginiaroughriders.com

“I’ll entertain offers, and we’ll see what happens,” he said while declining to list a qualifying offer.

In other news, Fornario said there would not be a search for a head coach until matters are sorted out.

The NAL Board of Directors also announced it has voted to terminate the membership of the Baltimore Lightning, effective immediately. The decision was made due to the team’s failure to provide a letter of credit within a timeline of their membership agreement.

The board also voted unanimously not to offer the Massachusetts Pirates a new three-year membership agreement. This was due to the team not following NAL rules on and off the field.

On a bright note, the NAL has accepted the addition of a franchise in Albany (New York). The team, which hasn’t announced a nickname yet, will pay in Times Union Center.

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