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Xfl -2020

The XFL is a planned professional American football league owned by Vince McMahon's Alpha Entertainment, and is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. 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 the original XFL 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 (NFL) franchise, competing in a ten-game season and a two-week postseason in the winter and spring months.

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XFL
SportAmerican football
Founded2018
Inaugural season2020 (planned)
Owner(s)Alpha Entertainment LLC
(Vince McMahon)
CommissionerOliver Luck
No. of teams8
CountryUnited States
Official websitewww.xfl.com

The XFL is a planned professional American football league owned by Vince McMahon's Alpha Entertainment, and is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. 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 the original XFL 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 (NFL) 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.

History

XFL (2001)

Vince McMahon, the founder of Alpha Entertainment, LLC

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 the late winter and early spring to take advantage of lingering desire for football after the end of the NFL season. 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 sex appeal as part of its identity), 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.[1][2][3][4][5] Both partners lost $35 million on the XFL,[6] and McMahon conceded that the league was a "colossal failure".[7][8]

Revival

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.[9] (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.[10]) 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."[2] 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.[11] Alpha Entertainment is headquartered next door to WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.[12]

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 had been revealed in 2019. Alpha Entertainment was established in order to keep the league's management and operations separate from that of WWE.[8][13] McMahon is prepared to invest as much as $500 million, five times as much as his investment in the 2001 XFL.[14] The XFL's decision to nix cheerleaders is in part due to changing attitudes regarding women's participation in entertaining sports fans.[14]

Oliver Luck, the commissioner of the XFL

The XFL will discourage political gestures by players during games such as, for example, taking a knee in protest. McMahon also originally planned to forbid any player with a criminal record from participating (Commissioner Oliver Luck later walked back the latter decision, noting that the policy had not yet been finalized).[12] McMahon justified his intentions 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.[13][8] Luck further stated that players cannot publicly endorse political candidates or issues, and noted that the ban on protesting during the national anthem will be written into player contracts as a condition of employment.[15]

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). The league later revised this to a 2½-hour target length.[16] 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.[17][13]

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."[13]

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.[18] 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.[19]. On January 22, 2019 Jeffrey Pollack was named as the President & Chief Operating Officer, coming from his previous role as the Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer and Special Advisor for the Los Angeles Chargers.[20]

The league commissioner announced the eight host cities and stadiums for the first franchises on December 5, 2018, and also announced the starting date of February 8, 2020; the weekend after Super Bowl LIV.[21] Its first head coach and general manager, Dallas's Bob Stoops, was announced February 7, 2019 in Dallas.[22]

Teams

McMahon stated that he wanted to play in existing NFL markets but did not identify potential cities specifically and did not rule out any specific cities. McMahon also did not rule out playing on artificial turf. The original XFL avoided artificial playing surfaces (as most such surfaces then were more carpet-like); the technology, however, has advanced considerably since 2001, with modern artifical turfs mimicking real grass more closely. 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.[23] The league sent solicitations to thirty metropolitan areas as potential locations for a team.[24] The league commissioner announced the eight host cities and stadiums for the first franchises on December 5, 2018.[21]

Rule changes

The XFL is running test games with community colleges in Mississippi, as well as The Spring League during its spring 2019 season, to experiment with rule changes. Among the proposed rule changes:[25]

  • 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; breaching this space will result in a penalty, called no yards in the CFL.)
  • The extra point kick will be replaced with a scrimmage play, varying in point value 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 XFL has also tested the idea of allowing more than one forward pass to be thrown on any given play. (McMahon had proposed a similar rule change during the run of the original XFL, but the league's coaches rejected the proposal as too radical of a change to make midseason.)[26]
  • The league is testing the wider one-yard neutral zone used by the CFL. (The NFL, college and high school standard is the length of the football, approximately 11 inches.)
  • 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, bringing the number of on-field officials to eight.
  • Instant replay reviews will be limited to 30 seconds.[27]

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.[28] Marquee talent will be eligible for up to a $300,000 annual salary.[29] [30] 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.[31] Head coaches will be eligible for up to a $500,000 salary, with each team having a football operations staff of 25 people.[27] The XFL explicitly wants to avoid any minor league developmental partnership with the NFL or any other league, so as not to lose control of its personnel decisions.[30] 45 players will be signed to each team's roster, up from 38 in the previous league.[19] In contrast to the original XFL, players' health insurance will be covered by the league.[14] The players will not be represented by a labor union, which will help prevent lockouts or strikes.[15] 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.

Gambling

As McMahon owns a minority stake in DraftKings, the XFL aims to run its official fantasy football and betting operations through that service, if legal hurdles can be cleared.[27] Oliver Luck has stated he anticipates mobile sports betting to be legal in many states by the 2020 launch date, much like it is in New Jersey, and hopes to integrate legal sports betting as part of the XFL.[32]

Broadcasting

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."[13]

In January 2019, Sports Business Journal reported that the XFL was desiring that the majority of games air on broadcast television, and was in preliminary talks with ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports as potential broadcast partners.[33]

References

  1. ""This Was The XFL" Director Charlie Ebersol On Why The XFL Failed–But Might Work Now". Fast Company. February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  2. 1 2 "Will the XFL actually be making a return? WWE is not exactly denying the rumors". CBSSports.com. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  3. "XFL stops going to extremes". NY Daily News. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  4. "XFL ends ratings slide – just barely". ESPN. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  5. "Monday Night Wrong: Vince McMahon fumbles with the XFL". Sporting News. December 21, 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  6. "XFL Is Down for the Count". ABC News. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  7. Johnson, Mike (May 16, 2013). "5/16 This day in history". PWInsider. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  8. 1 2 3 Draper, Kevin (2018). "Vince McMahon Says He Will Revive the X.F.L., With a Very Different Look". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  9. Holloway, Daniel (February 3, 2017). "'This Was the XFL' Director on Vince McMahon, Concussions and Whether League Could Make a Comeback". Variety. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  10. Eight-Team XFL Competitor Plans to Launch in February 2019, Dan Gartland, Sports Illustrated, March 20, 2018
  11. "Vince McMahon sells $100 million of WWE stock as XFL reboot plan continues". ProFootballTalk. NBC Sports. December 21, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  12. 1 2 "411MANIA". XFL CEO Recalls First Meeting With Vince McMahon, Says XFL Won’t Compete With NFL.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "McMahon: Gimmick-free XFL to return in 2020". ESPN.com. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  14. 1 2 3 "McMahon expects to spend $500M on XFL". ESPN.com. June 29, 2018.
  15. 1 2 Chai, Bryan (October 1, 2018). "XFL Commissioner Reveals Why League Will Never Have to Worry About Anthem Protests".
  16. We've got a need for speed. XFL official Facebook page (December 21, 2018). Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  17. "Source: WWE's McMahon eyes football league". ESPN.com. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  18. "Oliver Luck leaving NCAA to be XFL commish". Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  19. 1 2 "Former Bills GM Whaley hired as XFL senior VP". WIVB-TV. Nexstar Media Group. November 8, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  20. "Jeffrey Pollack Named XFL President & COO". XFL.com. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  21. 1 2 3 Baysinger, Tim (December 5, 2018). "LA Among the 8 Cities to Launch Vince McMahon's New XFL League". www.thewrap.com. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  22. "Bob Stoops will coach the Dallas XFL team". WFAA. February 6, 2019. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  23. XFL. "Official XFL Announcement with Vince McMahon" via YouTube.
  24. "Oliver Luck Q&A: On the XFL, changing football and Houston - HoustonChronicle.com". www.houstonchronicle.com. June 6, 2018.
  25. 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.
  26. X Years After. Sports Business Journal (May 16, 2011). Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  27. 1 2 3 Rachuk, Stephen (February 2, 2019). A quick recap of Oliver Luck on radio row. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  28. 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.
  29. Florio, Mike (August 24, 2018). "In XFL, "exceptional" players can earn more than $200,000 per season".
  30. 1 2 https://www.bizjournals.com/newyork/news/2018/12/14/xfl-makes-statement-with-markets-venues-ahead-of.amp.html
  31. Florio, Mike (September 1, 2018). "XFL sends up first salvo in looming AAF feud". ProFootballTalk.com. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  32. Cheddar (2018-12-10), The XFL is Coming Back, The CEO Details Their New Strategy, retrieved 2019-02-15
  33. "Networks seek leagues' content". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
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