|Inaugural season||2020 (planned)|
|Owner(s)||Alpha Entertainment LLC|
|No. of teams||8 (planned)|
The XFL is a planned professional American football league owned by Vince McMahon's Alpha Entertainment. It is a successor to the previous XFL, which was controlled by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) and NBC, and ran for a single season in 2001. The league will follow a similar structure as it did in 2001, with eight teams, centrally owned and operated by the league and spread across the United States in markets currently or recently represented by a National Football League franchise, competing in a ten-game season and a two-week postseason in the winter and spring months.
In announcing the reformed XFL, McMahon stated that while it would share its name and trademark with the previous incarnation, it will not rely on professional wrestling-inspired features and entertainment elements as its predecessor did, instead aiming to create a league with fewer off-field controversies and faster, simpler play compared to the NFL.
The XFL originally ran for a single season in 2001, as a joint venture between WWF and NBC spearheaded by Vince McMahon and NBC executive Dick Ebersol. The league attempted to be a competitor to the National Football League—the predominant professional league of American football in the United States (and where NBC had recently lost its broadcast rights to CBS), running during its off-season period. It featured various modifications to the rules of football in order to increase its intensity, as well as on-air innovations such as Skycams, placing microphones on players, and in-game interviews with players. The league was ultimately criticized for relying too heavily on "sports entertainment" gimmicks similar to professional wrestling (including emphasizing violence, and emphasizing cheerleaders as a source of sex appeal), and for the lack of high-level talent among its players. Despite strong ratings for its first games, viewership eventually nosedived, and the league folded after the conclusion of the inaugural season. Both partners lost $35 million on the XFL, and McMahon conceded that the league was a "colossal failure".
In the 2017 ESPN documentary This Was the XFL, McMahon openly mused about reviving the XFL, noting that changes would need to be made compared to 2001 in order to make it viable and relevant in the modern era. (The director of This Was the XFL, Charlie Ebersol, would go on to announce the Alliance of American Football in March 2018, hoping to beat the revived XFL to play.) On December 15, 2017, Bleacher Report columnist Brad Shepard reported that McMahon was seriously considering a revival of the XFL, with an expected announcement on January 25, 2018. In a statement to Deadspin, WWE did not confirm or deny the rumors, but did state that McMahon was establishing a new company known as Alpha Entertainment, which would "explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football." On December 21, 2017, WWE issued a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, stating that McMahon had sold $100 million worth of WWE stock to fund Alpha Entertainment. Alpha Entertainment is headquartered next door to WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.
On January 25, 2018, Alpha Entertainment announced a new incarnation of the XFL, which would begin with a 10-week inaugural season beginning in January or February 2020. In a press conference, McMahon stated that the new XFL would be dissimilar to its previous incarnation, stating that "There's only so many things that have 'FL' on the end of them and those are already taken. But we aren't going to have much of what the original XFL had, including the cheerleaders, who aren't really part of the game anymore. The audience wants entertainment with football, and that's what we are going to give them." McMahon stated that the league would feature eight teams as a single entity owned by Alpha (the previous XFL was also a single-entity league), which will be revealed in 2019. Alpha Entertainment was established in order to keep the league's management and operations separate from that of WWE. McMahon is prepared to invest as much as $500 million, five times as much as his investment in the 2001 XFL. The XFL's decision to nix cheerleaders is in part due to changing attitudes regarding women's participation in entertaining sports fans.
The XFL will discourage political gestures by players during games (such as, for example, taking a knee in protest), and will forbid any player with a criminal record from participating. (The league later backed off the latter assertion, noting that its policy had not yet been finalized.) He justified this by stating that the XFL would be "evaluating a player based on many things, including the quality of human being they are", and that "people don't want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained". He suggested that players who wish to express political opinions should do so on their personal time. The league later stated that the ban on protesting during the national anthem will be written into player contracts as a condition of employment.
McMahon did not reveal any specific details on rule changes that the new XFL would feature, but did state that he aimed to reduce the length of games to around two hours (in contrast to the current standard in American football, which generally runs slightly over three hours). He also noted that by announcing it two years in advance (unlike the original XFL, which was only announced one year in advance), there would also be more time to prepare the league in order to deliver a more desirable product.
McMahon denied that the timing of the announcement was meant to coincide with a recent ratings downturn being experienced by the NFL, explaining that "what has happened there is their business, and I'm not going to knock those guys, but I am going to learn from their mistakes as anyone would if they were tasked with reimagining a new football league."
On June 5, 2018, Oliver Luck was named the league's commissioner and chief executive officer. Luck will leave his previous positions with the NCAA to take over the operations of the XFL. Doug Whaley, most recently general manager of the Buffalo Bills, was hired as the league's senior vice president of football operations on November 8, 2018.
The league commissioner announced the eight host cities and stadiums for the first franchises on December 5, 2018. Also announced was the starting date of February 8, 2020, the weekend after Super Bowl LIV.
|Club||City||Stadium||Capacity||First season||Head coach|
|Dallas||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington||25,000||2020||TBD|
|Houston||Houston, Texas||TDECU Stadium||40,000||TBD|
|Los Angeles||Carson, California||StubHub Center||27,000||TBD|
|New York||East Rutherford, New Jersey||MetLife Stadium||82,500||TBD|
|St. Louis||St. Louis, Missouri||The Dome at America's Center||66,965||TBD|
|Seattle||Seattle, Washington||CenturyLink Field||69,000||TBD|
|Tampa Bay||Tampa, Florida||Raymond James Stadium||65,618||TBD|
|Washington, DC||Washington, D.C.||Audi Field||20,000||TBD|
McMahon stated that he wanted to play in existing NFL markets but didn't identify potential cities specifically and didn't rule out any specific cities. McMahon also did not rule out playing on artificial turf. The original XFL avoided artificial playing surfaces; the technology, however, has advanced considerably since 2001. John Shumway from KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and local media from Orlando and San Diego both inquired about potential teams in their respective cities, but McMahon (while stating that "I love Pittsburgh") declined to name any cities for teams. McMahon also stated that teams would have new identities compared to recycling old identities from the old league. The league sent solicitations to thirty metropolitan areas as potential locations for a team. The league commissioner announced the eight host cities and stadia for the first franchises on December 4, 2018.
- Fair catches will not be recognized, and the kicking team must give the returner five yards of space to recover and return the ball. (This rule is a carryover from the original XFL and is also in use in the CFL.)
- The extra point kick will be replaced with a scrimmage play, varying in distance depending on how far the touchdown-scoring team chooses to take the snap from the goal line: a two-yard attempt would score a single point, a five-yard attempt two points, and a fifteen-yard attempt three points. (This rule is also a carryover from the original XFL, which added the rule only for the playoffs. The Stars Football League also used the rule during its existence.)
- Kickoffs will be attempted with teams separated by only five yards, with the two teams not allowed to cross the neutral zone until the returning team touches the ball.
- All players behind the line of scrimmage will be eligible receivers, including those on the offensive line (eliminating the "illegal touching of a forward pass" penalty at other levels of the game). Offensive linemen would still be prohibited from advancing downfield before a forward pass that crosses the line of scrimmage is in the air.
- The league is testing the wider one-yard neutral zone used by the CFL.
- A proposed rule would require offensive linemen (excluding the snapper) to not put their hand on the ground, outlawing the three-point stance used at all other levels of the game.
- Outside of the two-minute drill, the clock will run continuously. (This rule has long been a part of arena football.)
- The play clock will be substantially shorter, with a proposed length of between 25 and 30 seconds. (This rule is also a carryover from the original XFL, which used the 35-second play clock.)
- A specialized ball judge will be added to the officiating team to speed up the placement of the ball.
Players and compensation
The XFL standard form contract will offer players a salary of $7,500 per game, substantially higher than the 2018 minimum of the Canadian Football League and roughly in line with the 2001 XFL's $4,500 base salary when adjusted for inflation. Marquee talent will be eligible for up to a $200,000 annual salary. XFL contracts are for one year, with no restrictions on joining other leagues after the season ends; this is in particular contrast to the Alliance of American Football, which requires players to sign three-year contracts, and the CFL, which requires new players to sign two-year deals. 45 players will be signed to each team's roster, up from 38 in the previous league. In contrast to the 2001 XFL, players' health insurance will be covered by the league. The players will not be represented by a labor union. The league has suggested that players will earn bonuses for each game they win, ensuring each team continues to stay competitive and players have a significant stake in the outcome of each game.
McMahon stated that he aimed to leverage digital streaming as part of broadcasting arrangements for the XFL; he felt that fans did not necessarily want digital streams to be a straight simulcast of a television broadcast, and wanted more "totally different ways" to watch football. The XFL will not consider viewership to be a metric of its success; McMahon argued that "to me the landscape has changed in so many different ways. Just look at technology and companies like Facebook and Amazon bidding for sports rights. Even if ratings go down, there's no denying that live sports rights continue to be valuable and continue to deliver."
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- Eight-Team XFL Competitor Plans to Launch in February 2019, Dan Gartland, Sports Illustrated, March 20, 2018
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- Chai, Bryan (1 October 2018). "XFL Commissioner Reveals Why League Will Never Have to Worry About Anthem Protests".
- "Source: WWE's McMahon eyes football league". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
- "Oliver Luck leaving NCAA to be XFL commish". Retrieved 5 June 2018.
- "Former Bills GM Whaley hired as XFL senior VP". WIVB-TV. Nexstar Media Group. November 8, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
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- XFL. "Official XFL Announcement with Vince McMahon" – via YouTube.
- "Oliver Luck Q&A: On the XFL, changing football and Houston - HoustonChronicle.com". www.houstonchronicle.com. 6 June 2018.
- XFL sends team to Mississippi to explore potential rule changes and What rule changes might be in store for the #XFL2020? YouTube official XFL account (December 6, 2018). Retrieved December 6, 2018.
- Rovell, Darren (July 12, 2018). "AAF players to get 3-year, $250K contracts". ESPN.com. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
Salaries will be in line with AAF competitor the XFL, which has said it will pay players an average of $75,000 per season.
- Florio, Mike (24 August 2018). "In XFL, "exceptional" players can earn more than $200,000 per season".
- Florio, Mike (September 1, 2018). "XFL sends up first salvo in looming AAF feud". ProFootballTalk.com. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
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