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Five things we learned in the first week of the XFL under new ownership

We’ve already learned a little about the future of the XFL. Here’s what we’ve been able to glean so far.

Dany Garcia and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, new owners of the XFL

Dany Garcia and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, new owners of the XFL

It’s now been a week since news broke that a group led by Dany Garcia, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and RedBird Capital would be taking over the XFL. In that time, it’s been clear Garcia will be the voice of the partnership, having already done numerous print interviews with media outlets (ESPN, The Athletic (subscription required), Sports Illustrated, and of all places, People Magazine). Looking at her comments and other reporting over the last several days (via The Athletic (subscription required), Front Office Sports, and Sportico), we’ve already learned a little about the future of the XFL. Here’s what we’ve been able to glean so far:

(1) XFL 3.0 will look a lot like XFL 2.0

In almost all of her interviews, Garcia had high praise for the on-field changes brought on by Oliver Luck and his team, as well as the quality of play. She was a big fan of the more recent XFL incarnation, so it’s no surprise most if not all of the on-field innovations will be kept. Garcia did tell ESPN that she’d like to make the broadcast access more “elegant,” so that’s where you could end up seeing the most change, though I doubt it would be drastic. For those worried the new buyer would come in and make wholesale changes to an on-field product that largely worked in 2020, it seems for now those worries are unfounded.

(2) Former XFL employees will be strongly considered for positions within the rebooted league

Sportico spoke to former league employees that are yearning to still help make spring football work, and ESPN noted an estimate of fewer than 10% of those fired in the XFL’s shutdown have found permanent work elsewhere. Garcia told ESPN she’d be open to rehiring some people, and it sounds like COO Jeffrey Pollack and his team are safe. It’s been heavily speculated, however, that Oliver Luck will not return. There are many staffs at the team level that did a good job marketing locally, so it would be nice to have many of them back as well if for nothing else than the sake of continuity.

(3) The league is eyeing a 2021 return, but hasn’t committed to that

Garcia’s stance in these interviews when asked is that while their preference is to have the league up and running in 2021 (in a bubble if necessary), she hasn’t committed to it. A source close to the ownership group told The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan that he doubts the league will be able to return as soon as 2021, but left open that possibility. With the sale of the XFL not officially closing until August 21, that doesn’t leave the group a lot of time to hire staffs, find coaches and players, secure TV deals, etc. needed for play less than six months from then. It’s also difficult to know what the landscape of sports will look like amid the pandemic early next year. One of the first big decisions Garcia, Johnson and others will have to make will be whether or not to start back again in 2021.

(4) Despite the powerhouse pairing of Garcia and Johnson, the league may struggle to get a good TV deal

FOX and ESPN have filed court documents to prevent their contracts with the league from being a part of the bankruptcy purchase. The Athletic and Front Office Sports both make it sound as if FOX is willing to play ball, but ESPN still may be on the outside looking in. Much of this will depend on the status of college football and what conferences opt to play in the spring and the XFL’s willingness to restart play in 2021. The two articles cited above also mention that representatives of the league are already holding informal talks with potential TV partners, but industry sources cited in those stories doubt the league will get any kind of paying deal, even to the level of the previous contracts which only included the networks doling out production costs. The pandemic may cause the sports TV rights bubble to finally burst, leaving behind the potential financial windfall the league was originally resurrected by Vince McMahon to cash in on.

(5) Expansion is on the menu…whatever that might mean

When asked by SI what’s next for the league, Garcia’s first response was “expansion.” She didn’t go much deeper than that, and expansion was always likely down the road had the league found success in 2020. It should tell you how much money the group is willing to spend on the league because expanding will not be cheap no matter when it occurs. The fact that the question was so open-ended and the first place Garcia’s mind went was to expansion should tell you that’s high on the list of priorities for the new ownership group. However, could Garcia have meant something other than expanding the number of teams? She followed up by saying “expansion and more storytelling,” citing the desire for the league to be in the consciousness of the fan year-round; could she mean expansion in terms of expanding marketing, social media, and engagement?

There are various major hurdles for the new ownership group to clear, more so than even perhaps Vince McMahon had when he initially brought the XFL back into existence. There were many news dry spells for fans of the league over the two year period between McMahon’s announced XFL resurrection and its kickoff; I don’t think fans will have to wait as long between news bites over the next few months, especially if things trend toward playing again in 2021.

Greg Parks is a columnist for Pro Wrestling Torch (pwtorch.com). He covers the XFL and the Tampa Bay Vipers for XFLBoard.com. He has written extensively about the XFL. He resides in Naples, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Oscar V Pearson

    August 9, 2020 at 11:37 pm

    I am availble to help in Dallas!

  2. Steve Bain

    August 10, 2020 at 2:13 am

    I’m glad the xfl is going to be back. It was good football.

  3. Greg Marino

    August 10, 2020 at 2:59 am

    The whole thing stinks you know McMahon’s behind this please even on rocks a very wealthy guy they don’t have the kind of money

  4. Mark Singleton

    August 10, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    The XFL needs to fix the market mistakes it made before it can consider expansion. Four XFL teams should be moved to more attractive markets and stadiums. The new owners overpaid for assets that steeply declined in value. It will cost at least $200 million to relaunch. Don’t expect the XFL to relaunch before $200 million in risk capital is assembled. With $200 million is risk capital assembled television contracts talks may start but it could require $300 million before TV talks are serious. 2022 would be an aggressive launch schedule. 2023 is possible with serious financial leadership which does not exist at this time.

  5. Jay

    August 10, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    I’d like to entertain the idea of promotional crossovers… The NCAA championship winner vs lowest rank XFL team vs lowest ranked NFL team vs lowest CFL team… I think this would be interesting.

  6. Joe

    August 10, 2020 at 8:54 pm

    move the Wildcats to San Diego and maybe move the Vipers to Orlando. The other six cities
    seemed to support their teams fairly well, especially St. Louis. Guardians should stay in New York
    but play at the soccer stadium vs. the NFL stadium.

  7. Christopher P Pearce

    August 10, 2020 at 8:54 pm

    Most major sports is losing fans and viewership in large numbers. You know why. Keep politics OUT!

  8. brent m clark

    August 10, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    Make it a public company like Green Bay… as a public league the growth and expansion is a simple task. And their are many Americans that would love to own a piece of XFL Football, I would buy shares!

  9. Jeannie Fino

    August 10, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    My daughter lost her dream job as a Paralegal for the XFL…she’s been so depressed over it. If there is any way she can apply to get her job back, that would make her life so much better!

  10. Jayy Wayy

    August 11, 2020 at 12:35 am

    We back baby!!

  11. James Howard

    August 11, 2020 at 2:43 am

    I think since Dwayne Johnson is in this it should make things more interesting. He seems to make things better with everything he does (fast and the furious).

  12. Apollo

    August 11, 2020 at 11:20 am

    Football is a niche and compartmentalized sport. It is popular only at fixed levels for specific reasons. Middle school draws mostly parents, family, and some students. High school draws the same, but with more students. College draws all of the above but with tens of thousands of students, alumni, and TV audience. The NFL draws a huge fan base rooted in tradition, team loyalty, and the display of the greatest football players in the world. There are high school hero’s, (this is a leveled hero), college hero’s (this is also a leveled hero), and NFL hero’s (this is the highest leveled and most prestigious hero). Now is there a demand for 2nd rate talent that doesn’t fit into the middle school, high school, college, or NFL levels? Historically speaking, not really. Only die hard football fans will watch 2nd rate players that are professional. How do you promote hero’s that are 2nd rate professional players? You really can’t. Heroism is a big theme in all sports. The U.S. population is spoiled with watching the best of the best play in the NFL, why take a step backwards and watch 2nd rate players? Playing in the spring will only draw small audiences to watch 2nd rate talent. The truth is, football is not all that exciting of a game when watching 2nd rate professionals. It’s a bad product that has no competitive advantages over the NFL.

  13. Ron Allen

    August 25, 2020 at 9:44 am

    wildcats stay IN LA play in smaller stadium like soccer stadum or moved to San Diego or oakland or san Antonio Bring back old teams from old XFL IN2001 OR Bring back San Diego Fleet,San Antonio Commanders.Birmingham Iron Put VIpers in Orlando Guardians in red bull arena ,keep Dallas Renegades in Dalls,turn 9 team real team ,turn xfl into 12 teams league than expaned another cities in 2022 or 2024

  14. James Ambrose

    August 26, 2020 at 2:25 am

    Extremely glad the XFL is back! Hoping they don’t get political like the NFL did. They’re lose viewers before the season even starts including me.

    • James Ambrose

      August 26, 2020 at 2:28 am

      Sorry for the typo.

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