Major League Football pulls plug on inaugural season

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For as much as the American football fan loves the NFL, the American football fan has little or no interest in other professional football leagues. Now, the American football fan apparently has one less professional football league to not be interested in.

Major League Football recently pulled the plug on what would have been its inaugural season. In a letter sent to all players on Thursday, MLFB president Wes Chandler explained that the withdrawal of the league’s major investor has prompted the league to treat 2016 as a developmental year, with no “competitive games.”

Via Katy Bergen of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, MLFB denied via social media that it is “shutting down” amid angry reactions from those who complained about the league taking tryout fees from players and collecting ticket money from fans.

Even if the league currently isn’t shutting down, the decision not to proceed with a first season in doesn’t bode well for the future. And it underscores just how hard it is to launch another pro football league in a country that truly loves only one brand of pro football.

MLFB has faltered despite couching itself as a developmental league for potential NFL talent, and that’s something from which plenty of potential NFL players, coaches, and officials would benefit. Not since NFL Europe shuttered nearly nine years ago has there been a device for getting offseason game reps for players who hope to stick in the NFL.

Would-be NFL players currently have only two alternatives. And the Arena Football League always seems to be staving off a demise that has felt inevitable for years now. Likewise, the CFL continues to chug along, like a car that has had its hubcaps, bumpers, and fenders fly off but that still has a frame, an engine, and wheels.

Still, the AFL and CFL deserve credit for staying alive in a climate that, over the years, has claimed several different iterations and incarnations of pro football, from the WFL to the USFL to the XFL to the UFL to the FXFL to the reincarnated (but never resurrected) USFL.

The mere fact that the NFL continues to resist launching a minor league system confirms the difficulty of turning a profit from anything other than NFL-quality football, even though there are plenty of capable and willing athletes, given the number of college football programs, who could fill rosters for another league.

At some point, if the NFL continues to dilute the product in the name of safety, a new professional football league selling itself as a throwback to earlier days of the sport could emerge, with the kind of unapologetic brutality that allows sports leagues like UFC to hide in plain sight. Thanks to the NFL’s experiences over the past decade, there’s no way that anyone would be able to claim they didn’t know the risks inherent to an Old School Football League.

So whether it’s five years, 10 years, 30 years, or 50 years from now, the next time (and first time) an alternative to the NFL will have a chance of thriving is when it embraces all the things that have become taboo for the NFL. Which would give American football fans the same kind of guilt-free thrill that comes when consenting adults repeatedly punch and kick each other in the head with nearly bare knuckles and fully bare feet.

Until then, anything that isn’t NFL football won’t come close to having the financial success that NFL football enjoys. Every few years, however, another group of folks with plenty of money to lose apparently will be willing to try.

57 responses to “Major League Football pulls plug on inaugural season

  1. curtw20151220 says:
    Apr 3, 2016 3:29 PM
    Without NFL support, minor league football isn’t going to succeed.


    Also helps that the NFL is exempt from antitrust laws by the United States government.

  2. “….a new professional football league selling itself as a throwback to earlier days of the sport could emerge, with the kind of unapologetic brutality that allows sports leagues like UFC to hide in plain sight”

    Wasn’t that EXACTLY what the XFL’s pitch was?

    They even had Dick Butkus as a league ambassador!

  3. I first heard of the major-league football just last week. Not surprising never got off the ground, but there was another semi pro league that was posted start the season whose front man with Jim fassil, and it was to be called the North American football league it still has both a Facebook and twitter page up and claimed that they would be having spring football as well!

    I remember fondly in my childhood and teen years the Continental football league who had such players as cookie Gilchrist Eagle day and Tom Wilkinson and Don Jonas and then later came the Atlantic Coast football league who had players such as John land, Tom Sherman and yes, even Jim King Corcoran I remember fondly Saturday nights in the fall with my a.m. radio to my ear listening to the game is being called from Hartford, Connecticut as the Hartford nights played the Pottstown Firebirds. It is sad that the NFL cannot look beyond the end of their nose and realize that a small investments in a minor-league system that consisted of maybe 16 teams throughout North America how many players they could develop for their own usage!

  4. If the NFL came up with an undercard league with teams attached to the big clubs it would be a success. Similar to how MLB has Triple A farm teams.

    For example, the New England Patriots could have an Triple A team in Providence, Hartford or Manchester, NH.

    I’m sure every team has a few major cities locally that could support a team. They could play during off peak months and use local college football stadiums not being used.

  5. CFL could blossom if it changed codes and became a 3rd conference of the NFL (or NAFL – i.e. North American..). It would further erode their pride (or rather, their desperate need for a separate identity to the U.S), but the NFL code is clearly a better game. The northernmost Canadian teams would need domes and the NFL would probably need to scrap preseason to start wk 1 in Aug, all so as to reduce the worst of the winter up in Eskimo land, but there’s no other barrier. If I had a financial stake in the CFL it’d be what I’d want.

  6. The NFL already has a minor or developmental league that doesn’t compete, interfere or cost them a dime, it’s known as College Football.

  7. Football isn’t a sport you can do a minor league system with. Careers aren’t long enough and most guys will just be beating up their body with the system producing relatively low return in talent. Works in a sport like baseball which is a lot easier on the body than football.

    Fans won’t watch no matter how much to clamor for it. Once the games start most of them realize they only watch the game for the QB play and the QBs in the developmental league won’t be talented enough to keep the fans’ attention. Teams won’t be putting anything better then their 3rd stringer in the league.

  8. curtw20151220
    Apr 3, 2016, 3:29 PM EDT

    Without NFL support, minor league football isn’t going to succeed.

    I’ve always wondered why the NFL wouldn’t implement a minor league system. There isn’t going to be any problem with filling roster spots and each NFL team can have their own minor league team. Same as the NHL and MLB. Considering how many injuries each team has to deal with each year it would be nice to have guys who are already familiar with whatever type of system the parent club runs to find replacements. I think it just makes too much sense for the current NFL front office to understand it. As usual

  9. Why’d they call it MFLB? Major League Baseball doesn’t call themselves MLBB.

    Why not MLF? Those letters wouldn’t lead people to think something else, would they?

  10. thingamajig: Well said, well said… It’s also time for the NFL to stop riding on the coattails of College kid! If a kid and or adult can make on a minor league (farm system) attached to every NFL team! The kids that may not cut it in the NFL… Could simply ( if good enough ) play in the farm system until they are developed and or called up. Do to an injury on the Big Club! Aka. MLB, NHL..

  11. The CFL has been around almost 60 years. It’s not competing against the NFL, never has. You won’t get rich playing there, but it won’t fold like other leagues.

  12. “The northernmost Canadian teams would need domes and the NFL would probably need to scrap preseason to start wk 1 in Aug, all so as to reduce the worst of the winter up in Eskimo land…”

    My god some people are so ignorant when it comes to anything but the USA. Eskimo land…..funny……..idiot.

  13. Considering this site is owned by NBC and is called Pro Football Talk and 99.5% of the time only publishes stories about the NFL, it would be difficult for any other professional league to get coverage and awareness to football fans of this site.

    The only football league that could possibly have a chance would be a spring/ summer league. But football year round would hurt the NFL. Fans need a break from it,just like all sports to gain excitement for the next season.

  14. Perhaps if the college players stopped playing football for free while the universities and other big business make gobs of money off of them for nothing, perhaps then the NFL would implement a minor-league system from which growing, developmental, and otherwise free agent players could sharpen their skills.

  15. College football is the NFL’s developmental league.. soon players will be getting paid (look it up, it’s happening) as employees and colleges will have a more official farm system for the NFL .. no need for these shotty non-NFL leagues run by failed players/coaches

  16. The CFL is doing more than just chugging along. Been in operation since 1958 and plays an 18 game schedule with 2 bye weeks. It probably doesn’t frame it’s players or lie when confronted with evidence. Maybe even treats all it’s franchises fairly. The NFL is what it is because of gambling, plain and simple. Now that we have begun to question the outcomes of games it’s only a matter of time before the NFL fades away like horseracing and boxing did.

  17. Maybe, just maybe, although I’m hoping against hope, the NFL will wake up before they totally destroy the greatest game in the world, and stop diluting its product because billionaire owners are afraid and tired of lawsuits. How much more can the NFL dilute the game before real hardcore fans seek an alternative product? What a crying shame what’s happening to this game. I hate to see what’s happening to it, the greatest game in the world. To the owners and the NFL, WAKE UP!

  18. The USFL was struggling in some cities but was viable overall until Trump saw a potential windfall from an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. In order to sue they needed to at least try to go head to head with the NFL. Once they did that, they sued and won a lawsuit that treble damages raised the windfall to a staggering 3 whole dollars. Lawyers still needed to get paid and the league collapsed.

    The NFL is the big dog but a good majority of us would watch a spring league between the Superbowl and the regular season. I enjoyed watching the USFL and many innovations came from that league as well as several successful NFL players and coaches.

    Start that league, run it right and eventually the NFL will back it as a developmental league of sorts for a bunch of players that need some more polishing to make an NFL roster. Try to compete directly during the fall or recruit potential stars from the NFL and it will be doomed. Even some guys that still think they can play but find no offers (TO and others) would sign there to prove themselves.

  19. You don’t kick someone else in the head with your bare foot. You kick them in the head with your shin. That is if you are doing it properly.

  20. Damn….So I won’t get to see anyone wearing an Omaha Cornholes Tim Tebow jersey???

  21. I’d watch the CFL on TV but apparently most people in the US wouldn’t…it would be better than watching Poker or other filler “sports” that are being shown. In fact, I’d rather watch Darts than Poker….

  22. ……..the USFL was a great league and filled the late winter spring time nitch every football fan wanted. It worked till THE DON go greddy and messed it all up. Those were some fun teams……chicago blitz….nj generals….michigan panthers….arizona wranglers….oklahoma outlaws….oakland invaders… breakers…..philadelphia stars….tampa bay bandits…..washington federals….denver gold….birmingham stallions…..memphis showboats…..they were fun times…

  23. Geez, florio really doesn’t like anyone giving his precious nfl some competition. I’m going to enjoy watching the fall of the greed driven billionaires

  24. A developmental league would work if it was run a simultaniously with the NFL season as a minor league. Players could play and develop their talent as a essentially an extension of the NFL practice squad. Players would be paid and cared for by the NFL but not on the same levels as actual NFL players and would be free agents available as teams develop needs. Running it during the season would eliminate a 9 month season for guys going from spring to fall football.

  25. Of course they have a minor league. It’s called NCAA college football. It’s a freebie to the NFL.

    But there is a problem. The colleges keep running systems that don’t mesh with the pro game, so many good players aren’t ready when they get drafted. If the colleges all ran the pro style offense, there’d be a whole pile of players that can jump right in. Like college baseball players.

  26. Just leave it alone. If they are interested in developmental have the players work in their current teams plays by adding in more OTAs and meetings with change to the CBA.

    Why don’t they have scrimmages is during the early part of summer like play teams that are close by others were their training takes place. With about 2 teams playing each other twice and then you could finally shorten the preseason down to two games (1home 1away) then add I more game to the schedule and add the salary to their current contract with a bonus of 1/17 of their contract and then wines their new contract comes around it can be factored in . The cap has gone up every year since the new CBA and this is one thing they can hammer out now because the new CBA is 4 years away so this can all be resolved or table it but keep coming back to it so that it is ready to implement in the next NFL/CBA contract.

    Less preseason but more spring games like college does against close teams or their own teams that can be televised like the combine or pro days. This could fill some of the jonesing for spring ball fans want.

    A new league is way off and with players playing close to 30/35 games a year with very little down time to recover may be worse off then just team scrimmages or neighbor scrimmages.

  27. Try for the next CBA in 2020. And do it in spite of the league, not in support of them.

  28. The only way that I’d watch another football league is if my city had a team. That’s why I don’t watch arena football (unless it’s 3am and there’s nothing else on), no team to root for.

  29. B.S.! If people will watch the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, NFL Combine and Draft and now, Pro Days broadcasted by the NFL channel, they’ll watch anything. They also don’t have a problem with continuing to broadcast the sorry Pro Bowl even though it has very little viewership each year.

    The NFL and the NCAA together has stood in the way of anyone competing with them and if it doesn’t maintain their power and control over the sport and athletes, it won’t be allowed.

  30. They always screw up the model for these minor leagues. It has to be like NBA’s D League setup…which took quite a while to get to where it is now, where most every NBA franchise has its own minor league team to control and develop players as it sees fit.

    But minor league football league has to be a local/regional league only to start…either all southeast, all Mid-Atlantic, all Midwest, etc. Southeast would make sense in terms of better weather in off times of year that they would play. Birmingham, Biloxi, Little Rock, Shreveport…

  31. Isn’t that what the Practice Squads are? Paid pros that aren’t yet playing on the big stage?

    Let them play each other in the off-season… They’re already getting paid to be on the squad, right? Maybe playing each other in traveling groups, double-headers at major venues around the country, would give those players exposure to scouts around the nation and perhaps more talent would work its way onto the NFL come fall/winter…

  32. Time to wake up football trolls. Just wanted to share some facts about the CFL.
    The CFL is way older than the NFL. It is a different game in Canada, but not necessarily worse. Because of it’s different rules. there are NFL players who couldn’t make it in the CFL.
    Here we go:
    1/Longer and wider field with 20yd deep endzones, makes for a ton of passing and scoring.
    2/Players allowed to motion toward the line of scrimmage–no how hard a guy is to cover at full speed while the ball is getting snapped?
    3/No fair catch rule…yeah, you read that!
    4/Balls kicked into the end zone must be run out or 2 pts scored.
    5/Balls kicked through the back of the 20yd end zone are 1 point.
    6/ There are 12 men on the field
    7/Canada has bigger balls….they look like an old-fashioned football.
    It’s a different game but a great game. The Canadian Lombardi Trophy is called The Grey Cup, named after some dude named Lord Grey. Canadian football team have been vying for it for 103 years…this 104.
    QBs like Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Joe Theisman all played in Canada.
    Recent players like Cameron Wake, Isreal Odontje, Duron Carter have come from the CFL.
    If ESPN ever shows the games regularly, you should watch. It’s very entertaining football.
    Oh and just so you know, the Canadian Cities that have CFL teams have populations from 400,00 to 2.5 million people. None of them have Inuit people (Eskimos) living in them…..and interestingly to may Americans, most Canadian Cities with football teams are less than 4 hours drive from the US Border- Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver. Only Edmonton is about 7 hours drive.

  33. I love the CFL too, but we should drop the talk about it being much older than the NFL. The NFL was founded in 1920, or 1922 if you want to go by the exact name. The CFL arose out of a merger of two other leagues (now the two conferences) in 1958. Many of the individual CFL teams do go back to the 1920s and much earlier.

  34. Oddly enough, Baltimore won the CFL’s Grey Cup in 1995 during the league’s brief expansion into the U.S. market, with teams in Sacramento, Las Vegas, Birmingham, and a few other cities.

  35. I don’t think it is honest to claim that the CFL is just “chugging along”. It is a fraction of the size of the NFL, obviously, but the league has seen a sharp increase in revenues (and not coincidentally have enjoyed solid game attendance) in the last decade and a number of cities have or are currently building/renovation facilities. But, the CFL isn’t a minor league for the NFL, it is a football league with a history going back over a hundred years, but in a country with a fraction of the U.S. population and thus will never be more than a blip on the American football radar.

  36. streetyson says:
    Apr 3, 2016 3:59 PM
    CFL could blossom if it changed codes and became a 3rd conference of the NFL (or NAFL – i.e. North American..). It would further erode their pride (or rather, their desperate need for a separate identity to the U.S), but the NFL code is clearly a better game. The northernmost Canadian teams would need domes and the NFL would probably need to scrap preseason to start wk 1 in Aug, all so as to reduce the worst of the winter up in Eskimo land, but there’s no other barrier. If I had a financial stake in the CFL it’d be what I’d want.

    It’s not easy to write the most nonsensical post on PFT of the day. Well done.

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