The XFL just held a conference call in which all employees were told the league is suspending operations. Said one: “The word they used was ‘shut down’.”— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 10, 2020
Today is certainly a somber day for fans of the XFL, it’s players and staff members. I personally came across hundreds of extremely talented and friendly personnel who were dedicated to the league, their team and the job they were faced with doing. I won’t be the only person to share my thoughts on the situation and commend the individuals I’ve had the privilege to work with and alongside during the experience.
I for one, am in the school of thought that if the world hadn’t been dealing with the Corona Virus pandemic the XFL wouldn’t have ceased operation and the level of optimism for a season in 2021 and beyond would be high.
The XFL will become one of the many businesses that were strong-armed into closing it’s doors because abnormal economic conditions. The impact of COVID-19 is greater than anything I can comprehend, so I’ll stick to something I know well and understand:
There is something about a Spring football league that has me heavily intrigued. I’m one of the millions of Americans who are crazed with football, I watch College and NFL football, and once I submerged myself into the world of the XFL I was hooked on that as well.
I truly believe that an annual Spring league will work in North America one day, and I think it will become something internationally supported that will become something too big to fail.
With that in mind, what I believe to be the number one thing that is needed for a Spring league to flourish may be something will never happen.
The league HAS TO HAVE THE SUPPORT OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
The NFL is too big to fail. There is no worry that they will be laying off employees, or that they will be struggling at all financially through this pandemic because of how strong the brand is.
NFL television deals are in the tens of billions of dollars. Year in and year out, team’s post revenues of over $300 Million. The amount of money in the sports is higher than anyone ever believed, and it’s still growing.
And yet the sport can’t find a way to make a Spring league work…or does it want too?
I’ll tell you something I know for a fact. If the XFL, the AAF or any other spring league startup had affiliation with the NFL they would succeed immediately and have protection from economic hardships.
But the argument has to be made: does the NFL need a league in the Spring if it is already the biggest sport while in season from September to February?
With the league having in-season practice squads and expanded offseason rosters, do they feel as if they need an offseason league to expand?
There’s certainly some interest from me as a pro football fan to have a minor league affiliate that plays in the offseason and helps players develop. That’s something that would keep me hooked on the NFL offseason year round, it could go from the week after the Super Bowl until the week of the NFL draft and perhaps an expansion of the draft to help supplement the boost in active players each team would have under contract.
All-in-all the NFL and its minor league affiliate could be separate entities and you could adopt a system similar to that of Major League Baseball, a fluid path for players from one team to the next, with little contact and interaction between the two past running the same scheme for players to learn and develop within.
That would be the best thing for the sport. But it certainly isn’t necessary for the NFL at this point in time.
Why would the NFL give up a piece of their pie?
There is a situation that I think is very similar to what is happening with football. And it’s going on in professional hockey. The NHL is king when it comes to professional hockey around the world. The best players from every country around the world dream of getting to the NHL and building a legacy.
But at the same time, there is so much quality in women’s hockey and there has yet to be a professional league for female hockey player’s that is supported and can financially keep the sport going.
Many want the NHL to put their arms around the women’s leagues that have fallen in previous years and come up with one unified league that displays the best in the women’s game. The NHL publicly supports the idea of a women’s league but has never truly offered something that would help support them financially and give the league the structure it needs to flourish.
This all, despite many calling for the NHL to do the right thing for the women’s sport.
There needs to be some unity between enterprises. That’s a sentence that is so much bigger than sports. But it needs to be implemented in order to find success.
Maybe the XFL wasn’t the answer to a competitive Spring league, just like the AAF wasn’t. Who knows how long the economy will take to regain it’s footing and for the millions of Americans displaced from their jobs to once again find work.
When everything is put into perspective, a secondary football league is something insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
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