The XFL plans on returning in the spring of 2022, but there is a lot that the league will have to accomplish in 2021 for that to happen.
The XFL is returning in 2022, but there are many different factors in play and a lot of work that needs to be accomplished between now and then.
In the summer/early fall of 2020, I wrote articles on this site that cast doubt on the XFL returning a year after their season was canceled due to the pandemic. One of the columns, “The Positives and Negatives For The League’s Future,” cast serious doubt on the league’s ability to turn the lights back on and move forward.
The business side of the XFL in 2022
Full disclosure, during the time frame, where there was still hope of a 2021 return, I reached out and spoke to several people involved in XFL 2020 and many who were close to the new ownership group.
They unilaterally told me that the XFL was a long way off from hiring people or setting up any type of football operations.
The consensus from sources I was in contact with was that RedBird Capital would not put one more dollar into the XFL until they secured a lucrative media rights deal.
While the majority of the focus on the current XFL is on the historic nature of Dany Garcia and ‘The Rock’s” ownership/leadership of the league.
The truth is that RedBird Capital is a big factor in the movement and execution of the XFL, and ultimately, a deciding factor in how the league does business.
XFL Co-Owner Dany Garcia, when she was interviewed back in the fall by Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman, Garcia spoke confidently about the league’s prospects in securing media and business partnerships. Here is a telling quote from Dany Garcia in the interview.
“Going forward, having media rights deals where there are no fees, that’s not the option that we are looking at, and in fact, we’re in robust conversations with numerous partners.”
Before the XFL made it official that they would be returning in 2022, Dwayne Johnson, one of the league’s co-owners, went on social media and pointed out how they were “looking for the right partners” to fully execute the league’s vision. A hint that XFL 3.0 had not found them yet and that it wouldn’t be an easy process.
The current pandemic and the recovery of society are big factors in the XFL’s revenue stream potential. One of the many reasons there won’t be a 2021 XFL season is the inability to host fans at games.
The success of a vaccine and the outlook of the entire sporting landscape is vital to the XFL’s success and for opening up pathways financially. Hence the reason, 2022 was chosen over 2021.
At present date, followers, supporters, and even former employees of the XFL are getting anxious about when the league will start to put the keys in the ignition and get the vehicle moving towards 2022.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the timeline, and what the league will need to achieve in 2021 to pull it off.
A realistic 2021 timeline for the XFL getting back to business off the field
XFL 2020 used a two-year runway to launch the league last February. It took time; the league, under the leadership of many, took a disciplined and methodical approach to build everything brick by brick.
To understand what the current XFL will need to accomplish to launch successfully in the spring of 2022, one needs to look back to where the XFL was in January of 2019, in contrast to where they are now in January of 2021.
By January of 2019, the league’s football operations aspect, from scouting to the brain trust in designing the league’s rules, was already in place. However, from the period of February to May 2019, the league was still hiring its head coaches.
On February 7th, Bob Stoops was hired as the head coach of the then-unnamed Dallas franchise. By May 20th, the last of eight coaches, June Jones was officially announced to lead Houston. The coaching staffs for all eight teams, as well as the team’s individual football operations, weren’t finalized until the mid-way point of 2019.
During this same time period, the XFL was also hiring team presidents; league COO Jeffrey Pollack was tasked with putting together many aspects of the XFL’s business operations. Chief among them was getting the right people to lead each team in their respective markets.
A difficult task in the short period of time that Pollack had. After all, the official announcement of Jeffrey Pollack’s hire as XFL president didn’t come until January 21st of 2019.
By late June of 2019, one of the final team presidents hired by the XFL was St. Louis’s, Kurt Hunzeker. Who did a tremendous job and still does, championing the city of St. Louis and the BattleHawks.
Marketing, and eventually team schedules, and ticket sales were all things that happened in the weeks and months that followed many of the XFL’s team president hires.
Having Jeffrey Pollack back on board in XFL 3.0 will help the current XFL hire and potentially rehire many of the quality executives that made the league work in 2020.
However, a wildcard in this entire process is RedBird Capital and Dany Garcia/Dwayne Johnson. The new ownership group has many different connections in the sports and entertainment industry and may decide to go in a different direction in who they hire to head up XFL teams.
No matter who makes the final decision on these crucial business hires. It’s a process that will need to get started soon.
A realistic 2021 timeline for the XFL getting back to business on the field
By the summer of 2019, although XFL teams still did not have logos or names by then. That would come late in the summer, and then eventually, the league’s uniform reveals in December.
XFL teams had begun the process of scouting players. In conjunction with the work that was already done by the league’s football ops team and scouting department.
The XFL introduced “Summer Showcases” in all eight of their markets. In a time frame that stretched from June to mid-July, the league looked at and tested hundreds of players live in person.
The XFL’s first official “player signing” took place in late August when they announced quarterback Landry Jones’s signing to a league contract. However, it wasn’t until the fall that quarterbacks like Jones, PJ Walker, and others would be officially assigned to teams before the draft.
The league’s multi-tiered positional draft would take place in October. This was complemented by a supplemental draft a month later. Then eventually, the teams would have mini-camps in December of 2019. Two months before kickoff in February. Ultimately, the XFL would conduct a centralized training camp with all their teams last January in Houston.
For the XFL to successfully relaunch in the spring of 2022, they will have to follow a timeline similar to the one that was executed in 2019.
The NFL’s effect on the XFL’s 2022 relaunch
We are almost home free. This coming weekend, the NFL will be playing its conference championship games. Despite many issues along the way, they are nearing their season’s finish line, and to the league’s credit, they’ve avoided great incident or cancellations of their games.
Without a bubble, the 32-team National Football League has navigated the muddy waters of operating a league during a pandemic. It helps that the NFL has the necessary resources and capital to make a sports league work in a pandemic. Credit to them for being able to pull it off. Seeing fans at recent games in Buffalo and Green Bay, albeit at a reduced capacity, has given all sports leagues hope for normalcy in the future.
There’s no doubt that the XFL’s leadership group has monitored the NFL and all sports leagues during this pandemic. The idea of a 2022 relaunch was to hopefully get to a place where the world was a safer environment for spectator sports. The NFL, like many major leagues, had the resources and never-ending capital to absorb financial losses. Something that a league like the XFL couldn’t endure.
The area where the NFL could affect the XFL in 2022 will be the actual date of the league’s return to the field. Super Bowl 56 is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, February 6th, 2022, at SoFi stadium in Inglewood, California. However, there is a chance that the date of the big game could be pushed back.
The NFL, in 2021, is going to expand to a 17 game regular season. The possibility exists that the Super Bowl could be pushed back to the second weekend of February. Perhaps landing on February 13th instead of the 6th. This would change the timeline for the XFL’s return to potentially mid to late February.
A scenario exists that if there are any delays in 2021 during the process, that the XFL’s return could be pushed back further down 2022. Perhaps to a time when Spring is officially on the calendar.
Where the NFL eventually takes up residence in February could help determine when the XFL gets to play again. And ultimately, where the XFL’s TV partners feel most comfortable with them on their schedule.
For many, it’s difficult to fathom that the XFL is still alive and kicking. It’s not only the detractors of the league who feel this way. Even the XFL’s biggest supporters have an “I’ll believe when I see it” attitude about the XFL coming back.
Can you blame them? After all, the history of alternate football leagues have not been very kind. The task that RedBird Capital, Dany Garcia, Dwayne Johnson have to pull off in the coming year, to relaunch the league, will be a difficult one. It’s almost time for the XFL to get back on the path towards that very goal.
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January 19, 2021 at 4:06 pm
IMHO I hope that the XFL does start in March 2022. I always felt that spring football should be played in the spring. February is not spring. While football fans might be willing to attend an NFL game in February, I don’t think a lot of them would for a non-NFL game in one of the coldest months of the year.
Any league needs a strong start. Lack of attendance for the first couple of games sets a bad tone for the rest of the season.