Sometimes, where there’s smoke, there really is a raging fire.
In this case, the smoke signals regarding a potential return of the XFL has resulted in an announcement that, indeed, the league will be back. The XFL has set a target date of January 2020 for its re-launch.
The plan, for now, will be to have eight teams in yet-to-be-selected cities, and those eight teams would play a 10-game season, with four teams advancing to the playoffs. The teams are expected to consist of 40-player rosters.
The season, as currently envisioned, would dovetail with the end of the NFL season, with Week One landing on the Sunday between the NFL’s conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
But it won’t be the same XFL that arrived on the scene 17 years ago. This XFL will be family friendly and driven by technology, with no cheerleaders or other salacious content, no hard-nosed rules like a scramble for the ball to determine the kickoff or the elimination of the fair catch on punt returns.
The goal, as XFL founder Vince McMahon recently told PFT by phone, will be to “re-imagine” football.
“It’s still football, but what would you do?” McMahon said. “Would it be a faster game? We really want to have a faster game. Would we have less commercials? Would you stream it as well as broadcast it? How would that look?”
Those aren’t just rhetorical questions. McMahon plans to seek and rely heavily on the wishes of the fans, and he’s already assuming that fans would like to see the game fit within a window of two hours, not three.
“You have to listen to the audience and the experts,” McMahon explained. “We’ll be asking football fans what they want and what they don’t want.”
What McMahon will need is cash. Rumors of an XFL return grew when McMahon recently sold $100 million of WWE stock to fund Alpha Entertainment, LLC, which will own and operate the new XFL.
“I’ve always wanted to get back into it,” McMahon explained. He emphasized the value of live sports in today’s ever-changing media landscape, with its power to bring a large audience together, on a variety of platforms.
“We want to keep the older demographic who won’t be using a second device when watching at home,” McMahon said. “We want to appeal to a younger demographic who may not be watching football, and everyone in between.”
Ultimately, the focal point will be football and only football. McMahon said there will be no politics (of any kind) and no social issues, and that the game play will be driven by a desire to simplify the rules, and to learn from mistakes made by past professional football leagues.
And while McMahon said he has no desire to compete with or agitate the NFL, there was a hint of shade at the established pro football property.
“I think we’re gonna know what a catch is,” McMahon said.