XFL: Success or failure of other leagues has “no impact” on us

Getty Images

The Alliance of American Football isn’t officially gone, but it feels like only a matter of time before it’s announced that the suspension of operations has become a termination of the business. The XFL has issued a statement regarding Tuesday’s developments.

“We have said all along the success or failure of other leagues will have no impact on our ability to deliver high-quality, fast-paced, professional football,” the league owned and operating by Vince McMahon said, via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. “The XFL is well-funded, we have time before kick-off to execute our business plan, and we will soon announce a national broadcast and cable TV schedule that makes it easy for fans to find our games consistently every weekend when we launch next February. There is no doubt that avid football fans want more and we’re excited to get going in 2020.”

The funding ultimately is the key, and the XFL apparently has it. (The AAF did, until it didn’t.) The question is whether McMahon will remain patient through the inevitably lean year(s), as the XFL tries to develop a footing.

The real question is whether the XFL can hold on until legalized gambling develops to the point where the vast majority of Americans: (1) can quickly and easily bet on sports; (2) want more football on which to bet; and (3) have at their disposal the ability to place real-time in-game betting. That’s the key to making an alternative football league viable.

Making the task easier for the XFL will be the lack of competition — unless and until another alternative league tries to enter the space. Still, the question is whether XFL 2.0 can ultimately fare any better than AAF 1.0. Or XFL 1.0.

At least XFL 1.0 lasted long enough to crown a champion.

23 responses to “XFL: Success or failure of other leagues has “no impact” on us

  1. To get the gambling, you need Vegas (or someone) to set an accurate point apread.

    Nobody will bet on raindrops on a window sill.

    Most NFL lines are within 5 1/2 points and the O/U averages in the mid-high 40s.

  2. “…we have time before kick-off…”

    This by itself shows they are far ahead of the AAF.

  3. Vince has deep pockets and TV contacts. This is likely his last big venture, so I think he hangs in there. I sensed from the documentary that he regrets not finding another partner when NBC bailed.

  4. after watching John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight report on how McMahon and the WWE treat their wrestlers I hope the players get better contracts – and aren’t considered “independent contractors”….

  5. Considering the demise of the previous XFL and the collapse of the AAF, they may have problems convincing skilled players to take the gamble. You’ll definitely have guys needing a paycheck trying out, but outside of those clinging on, I’m not expecting much.

  6. daytontriangles says:
    April 2, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    Good luck convincing anyone to bet on games in a football league founded by the leader in scripted sports.
    Everyone reading your post thinks it wrong and would bet against you on it if given the chance.

    The NBA had games and totals rigged by at least one referee that we know of that was later imprisoned. Soccer had similar fixing scandals involving referees and goalies all over the world and yet gamblers still bet on both sports today in greater amounts than when those scandals first were discovered.

    The XFL WILL SUCCEED because the AAF showed a public demand for the product. I’d bet on it.

  7. @ daytontriangles

    I guess it would surprise you then that betting is a big business on the scripted WWE then, huh?

  8. Manziel gets another chance!!!

    I wonder if the back of his jersey will be “he hate me 2.0”

  9. Good luck getting people to bet on games in a league run by McMahon? People bet on Rocky vs Mr T!

  10. Don’t start in February, that is your first mistake. No one is going to pay to go to the park to check you out at that time of year. It is after the holidays, taxes just came out and the Super Bowl was just played. People are broke and not hungry for your product.

    There isn’t the hunger for more football like there was in the 80s and 90s. This isn’t going to work. Look at the stands for the AAF, it was a ghost town. If you don’t have players to draw fans in you will just loose money. Out of stubbornness it might last two years but that will be it. There is no demand to watch mediocre football. The AAF just proved that.

  11. The key to making an alternate league viable is gambling? I could not disagree with this more. I’d be willing to bet the majority of football fans have absolutely no interest in gambling. And I’m not even sure that fits into what the XFL’s identity will be.

    The key to making an alternate league viable is the same as what makes WWE viable: entertaining, charismatic superstars that people will buy a ticket, subscription, or PPV to see. McMahon, above everyone else, knows this.

    Yes, the football has to be good. But let’s face it, people watch football at all levels & abilities, from Pop Warner to high school, small college to the NFL, and all of the ancillary events that go with it: the Draft, the Combine, The Opening, Elite 11, Flag Football, etc. Hell, Girls Flag Football is one of the fastest growing sports in Florida. People love football and will tolerate it being average to good, even if it’s not great.

    What they won’t pay money to watch are no-name, never-heard-of, boring as watching paint dry coaches & players with poor team names/logos/colors/merchandise and average production values.

    That’s the challenge the XFL faces. They are going to need to NAIL it with team identities to get fans bought it from the jump. They’ve made decent coaching hires and need to hit it big with the rest. They’re going to need to align with a brand (Under Armour is the obvious choice, just getting pinched out of the Combine and losing the MLB contract) to merchandise (something Vince does well with WWE). Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should be able to put the two companies together.

    Then they need to make some splash player signings. And they’re going to need to go back on their word to do it.

    Tim Tebow. Johnny Manziel. And Colin Kaepernick.

    And they’re going to need to pay these guys big, guaranteed contracts to do it, and to get other NFL players in their prime to actually consider making the jump. They have to do what Ted Turner did to Vince with WCW: rob him of some of their top stars by overpaying, because that’s who the casual fan will tune in or buy a ticket to watch. If Kap wants $20 million, but he’s unemployed, you better still make a damn good offer, and maybe dish out that $20 million to help launch. I don’t love Kap, but I’d be very interested in seeing him play again.

    Tell me right now that a Tim Tebow vs. Colin Kaepernick XFL game wouldn’t draw more viewers than every NFL game of the week.

    They’re going to need to dress it up. They’re going to need to pay for some well-recognized voices for commentary. They’re going to need to sign some former NFL’ers to help market the game, much as they did originally before those guys strayed due to the content. The AAF, when it launched, was leveraging Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Justin Tuck and Jared Allen as “backers”. When’s the last time you saw their names or faces near the product? They faded quickly. The XFL needs to keep starpower around the product to make up for the lack of it on the field, until they can poach some that play.

    They’re going to need stars to sing the anthem, for coin flips & halftime shows, for an opening jingle, and more. That’s what Hulk Hogan & Steve Austin did for WWF/E, and now it’s just a machine that can plug anyone in and still make money. But it didn’t start that way. It didn’t explode in the 80’s until Hogan came along, and found some some villains like Roddy Piper to clash with, with Cyndi Lauper & Muhammad Ali involved.

    McMahon needs to follow his own model, and not make the mistakes that the AAF did, or it’ll be doomed to the same fate. Again.

  12. I thought the AAF had the better chance because it had pedigreed football people and just as important pedigreed football broadcast people. But now it’s becoming clearer that the true success rides on lasting long enough to get in on the ground floor of gambling interest. Vince just cashed in 275M of wrestling stock so the funding is there to last long enough, as long as he doesn’t pull it as we just saw with the AAF funder.

  13. Why not try the route of what this startup lacrosse league is doing this summer, basically take your product to potential long term cities and make it an event weekend of showcase games? Rent out stadiums and have a Friday, Saturday and Sunday game…go to non all grass stadiums.
    Create interest in the league before expecting random cities to support teams with zero history in a new league.

  14. If you think McMahon will pull the plug early, you don’t understand Vince McMahon. He is in his 70s now, and has always wanted a mainstream success outside of wrestling. Those of who know him from wrestling know he can be the most stubborn person in the world.

    He will not give up on this version of the XFL early. If anything, he will hold on later than most everyone thinks he should. I think the XFL will ultimately work out as long as Vince is around.

  15. @matthoover4, if the product isn’t good all the stuff you want is just lipstick on a pig. He went for the glam last time and the league made it one year. If you spend big on that jazz and no one shows up you will folder faster then the AAF. In the end remember the product is about watching a football game, not another wrestling match.

    Time for fans to be honest. There is a reason why there isn’t a minor league in football and it is because it simply isn’t doable. Careers are too short to make any real investment in the players and the overhead for the stadiums is far more than any other sport. The USFL was the most successful and it lasted only 3 years. Football was way more popular back then than now. The under 40 generation has less interest in it and without the casual fan football loses money. Not going to hold the casual fan’s interest unless it is the best competing and you will never have that in another league. With more and more high schools dropping their programs the interest in football will continue to drop. The time for a development league was in the late 80s and early 90s. NFL Europe had the backing of the NFL which is why it lasted as long as it did even though it wasn’t making money. No one watched like no one watched the AAF.

  16. The only way a spring league would be viable is if the NFL is on board and will utilize it as a way to get developing players reps, like the Vegas NBA Summer League. Even if the gambling is a boon – what makes it likely that people will attend games or even watch them on TV instead of getting updates on their phones?
    MLS lost an estimated $250 mil in its first five years, and soccer is a less expensive sport in terms of equipment, training needs and player salaries. But Anschutz was willing to stick it out. I don’t think McMahon has enough money or patience to stick it out.

  17. This is the one advantage Vince has over everyone. It’s all house money. He doesn’t have to answer to investors. He can lose money for a year or two if he wants to and thinks it will be worth it in the end.

  18. The XFL will be more successful than the AAF. Bet on that. How much more successful? That’s the part hard to quantify.

  19. I really think you overplay the gambling angle. People want to be entertained and have their attention held.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.