Today Vince McMahon the CEO of WWE announced his intention to launch a new 8 team professional football league in the US starting in spring 2020.
The intent of the new league is to deliver a fan-centric, innovative experience, including shorter, fast-paced games and a family-friendly environment, complemented by cross-platform viewing options and real-time fan engagement.
For those with a long memory, you may remember a previously failed attempt to launch a spring league with the same name. It played for one season in 2001, with the Los Angeles Xtreme as the XFL’s first and only champions.
The league was launched as a partnership between the WWE (then the WWF) and TV partner NBC. The broadcaster pulled out of their two-year partnership after the first season citing rating problems. Whilst McMahon vowed to carry on, the league didn’t last and he later conceded that the league was a “colossal failure”.
The previous XFL featured teams from NFL cities around New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The remaining four teams were placed in markets that had previously hosted rival major leagues: Birmingham, Memphis, Las Vegas and Orlando. Cities for the 2020 launch have yet to be chosen, however, their intent is for a mix of major and mid-major markets in all regions of the US.
It looks like McMahon may have learnt valuable lessons from the previous venture and this looks to be a more serious spring league to rival the NFL, rather than a WWE/football hybrid. It’s a good job as the previous league was mocked by the media. The sportscaster Bob Costas speaking on a late night chat show said:
“It has to be at least a decade since I first mused out loud, ‘Why doesn’t somebody combine mediocre high school football with a tawdry strip club?'”
Plans for the XFL at launch include eight teams, 40-man active rosters and a 10-week regular-season, with a postseason consisting of two semifinal playoff games and a championship final.
“The new XFL is an exciting opportunity to reimagine America’s favourite sport,”
Said McMahon. “As we move towards kickoff, we look forward to listening and implementing innovative ideas from players, coaches, medical experts, technology executives, the media and most importantly football fans.”
McMahon, a visionary and an accomplished business executive, is personally funding this venture through Alpha Entertainment, a new private entity. McMahon will continue as WWE Chairman & CEO.
Unlike the NFL, teams will be owned by the XFL and not run as franchises.
At today’s press conference McMahon side-stepped questions about players taking a knee during the national anthem. He did however state that there would be rules that players would know in advance of signing up and they would be expected to abide by them. In terms of who might play in the XFL, McMahon stated that no players with criminal records would be admitted.
Vince McMahon’s wife is Linda who currently serves in Donald Trump’s administration having failed to secure a Senate seat. There is talk that McMahon is trying to appeal to NFL fans who feel alienated.
Watch the press conference: