XFL draws small but enthusiastic crowds at first two games

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It’s way too soon to draw any conclusions about whether the XFL can succeed, but based on the attendance at the two stadiums that hosted XFL games on Saturday, the upstart league has some passionate fans, but not a lot of them.

At both games, one hosted by the DC Defenders and one by the Houston Roughnecks, it was apparent from the crowd noise on the TV broadcast that the fans were into it. The DC crowd, in particular, seemed more excited than the crowd at Washington NFL games last season.

However, attendance was small: DC drew 17,163 fans to Audi Field and Houston drew an announced crowd of 17,815 to TDECU Stadium.

There was a lot to like on the first day of the new XFL. The kickoff rule combines excitement and player safety in a way the NFL has tried and failed to do. The options to go for 1, 2 or 3 after a touchdown makes for some intriguing strategic decisions. Hearing audio of play calling is fun for fans at home.

But will the league last longer than the one season that the XFL lasted in its previous incarnation? They’ll need to draw a consistent audience, at the stadium and especially on TV, to do that.

91 responses to “XFL draws small but enthusiastic crowds at first two games

  1. The real question isn’t how many people were in the stands on week one. It is how many watched at all. This is one week removed from the NFL SB and no one knows what to expect from this league. Safer to watch and assess from home.

  2. the capacity for Audi Field is 20000, that game was almost a sell out.

    Id be willing to bet the attendance was 2 to 3 times more than the AFF games aswell.

    Kinda sad to see the media try to put a negative spin on the XFL right out the gate. The production value was great the football was clean and way more professional looking than the AFF.

    Loved hearing the coaches refs and booth micd up that way we can hear their reasoning for their calls, if only the NFL had that level of transparency.

    All in all id say the opening weekend was a success for the XFL.

  3. I was really pleasantly surprised. I think most anyone who enjoys football without the drama (I didn’t see one kneeler, one team picture celebration after a good play, no divas, and the refs where freaking great!) will really enjoy this product. If this is an accurate depiction of how XFL games are going to be I think they have a real shot at success. I’m honestly really excited about this right now.

  4. The XFL will be one and done, because at the end of the season they will notice that they have lost 10’s of millions of dollars. McMahon didn’t become so successful by making silly business decisions. This will be no different than the last time around.

  5. Liked the kickoff, great idea. I also like no more field goals, I NEVER liked a game riding on a kicker, now its ALL up to those who play Football, not those who kick balls through posts. Another great idea.
    The interviewing players during the game and hearing the play calling is not a good idea.

  6. Good for them. It must be nice to finally have a competitive football team in the national capital region after so many years of enduring the other hopeless football franchise across town.

  7. Small crowds? Maybe compared to the NFL, but the DC looked almost sold out for the stadium they play in. The Houston game appeared as though the lower levels were sold out. The better way to compare this might be to share how it stacked up against AAF stadium attendance last year.

  8. things I liked: sideline accessibility of players/coaches
    quality of announcers
    after TD chance to go for 1, 2, or 3
    monetary bonus to winners of the game

  9. However, attendance was small: DC drew 17,163 fans to Audi Field and Houston drew an announced crowd of 17,815 to TDECU Stadium.

    This is what you will see at NFL stadiums in less than ten years as player contracts, PSL’s,admission prices and the cost to attend games continues to spiral out of control, as fan sports venue expendable income continues to stagnate or erode.

  10. The stadiums looked packed to me. They were smart and didnt book giant fields where there would be huge patches of empty seats.

    Of all things to point out I’m surprised you’d point out the crowd size….what did you expect for a startup league, 50k?

    The presentation looked great, it was real non gimmicky football, and the crowd was into it.

  11. The D.C. stadium was almost a sellout, it usually a small soccer stadium. I was impressed not disappointed.

  12. It’ll be interesting to see if attendance grows. I suspect it will, as word of mouth spreads, and if the XFL focuses more advertising in the local markets. The people who went to those games seemed to be having a great time. The DC Defenders crowd really liked those little shields. There were so many of them in the crowd I wonder if they were giveaways.

    TV viewership is going to be a much harder nut to crack than in-stadium attendance. I watched both games, and they were pretty good, but I’m not at all sure I’m into “spring” football. You watch the NFL and going through the playoffs you get to watch better and better performers and, this year at least, impressive and exciting games. It’s a big difference between watching that and then watching these guys. The XFL is going to need to work on getting viewers to connect with teams and players, and definitely get the game time down. Both games were over three hours. Sometimes the games zipped along, but other times they really dragged.

  13. I think it’ll be TV numbers that matter most, anyway. And for a CFL fan those crowds looked just fine.

  14. I honestly think the league would do better, playing during a football time frame,ie Sept to december .Sure you are going straight up against the n.f.l but you could televise games on Friday night, much like the old A.F.L did. Foot ball fanatics can’t get enough football during fall ,regardless the source,but by February and early spring ,even we are tapped out.

  15. They are realistically targeting 15-20k

    DC plays in Audi field – it holds 20k, you can’ expect 30k at a 20k stadium

    They got lucky with the weather in DC and it helped turnout.

    Note the midfield seats are not cheap so the cheaper seats(endzones) did better.

  16. I hope the XFL lasts a long time. The NFL (No Fun League) can learn some valuable lessons from the XFL, such as the kickoff rule and extra point choices.

  17. What I didn’t like was the side line reporters getting in the players faces after plays or in the locker room at half time. not a fan of all the audio from the coach to much live talking calling plays.I think some tweaks to the way they do things will make it more watchable overall it was pretty good football.( Just get rid of the gimmicks.)

  18. Games were competitive, the players had some skill and I enjoyed watching both. Interesting the Roughnecks had an oil derrick on their helmets. No accident there. I liked the in game coach interviews and watching the replay guy. Not too shabby for first time out…

  19. It was better football than I expected and they got rid of all the WWE-style gimmicks like ridiculous names and ultra-violent hits. I think the league has a legitimate chance to make it based on week 1.

  20. Games were competitive, the players had some skill and I enjoyed watching both. Interesting the Roughnecks had an oil derrick on their helmets. No accident there. I liked the in game coach interviews and watching the replay guy. Not too shabby for first time out…

    Their unis are basically a combo of the Oilers and Texans….

  21. It might be small by NFL standards but for the first day of a start up league I think the XFL 2.0 did one heck of a job. The games were competitive, having the refs mic’d up was insightful to viewers to hear the refs reasoning for penalties or non-calls, and the players and fans both seemed to really enjoy themselves. Let’s hope the 2 games today can be anywhere near as exciting as yesterday was.

    On a side note, for any naysayers proclaiming this XFL to be a one and done league Vince McMahon has already put down enough money upfront to keep the league afloat for at least 3 years. XFL 2.0 will not fold after this year and WILL be back next year.

  22. I saw parts of it. Not bad, I guess. It was good enough that I would have watched the 4th quarter but it was obvious DC was going to win. I saw two helmet to helmet tackles in just one play and there was no flag, heh. Probably not a good thing.

  23. XFL isn’t going away, McMahon knows this effort will take a few years to stick for sponsors, fan appeal and ultimately profits. He has smart people around him I’m betting this will succeed.

  24. I liked the kickoff. In concept I like the 1,2,3 extra-point options, but none of Saturday’s teams seemed to be able to execute even the 1-point try very well. Still, it’s the first game, so we’ll see.

    The officials seemed decent and I really liked the eye-in-the-sky review and no coaches’ challenges. I sure hope the NFL is watching that.

    I liked the mic’d-up coaches for about five minutes, but then forget it. It wasn’t doing Coach Jim Zorn any favors. He sounded like he’d struggle with a Pop Warner team. And why waste time when you’re communicating with your QB by starting every call with “I’m going to go with . . . “? Made him look amateurish.

    Talking with the players on the sidelines was kind of fun, but we’ll see how long that lasts, especially after ABC failed to mute the F word from one of the players. I don’t care, but you know the FCC does.

    The 25-second play clock didn’t really seem to speed things up a lot of the time. And whenever there was a turnover the officials would let the recovering team sprint down to the end zone and do a celebration. A big waste of time right there. Nice for the attendees, but not so good for viewers or McMahon’s commitment to keep the games under three hours.

    All in all, a good debut. I’ll keep watching for now.

  25. How are ticket prices? I’d pay $100-150 for my and my kid to go to a game and be able to sit close than go spend $500 on parking, food and nose-bleed seat tickets at an NFL game.

    Playing games in small venues is a GREAT idea. Notice how the AAF broadcasts NEVER showed the crowd? B/c it looked ridiculous when there were 20k people in a 70k seat stadium.

    And while I’m yammering….why no pregame/postgame shows? Do Fox/ABC want this to work or not?!?

  26. Audi field in DC only seats like 23,000 people so thats a pretty full house. I was impressed with the quality of play.

  27. The DC crowd looked great, and the Houston crowd looked good on TV. But I did notice that the hard-camera side of the field in Houston had empty seats behind the sideline, like they shuffled the fans over to the visible side.

    Darren Rovell said that before the XFL even kicked off, they had more ticket sales revenue than the entire season of the Alliance.

  28. gmen32 says:
    February 9, 2020 at 6:37 am
    The XFL will be one and done, because at the end of the season they will notice that they have lost 10’s of millions of dollars. McMahon didn’t become so successful by making silly business decisions. This will be no different than the last time around.

    ———–

    Yah, real bright. McMahon has already accepted that this will be a $400 million dollar loss over the first 3 seasons. Naysayers will nay say for what? Brand loyalty. Dont be sheeple. The NFL brand is not loyal to you, so dont be loyal to it. All of this football only benefits the consumer

  29. I watched the Houston/LA game. It was an interesting and somewhat enjoyable game to watch. Some rules I liked, others I did not.

    I did like being a fly on the wall and seeing/hearing the conversation between the replay official and the referee.

    I do think one of the rules that needs to be changed is the kickoff out of bounds. I think the penalty which results on the ball being placed on the 45 yard line of the kicking team which is where the offense takes over is way too harsh.

    The option of going for one two or three points after a touchdown is okay, but most teams aren’t going to go for the three point option unless they need the points to catch up in the game.

    The audience attendance looked distorted to me. It seemed like most fans were seated on the side of the field facing the camera which would give the appearance of a more full stadium.

    if this league is going to grow an audience, they have to be willing to have the league exist for several seasons. If this ends up being a one and done league, they would have been better off not starting the league in the first place.

  30. Truly if you put NFL uniforms on you would see no difference in play. Yes a lot of gimmick changes, all in all was not hard to watch

  31. NFL football has been the most watched thing on TV for a long time, and they don’t interview coaches during plays. I think that looks amateurish. Why would you want to distract a coach during a game? I’d say just have QB’s who can complete passes, and the fans might watch. Sometimes I read things that suggest another league is fixing stuff the NFL gets wrong, but the NFL revenue stream suggests they know exactly what they’re doing.

  32. Me thinks one day the XFL will merge with the NfL to produce a new league. And the championship game should be called the Super Duper Bowl. In year 3 of the new league the Houston Roughnecks will defeat the New England Patriots 16-7 after a guarantee of victory by Roughneck QB Cody Gavin Garrett.

  33. I watched a while, not bad. interesting kickoffs. I think they need a lower developmental league for nfl like football, but honestly, i am not going to watch on a regular basis no matter how good

  34. If anyone also follows wrestling, you may find this as ironic as I do.

    Vince McMahon, the wrestling entrepreneur, is challenging the established football company with a new start-up, promising revolution and excitement and “getting back to what we loved about football”.

    Tony Khan, who’s entrepreneurial family owns an NFL team, is challenging the established wrestling company with a new start-up, promising revolution and excitement and “getting back to what we loved about wrestling”.

  35. The gimmicks may make this endeavor interesting for awhile… but the bottom line will always be quality of play. — The XFL doesn’t have the very best football players on this planet & never will.

  36. Let’s see if XFL can succeed, remember the AAFC and AFL were successful so we can’t say that it hasn’t been done before.

  37. These two games were great. I liked the instant replay and how quickly they got the answers. The extra poi8nt choices were great as were the kickoffs. Good luck to the league.

  38. The only really negative thing about the XFL is that it now gives us 3 lousy pro teams in Los Angeles.

  39. murphyslaw40 said:”

    If anyone also follows wrestling, you may find this as ironic as I do.

    Vince McMahon, the wrestling entrepreneur, is challenging the established football company with a new start-up, promising revolution and excitement and “getting back to what we loved about football”.

    Tony Khan, who’s entrepreneurial family owns an NFL team, is challenging the established wrestling company with a new start-up, promising revolution and excitement and “getting back to what we loved about wrestling”.”

    —————–
    I get your point.

    I don’t think the new pro wrestling startup (AEW) that airs on TNT is challenging anyone. It is absolutely dreadful to watch.

    I do have my problems with some of the rules in the XFL, but at least I find it entertaining.

  40. A lot better than no football at all.

    Seattle doesn’t even have an NBA team(no comment) so there isn’t much going on… they should do well in attendance.

    NHL team starts soon so they better get those fans now.

    The dragons might be smart to bring in Russell Wilson to do something… Not sure what but Jim Zorn is already the coach so tying the two teams together a bit(Seahawks have nothing to worry about) could cross quite a few fans and keep that stadium full.

    I enjoyed the game except for the losing part of course.

    I even cared enough to be mad about a replay that got reversed and I thought it was wrong…

  41. Watched a little of both games and found it very interesting. Particularly liked the replay booth being miked-up.
    The NFL is really pushing a 17 game schedule which would run it almost to the end of February. I don’t think this is a coincidence. A product that would add more excitement and open people to behind the scenes could catch on and they are probably watching that and trying to “nip it in the bud”.

  42. jmethane says:
    February 9, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    The dragons might be smart to bring in Russell Wilson to do something…

    ———————
    Why in the world would you think that Wilson would want to promote the XFL team. That’s as ridiculous as thinking that Frank Gifford would promote the N.Y. Jets (Titans) when they were an AFL startup.

  43. The only way I see the XFL lasting just as long as the Arena Football League, if not longer at this point, is if the NFL helps to fund it. They need a few former NFL coaches and players to participate as well. Some former NFL players are already there, which is good. It just needs more positive publicity.

  44. Good start for the XFL, but they need to keep working and marketing. REACH FOR THE STARS. I won’t be satisfied until XFL games are filled with 70,000 fans. This is a rare, affordable brand of football. A family of 4 won’t wiped out financially going to a game.

  45. Greg Olsen is doing a great job presenting and reacting to what is going on in the TB vs NY game. What a difference! It’s about the players, the coaches and the game.

  46. Way back when for the AFL’s first season, the AFL only got an attendance of around 18,000 for each team per week. The XFL will need to get better players, work on attendance and marketing.It’s not the NFL, but they will need to crawl before they can walk.The AFL did it, let’s see how the XFL will do.

  47. I’m watching the TB@NY game and I’d bet that there are as many or more fans than the Giants or Jets got the last half of the season!

  48. Watched a couple series of game two, its like the 4th preseason game in February. Weird. But, the guys look like they love playing football and its probably their last chance or a chance they never thought they’d get, so thats cool. They need a Colorado team to be called the Buds. Hey-o!

  49. I LOVED the mic’d up coach-QB communication.

    Instead of WAITING all the BORING time between plays for entertainment, I was able to “feel” the rush of the very limited time there is to figure out the play and how to implement it. It made it MUCH more interesting.

  50. Small crowds at a football game in February in DC? No way. Lets go see a basketball game in a inside or sit outside and watch these guys play for nothing.

  51. sityourselfdown says:
    February 9, 2020 at 10:05 am
    You guys are just pretending you like these other leagues. You’ll fizzle out after a couple more weeks, like usual. The XFL does officiating better, thats it.
    _______________________
    Did you actually sit yourself down and WATCH the game?

  52. My guess is the younger people (10-30 yrs old) likes this brand of football.

    I remember when football was the best it ever was! Back in the 70’s through the 90’s.

    There is no way I can watch this style of social media football.

    What keeps the other team from hearing the play?

    Ridiculous!

  53. The XFL is better than the Alliance of American Football EVER was and could have been. The XFL is certainly better than the NFL preseason too. The uniforms are great (except for the Gogurt Vipers), the in-depth look into the replay, hiring of Dean Blandino, listening to coaching in-game and the rule changes really make this a success with football fans.
    I was very surprised at the quality. Now it needs time to grow and the teams need a real chance to develop personalities and fanbases.
    The fun part for me is finding a team to root for and watching Pat McAfee. Can we replace Booger with him please? Or is that not a Woke enough move for ESPN?

  54. I watched the viper vs guardians game. It was interesting liked the announcers and the kickoff. I will watch more games

  55. mrbigass says:
    February 9, 2020 at 9:18 am

    Games were competitive
    —————————————————————————————————-
    What? How are you defining “competitive”? There have been 3 games so far – a 20 point win, another 20 point win and a 12 point win.

    You gotta work for the XFL to describe this the way you have,

  56. rockemsockemrobots says:
    February 9, 2020 at 9:53 am
    I was at the DC game. It was fun. I might go back.
    ________________________________

    And I bet the prices were reasonable unlike the NFL that wants $200+ for horrible teams in the nose-bleed seats!

  57. I thought it was funny how Jim Zorn was trying to cover his mouth so nobody could read his lips like he used to do in the NFL.

    The announcers laughed and said “Jim, we can hear every word” and turned on the mic and we heard all the words he was saying while he was trying to cover his mouth.

    What’s keeping the other team from watching the broadcast and knowing the other teams plays?

  58. Edward Halverson says:
    February 9, 2020 at 5:27 pm
    My guess is the younger people (10-30 yrs old) likes this brand of football.

    I remember when football was the best it ever was! Back in the 70’s through the 90’s.

    There is no way I can watch this style of social media football.

    What keeps the other team from hearing the play?

    Ridiculous!
    _________________________________

    What is it exactly you don’t like?

    The faster pace of play?

    That there’s more actual playing time?

    The fact it doesn’t take 3-5min to figure out a penalty or where to spot the ball?

    That you can watch a game in less than 3hrs vs 4hrs or more for an NFL game?

    The fact that the refs get most of the calls correct the first time and they don’t have to review them for 5 minutes and still get them wrong?

    The fact there’s a hell of a lot less commercials?

    That there’s no trash talking and the players don’t have a camera or mic in their pie-hole 24/7/365?

    That there’s not many diva players?

    That there isn’t a celebration or choreographed dance move after almost every play?

    That the refs don’t try and be the center of attention?

    Seriously from what I’ve seen so far there isn’t a lot not to like!

    I’m so sick of the NFL that I only watched parts of 4 games from week 10 to the Conference Championship games and I didn’t watch one play of the SB, I’m totally fed up with the NFL!

    OH I take that back I did see one replay, that choreographed spin move the Chiefs pulled and I nearly died laughing, WHAT A JOKE! What the hell is this, Dancing With the Stars – the NFL Edition? Right then I realized I really didn’t miss anything other than a big JOKE.

  59. jmethane says:
    February 9, 2020 at 7:19 pm
    I thought it was funny how Jim Zorn was trying to cover his mouth so nobody could read his lips like he used to do in the NFL.

    The announcers laughed and said “Jim, we can hear every word” and turned on the mic and we heard all the words he was saying while he was trying to cover his mouth.

    What’s keeping the other team from watching the broadcast and knowing the other teams plays?
    ______________________________

    Its called a 10-15sec delay, by the time the other team would hear the play its already happen! Just because they say its live doesn’t mean its up to the second.

  60. jmethane says:
    February 9, 2020 at 7:19 pm
    What’s keeping the other team from watching the broadcast and knowing the other teams plays?
    =================================

    Absolutely nothing.

  61. Cryptker says:
    February 9, 2020 at 10:41 am
    These other leagues will always be compared to the NFL and for that reason will never catch on.

    ——

    Totally. The NCAA is dumb for still hoping people will watch their product with lesser talent. When will they give up?

  62. It’s not going to last. The same positive reviews were given for The Alliance of American Football last year and look what happened…they folded in less than a season, filed for bankruptcy and didn’t pay several players.

    The XFL failed once. They’ll fail again. People will lose interest after the initial shine wears off. The NFL has a monopoly on football in this country and nobody is going to put even a small dent into it.

  63. I looked into buying tickets to the Houston game and the top tier stands were not available, they were grayed out. I don’t think they actually sold tickets for the upper level seats at all. The lower level stands were full, because that’s all they actually sold tickets for.

  64. i had to watch on one of the free streaming sites for the fox game but the abc game i was able to watch on espn website . good product . i will watch as long as its free to watch . once they start with the espn + , or the cable subscription bs i will lose interest .

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