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United Football League Enjoys a Hot Start to its Place on the Football Calendar

In December 2023, the merger between the XFL and USFL became official. It ushered in the new professional football league to take place after the Super Bowl each year. The United Football League didn’t seek to compete with the NFL. Rather, the UFL is here to provide another football product in the spring.

While the other leagues had several runs between them, the 2024 UFL season was the first for the newly merged league. Not only did it do well in the numbers, but several players have since been snapped up by the NFL. First to go was kicker Jake Bates, from the Michigan Panthers to the Detroit Lions.

The league’s top back, Jacob Saylors, also signed for the Giants. Daewood Davis and Dondrea Tillman are also among the new NFL signees. Here’s a look at how the first edition of the UFL landed and what could be on the cards in the future.

A start that put the UFL ahead of expectations

The first season of the UFL exceeded expectations. Fox Sports executive Eric Shanks said that the UFL is ahead of expectations towards becoming self-sustained. Still, and as was to be expected, the league lost money in 2024. Average viewership hit 845,000 through 18 telecasts. This was a 25 percent increase on either league’s 2023 numbers.  

Eight stadiums across the United States hosted the league. They ranged in capacity from the 20,000 capacity of the DC Defenders at Audi Field to The Dome at America’s Center with its 67,277 seats. In total, more than 250,000 fans attended games. A big draw, besides being spring professional football, was the rule changes.

The league needs to sell itself as a TV product. Above all else, sport is entertainment. The UFL will never be able to compete with the NFL, and it’s not trying to. Still, it can improve the product. In an interview with Fox, the vice president of football operations cited the fourth-and-12 as being a game-changer. By midseason, 94.5 percent of kickoffs had been returned and many games saw late comebacks.

Is there a place for more changes to the set-up?

The UFL will ideally be a proving ground for the NFL. So, the rule changes can’t be too extreme. However, in order to fulfill its duties as a company, selling points are needed. Sure, it’s in the spring and there are rules that make it more tense. There are some other ways to spin off and keep the core sport the same.

Playing off of arcade-like football entertainment products, wild cards and special circumstances could be deployed. For example, it could be like a big wheel to spin, just like the ones at the leading live casinos Canada has to offer. Sweet Bonanza Candyland, for example, has prizes dotted around a wheel that players bet on.

At the other end, specific play situations could be called by coaches. This would be a bit more like a powerplay in short-form cricket. It gives the scoring team a better situation to score in, upping the excitement value for the crowd.

The UFL has started very well. Perhaps a couple of little tweaks could make it even better as a product for TV audiences.

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