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How The XFL Plans To Be Different In 2023

The XFL working with the NFL? New team locations? A brand new way of marketing a sports league by giving fans unprecedented year-round behind-the-scenes access. A league that is a global convergence of live entertainment and sport.

Before we delve into all of these genuine possibilities, one by one, one thing is evident. The XFL in 2023 is going to be vastly different from the league we remembered in 2020. While there are some familiar names from the league’s last iteration, who have been working for the league. For better or for worse, the league’s new ownership group has an entirely different vision than the one that preceded it.

XFL Changes Around The Margins

The three-year layoff between games being played would inevitably see the XFL have to reset and reassess their business arrangements with their 2020 locations.

Don’t expect wholesale team name and location changes in 2023. But as sources close to the XFL have indicated to me for months. There are going to be “some changes around the margins.”

There’s also the global element that the XFL’s ownership has openly talked about for quite some time. There’s no doubt that the XFL is aiming for a worldwide outreach with their league. Evidence of this was their talks with the Canadian Football League about a potential alignment. You can’t rule out the possibility that the XFL could still journey into not only Canada in the future but also other far-reaching and untapped markets globally like Mexico.

The sudden change at XFLShop.com, where users are now informed that a ‘New XFL Shop will be coming in 2022’, has many speculating about potential upcoming changes with the team names, locations, and logos.

Could the XFL have redesigns of their existing team names and logos from 2020? Or, will there also be new team names and logos revealed?

The speculation in the past has been that some of the XFL’s underperforming markets in 2020, like Los Angeles and Tampa, could be relocated. With the Wildcats and Vipers setting up shop somewhere else. But what if the Vipers and Wildcats are no longer a part of the XFL.

Although I haven’t heard anything concrete on that front yet, inevitably, one, two, or maybe more of the XFL’s teams play in different locations than they did back in 2020. The league is starting anew, and with that, will have to come new venue agreements at the bare minimum.

Could Dwayne Johnson’s relationships with outfitters like Under Armour lead to XFL teams getting new looks and gear? It’s entirely possible, And do not be surprised if the rollout of new merchandise is part of the XFL’s promotion and marketing efforts. In relation to what the league has in store from a presentation standpoint through all media channels during 2022 and leading into 2023.

Real Life Ballers

For those of you who have never seen the HBO series Ballers, which aired from 2015-2019. The show centers on Dwayne Johnson as Spencer Strasmore, a former NFL player turned financial manager, who, spoiler alert, eventually becomes an NFL owner.

The show chronicles Strasmore’s dealings with college and pro football players and league executives, and owners. John David Washington, a former RB who played in the United Football League, co-stars in the series with Johnson, playing an NFL wide receiver. Oh, and yeah, JDW has a famous father named Denzel.

The HBO series followed Dwayne Johnson (Strasmore), as he made deals for players, helped an NFL team move to Vegas, and also landed Patrick Mahomes a new contract extension.

Could reality imitate art? Well, that’s where the new XFL is headed. With Dwayne Johnson’s journey, along with Dany Garcia and others, being documented in a reality series that follows the league’s owners as they build the league back up brick by brick.

Think of it as a ‘Making The XFL’ series. Only with the Rock at the forefront as the league unveils its teams, players, uniforms, coaches, etc. That’s the plan for 2022, and the XFL’s inside the trenches type documentary will serve as a rampway towards the league getting back on the field in 2023. Could a recruiting trip for Dwayne Johnson’s former d-line coach Ed Orgeron be in store? Orgeron was Johnson’s defensive line coach when Johnson played at Miami. You can’t rule it out.

The XFL’s rollout and presentation of their league will extend beyond just watching the games on traditional linear television. It’s been the goal from day one to expand the exposure into many streams of distribution that fit the evolving landscape.

The goal from a business end is to for the league to eventually pay for itself. And ultimately for the brand to be a year-round entertainment package rather than just a three-month entity that exists solely during the games.

One of the XFL’s upcoming major announcements will be centered on how they plan on accomplishing that.

The XFL Working With The NFL?

It’s easy to ignore overzealous people when they spot an Easter Egg, like the one in XFL Co-Owner Dany Garcia’s Instagram photo pictured above. You can see an NFL logo towards the upper left-hand corner under the XFL Ownership Update binder if you look very closely. The XFL logo also shares the same page. Perhaps a foreshadowing of what’s to come in the future.

Perhaps the NFL logo is there simply because these are presentation papers and a business outline of both properties.

I blew it off too as a simple coincidence or window dressing and nothing more than that. However, as someone who routinely operates in the shadows. As an obligation, I looked into it. And what I found is that there is more than meets the eye to this Easter Egg.

The XFL is not only leaving the door open for a potential working agreement with the NFL. They are hoping for it to happen one day. It might not be an overnight thing, but that’s one of the goals.

Nothing can be more different than the XFL in 2020 than for this future iteration to not only welcome but seek out a potential partnership with the all-time titan in the sports world known as the NFL.

The XFL in 2020 wasn’t combative with the NFL by any means, nothing like its original installment in 2001. But last year’s XFL mission statement was to ‘reimagine’ the game of football. The whole premise was to do things better than the NFL does. In terms of transparency, rules, and presentation.

It was evident not only how the league embraced gambling, which is precisely what the NFL has done since. But in how the XFL altered rules of the game and how it was officiated for the betterment of the sport. It might not have been stated publicly, but Vince McMahon’s vision was to do things better than the NFL does.

The XFL in 2023 welcoming the NFL with open arms is an about-face from 2020. But why and how could something like this work?

As they say, follow the money. Not only does XFL Co-Owner Gerry Cardinale and RedBird Capital Partners have connections with the NFL and their teams. But one of their top partners, managing director Kevin LaForce was a crucial figure in the NFL’s business developments up until recently. He was a significant player for the NFL and is one now with RedBird.

Just some background on who Kevin LaForce is;

LaForce led the NFL’s media strategy and business development efforts, focusing on partnerships representing over 70% of the league’s annual revenue.  He was responsible for driving the League’s U.S. content distribution strategy and executing its significant media partnerships; Kevin also played a leading role in negotiating its 2021 landmark media distribution deals with Amazon, CBS, Disney, Fox, and NBC, valued at over $110 billion. 

In addition, LaForce’s oversight included the NFL’s partnership with AT&T in connection with its out-of-market games package, NFL Sunday Ticket, and critical partnerships with market-leading digital platforms including Amazon, Facebook, Google / YouTube, SNAP, and Twitter.  Kevin also oversaw the media strategy and commercial business development attached to the NFL’s efforts to legalize sports betting, including content and data licensing.  This included the league’s transformational $950 million global data licensing partnership with Genius Sports.

Would the goal of the current XFL mirror the aim of the Alliance of American Football, which attempted to have the NFL buy them outright for the sole purposes of being its exclusive developmental league? Not necessarily.

The XFL would be looking to partner with the NFL in terms of marketing and cross-promotion. Think of it as allies in the same landscape. The developmental aspect is by default anyway. Look no further than the over two dozen former XFL players currently in the NFL. An NFL relationship would be more about the business and entertainment side.

It’s also quite telling that the XFL’s new executive team has several people with direct ties to the NFL like Marc Ross, Russ Brandon, etc.

Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson’s trip to New York may have been to meet with their partners at RedBird headquarters. But the NFL offices weren’t too far away. Once upon a time, then XFL commissioner Oliver Luck met with Roger Goodell. But when RedBird meets with heavy hitters, there’s usually business involved. Don’t be surprised if the XFL has a business relationship with the NFL in the near future.

In another time and space, I’ll delve into the potential pitfalls of abandoning the things that made the XFL so endearing in 2020. But for now, what’s clear as day is that the XFL is going to be entirely different from the league many fell in love with a year ago. Whether that’s a good thing or not. Only time will tell. Get ready for some significant changes.

I am a credentialed reporter and writer. Over time, I have covered and followed the NFL, NCAA, and multiple football leagues intensely. Like the USFL, CFL, WLAF, NFL Europe, AAF, UFL, and of course, the XFL. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

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