After many months of rumors surrounding a potential return to the Gridiron, Vince McMahon, owner and CEO of the WWE, is reforming the XFL. It’s an extremely risky move to bring back something that was considered to be one of the biggest business disasters of this century, but it’s a move that might just pay off.
For the those of you who are out of loop in sports, McMahon has done this before back in early 1999. The XFL was to be the NFL alternative during the spring months. The hype surrounding this programming was unreal and the buzz brought in millions of curious fans. The programming was to be an extreme hard hitting version of football. Unfortunately there was a problem, they had to play the game. During the first week ratings were incredible but fans soon began to catch on to the fact that the games themselves were horrible. In the end it showed in the final product and NBC scrapped it in 2001 after only one season as a result of poor ratings and financial ruin.
Yet here we are, McMahon is back at it again and this time it’s a much different situation than at the turn of the century. The old image of the XFL has aged like spoiled mayonnaise. With all of the research surrounding concussions and post career issues, there is no way the old XFL would fly in today’s world. However, there are a few ways that this new XFL would not only survive but thrive.
The first way to make this work is to make the XFL a feeder league to the NFL. The only way to do this is to bypass the NCAA, but here’s their pitch: “Give us three years. Unlike in college you’ll get a guaranteed salary, secure endorsements, and not have to complete a college degree you may not care for.” Although a huge stretch, there may be a few high-end athletes that take up the offer and after those three years are up, players can choose to renew their contract or go to the NFL.
The second way is to entice those who’ve been disenfranchised by the NFL. There have been plenty of fans that are rightfully angry at the NFL for one reason or another. If they’re smart, the XFL will put teams where the NFL has completely abandoned, haven’t claimed or where the NFL teams are horrible and give them an alternative. Cities like Oakland, St. Louis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Baltimore, Cleveland, for example.
The final way the XFL could work is to simplify the rules of the game. If they find a way to make the rules easier to understand as well as being consistent, it would make it so much easier for the league. Things like what is a catch, what is a fumble and what is the standard for league discipline. If executed properly, the XFL could actually succeed in a climate were the NFL has been struggling with both, it’s viewers and players. As of right now, the Player’s Association is angry at the NFL due to its lack of transparency and treatment of their players. In the coming years all signs point to a potential strike and the players want change. If there is a better company that is able to take some of the potential market share of the NFL as well as treating their players better, the time is now.
If the XFL does this perfectly, they could give the NFL a run for their money. Here’s hoping it’s not as disastrous as last time.
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While the XFL will likely never rival the NFL in any meaningful way I could see it being successful in middle market cities that do not currently have NFL teams. As a St. Louis resident I am sure the XFL would garner significant support in the wake of the Rams departure. The key is going to be finding cities with available stadiums that could be used at a minimal cost. Columbus Oh and Birmingham Al have large college statdiums, St. Louis has the empty Edward Jones dome etc. Watching washed up NFL players like Manziel, Ocho Cinco, TO, Tebow, etc. would be extremely entertaining.