AAF's Orlando Apollos to start practicing in Georgia due to Florida's worker compensation laws

Starting at the beginning of March, the Orlando Apollos will have their practices in Georgia, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday.

The odd setup stems from Florida’s worker compensation law, which states professional athletes are not eligible to receive workers compensation insurance coverage. Per the law, professional athletes are not categorized as employees, so they cannot file for workers comp claims if they are injured while playing.

Because of this, the Apollos will be housed in a Jacksonville hotel starting next week and will be bussed 30 minutes across the border to practice in Kingsland, Ga.

“We really need to make sure we take the necessary steps to take care of our players,” AAF co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol said. “Our responsibility is always to do what we must do to make sure our players have the best available coverage.”

To make matters a little more complicated, the Apollos will still play their home games at Central Florida’s stadium in Orlando.

For now, the state of Georgia will cover the Apollos as long as the team spends 51 percent of its practice time in Georgia.

Apollos coach Steve Spurrier isn’t happy about the situation, but said the team will spend 36 days practicing in Kingsland and will head back to Orlando before their March 16 home game against the the Arizona Hotshots.

“We tried to call some big shots in Tallahassee to get it worked out, but I never could get through to the Insurance Commissioner (David Altmaier),” Spurrier said. “We’re not crazy about the set-up (of having to practice in Georgia), but it’s all we can do. When you’re in a new league, sometimes you just have to make adjustments.”

Since the AAF still is in it’s first season and isn’t as established as the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA — all of which managed to find insurance companies to cover their teams in Florida — the league has to find a way to make sure its Florida players are safe.

“The insurance market covering both professional football and startup companies is limited,” Alliance Head of Player Relations David Cohen said. “Established sports organizations have long-standing relationships with carriers. We are continuing to aggressively pursue workers compensation coverage that allows our Orlando team to be Florida employees and practice in Florida the entire season.”