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SIFL: Panthers owner secured

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

ALBANY -- According to Southern Indoor Football League president Thom Hager, the organization has secured an owner -- complete with a paid, $15,000 league membership fee -- for Southwest Georgia's newest football franchise, the Albany Panthers.

But that owner will not be Andre White, and whether the team will play in 2010 or not start until 2011 still remains to be seen.

"Rod Chappell, who owns the company Mr. White works for, is going to be the owner of the Albany Panthers, not Andre White," Hager told The Herald late Wednesday after receiving confirmation from the league's bank that Chappell's financials were in order and the $15,000 one-time membership fee had been paid. "While Mr. White called to apologize and we accepted the apology, Rod Chappell is who put up the money for this team and Rod Chappell is who we're in business with going forward."

White, an Atlanta businessman who was the prospective owner before having a falling out with Hager and the league last Tuesday, told The Herald at the time that he was going to have someone else oversee the Panthers going forward, no matter which league the team ended up playing in. He even identified Chappell as the new point man while threatening to take the team to the American Indoor Football Association. But then White's group reconciled with Hager and the SIFL on Tuesday, paving the way for Wednesday's development and the installment of Chappell as the new face of the franchise.

Hager said Chappell was traveling to Albany on Wednesday evening and would not be available for interviews until after his arrival. Hager added that Chappell will be in Albany today and the duo planned a conference call on where to go from here.

And more importantly, whether the Panthers will take the field this season or next.

"Rod wants to play this season and we'd like to have the Albany team (in the fold)," Hager said. "But that's going to be Rod's decision whether we can get this team ready in time. As of now, the (start of the) season is less than 60 days away."

However, if Hager has a new owner in place other than White, it was news to the city of Albany, which originally had a contract with White and the SIFL in tandem. At the close of business Wednesday, assistant city manager Wes Smith said he had not been made aware of any updates in the situation.