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An in-depth overview of the XFL, its history, and its mission compared to other football leagues

It’s that time of year when we look towards NFL draft odds as teams across the NFL are organizing their offseason plans and preparations for a new season. To fill the void, the XFL returned last year to nourish your hunger for football.

A professional football league created by the WWE CEO Vince McMahon, the XFL was set up to fill the void between the Super Bowl and start of the following NFL season. There have been two failed versions of the XFL since its initial founding in 1999 and 2023 brought the third instalment of the league which has got off to a promising start.

The Early Years

The inaugural XFL season kicked off back in 2001 and focused more on entertainment than the quality of the football on display. Eight teams got us started and fans flocked to experience this new form of American Football.

Sadly, for the league, interest began to slip as the season progressed and after just one season the XFL folded. With its wrestling roots, fans began to feel the league was also scripted so it just couldn’t compete with the drama you find in the NFL. The Vegas odds NFL draft lines change dramatically on a regular basis, something which just wasn’t being replicated in the XFL.

The second iteration of the league began in 2020 and promised more of a football product with the XFL not tied to wrestling in any capacity. It was cut short though due to the COVID-19 pandemic and had its season cancelled after just one month with parent company Alpha Entertainment shortly afterwards going into bankruptcy.

Third Times the Charm

In 2020, a group which was led by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson became the new owners of the XFL in a deal worth around $15 million, purchasing it before it went to auction. 

The league is now under new ownership and changes have been made across the board and executive levels to help make this version of the XFL a better product. Staff with strong NFL experience are leading the vision of the league including former Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley and former Bills president Russ Brandon. Alongside them is ex New York Giants executive Marc Ross who joins Deny Garcia, XFL Chairwoman, as key figures in the leagues head office.

It has become clear that the XFL is keen to collaborate with the NFL and work with the league on enhancing the game as we see it now. Deny Garcia is clear in her thoughts about how this can benefit the game as a whole as quoted back in February 2023:

“We are extremely pleased to collaborate with the NFL in these important areas. We are bringing forward an XFL that is progressive and forward-thinking when it comes to innovation, leveraging the newest technology to enhance game-day experience. We have an open field for innovative rules to enhance in-game access. Sharing insights and practices between the XFL and NFL will do a tremendous amount of good for the game of football and support the player ecosystem overall.”

Player Development

While working towards the same goals and in alignment with the NFL, the XFL is looking to build its reputation as a great place for players to come through and prepare themselves for moves into the NFL.

Look through the NFL draft betting odds and you will see players lower down the list who could benefit from using the XFL as a launching pad for their football careers. In April 2023 the league announced its partnership with the NFL Alumni Academy to develop future players, meaning that all who participate in the program were given an opt-in contract to join the XFL last year.

The league will trial new rules, new safety equipment and develop officials and coaches too, becoming the testing ground for the NFL. This will make the players more adaptable and better equipped for the chance to progress into the NFL.

With faster games the league is hoping to overcome its lack of household names on the pitch with its exciting product which is available to view on ESPN, ABC and FX as a deal through to 2027 has been agreed.

XFL uses a running clock until the final two minutes of each half, does not use extra-point kicks after touchdowns and offers either one, two or three point try, from the two-yard, five-yard, and 10-yard lines respectively. I

It is these tweaks and trials which the XFL hope to build a fanbase from. While being unable to really compete with the NFL, by cooperating and working towards the same goal, the XFL should stand a much better chance at success than its past attempts under Vince McMahon.

We will wait and see if the players who use the XFL do eventually go on to become NFL players, the vision is there, but can it be captured?

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