• Connor Watson

What Happened To The XFL?

This time last year I published an ‘XFL Starter Pack’ and discussed whether it ‘was the extra dose of football we needed’. Now I’m back to find out just what happened to the XFL, a league historically surrounded by failure but one that has never really been given the chance to succeed.

So what is/was the XFL?

The XFL was an American Football league that began in February 2020, the league was owned by Vince McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment.

Featuring eight teams, all owned and controlled centrally by the league, It was set to follow a 10 game season followed by a two week postseason. It operated across markets currently or formerly represented by the NFL.

Some may remember the failed attempt at the XFL in 2001, started as a joint venture between the then WWF - now WWE - and NBC as a competitor to the NFL. NBC, who had recently lost their NFL broadcast rights to CBS were keen to make the league work, but after a strong start, ratings turned south and the XFL never made it past its inaugural season.

The league took heavy criticism on two fronts, many claimed it relied too heavily on the gimmicks that made wrestling popular, while others stated the lack of top tier talent ultimately meant the quality of games declined.

During the 2020 season only five weeks of games were played before the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold across the US. On the 12 March the league was forced to cancel the rest of their season as cities began implementing social distancing measures and state and city wide lockdowns took hold.

An unnamed Seattle Dragons player tested positive for Covid and the entire league shut down. At the same time two players for the NBA tested positive also and their season was suspended, later returning in the bubble format.

What Happened?

As the league suspended the rest of its season it promised to pay players their full base salaries and allowed players to move to NFL and CFL teams under the condition that they would be recalled to the XFL if the season was able to resume.

At the time of the season cancellation the league was still planning to play a 2021 season and were even in discussions regarding the moving of franchises to different cities.

But fast forward to 10 April and the league terminated all staff and announced that the XFL would be suspending operations. Only three days later on 13 April, the league filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy claiming the pandemic had hit them too hard.

Unlike the NFL, whose league & franchises were in much better financial positions, the XFL didn’t possess an incredibly deep rainy day pot. Unfortunately the XFL couldn’t weather the storm and despite doing nearly everything right in those first five weeks, the damage was done and the doors were closed on the league before it ever had a chance to fight for its place in the sporting landscape.

What’s next?

Well for those of you who were all aboard the XFL train it isn’t all doom and gloom. Following the announcement of bankruptcy, the XFL went through several months of very complicated back and forth in court and privately.

However, on 2 August, just hours before the XFL was about to be put to auction a consortium led by Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale purchased the XFL for $15 million.

Two months later on 1 October it was announced that the XFL will be returning in Spring 2022.

"The deal is officially closed and 'the keys' to the XFL have been handed over." - Dwayne Johnson

And it already seems that Johnson and Garcia have plans for the league. In an interview with Vice, the pair both said they intended to rescind the anti-kneeling policy and will instead be openly supporting such gestures.