The XFL’s success hinges on many different factors. The league has some clear-cut positives and negatives working for and against its long term future.
The XFL is back under new ownership. RedBird Capital Partners, Gerry Cardinale, Dany Garcia, and Dwayne Johnson are bullish on the league’s prospects for the future, but the XFL will face many hurdles before it can return.
Let’s take an in-depth look at three separate positives and negatives for the XFL’s future.
How’s the old saying go? Give me the bad news first. Well, here goes.
THE BUSINESS SIDE
Arguably, the biggest hurdle that the league is going to encounter. It’s not fair considering the circumstances, but the XFL’s valuation and the sale price was 15 million dollars, and only one bidder stepped up to the plate.
The reason for the lack of interest from buyers is multi-layered.
Firstly, we are in a pandemic, which restricts fans from buying tickets. Secondly, the XFL has no media rights deal. Thirdly, operating a pro football league is exceedingly expensive, from insurance to venue leases to operational and employee costs, etc. In conclusion, it’s easy to see why over two dozen potential buyers passed on the risks inherited by purchasing the XFL.
As chronicled on this site in the past. There are doubts about when the next XFL season will start. The 2021 season is in doubt. It’s not for lack of want. Because the players, coaches, executives, and others that I’ve spoken to are all game and anxious to get back to work. The holdup is the business end.
Gerry Cardinale, the founder and managing partner of RedBird’s firm, is a terrific businessman. Cardinale’s track record with Goldman Sachs, the Yes Network, and his partnerships with multiple sports leagues/owners is impressive. Cardinale’s influence is far-reaching.
Cardinale’s connected to so many branches of business and sports that he’s his own tree. Gerry Cardinale and his firm could take the tact of not chasing their own money until profit windows are open for business.
It’s reasonable to speculate that until the XFL lines up revenue streams, that the push towards playing games might be further on down the line than the league’s most ardent supporters anticipate or hope. The XFL will not succeed in the long-term if it doesn’t become a viable business.
No first-year pro sports league ever had the type of exposure that the XFL secured in 2020. The league scored games on ABC, ESPN, and Fox. The XFL also had the networks covering all production and talent costs. A significant expenditure that helped the XFL from an expense standpoint.
Not only did the networks provide top-notch presentations, but it lent credibility to the XFL. The league had the very best sports broadcasters calling their games. A rockstar group that included Steve Levy, Tom Hart, Joel Klatt, Curt Menefee, Diana Russini, Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Tom Luginbill, and many others.
Unless Disney and Fox decide to go down the road again with the XFL, the league is going to be hard-pressed to find partners as great as what they had in 2020.
Supposing, the goal is to secure a lucrative media rights deal. Then the XFL may end up with unconventional or lesser-known media companies.
Maintaining continuity for the XFL moving forward will be a challenging prospect. Especially if the league doesn’t return next spring. It will be difficult to capitalize on what the XFL presented earlier this year.
The thing that’s interesting about the XFL for me is that spring football’s legitimate. It was a tutorial for me, I learned a lot, and one of the things that I came away from in my diligence was that spring football is legitimate and you shouldn’t think of it as mini-me NFL. You should think about is as its own legitimate sport rooted in very good football.
XFL Owner Gerry Cardinale to Sportico.com on 8/26
Everything addressed by Gerry Cardinale in his appearance with Sportico is accurate. However, if the league return is delayed due to monetary considerations, the XFL will lose the momentum of what they built from 2018-2020.
The most crucial element lost would be the majority of people that enabled the XFL to work. From the unheralded and unknown people behind the scenes to all the football evaluators. Time could eliminate these people from partaking in the league in 2022, as opposed to 2021.
If the XFL launches in 2022 or beyond, it risks losing many of the great football minds that it had working for them. The seeds planted for growth will have to be re-rooted. The identities of the teams will remain but in name only.
It’s inevitable and expected that RedBird, Dany Garcia, and Dwayne Johnson would want to build their league in their image with their people, but in doing so, the XFL could lose the magic it was cultivating.
Now that I’ve raised concern for the XFL’s future. Let’s shift gears and look at what the league has in its favor.
Non-NFL leagues in the past have had tremendous difficulty getting people to notice them. The XFL will have no such issues in this regard. Because of the presence of Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia.
By accident, the XFL got itself a quick plug from the legendary Al Michaels on the opening night of NFL on NBC. The Rock’s level of fame and his unique relationship with the queen will do that for you.
The fact that the XFL is the first pro sports league owned by a woman in Dany Garcia guarantees that the league will garner attention from mainstream media outlets, who usually do not cover sports. Imagine that, People Magazine covering Vipers games.
It’s also of significance that the XFL has two minority owners in Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia. Johnson and Garcia are an inspiration to many people but particularly to African-American, Latin-American, and American Samoan people. The XFL will receive added coverage due to the ethnic backgrounds of its lead owners. It’s of historic significance. The mainstream media will have its eyes on the league.
Lastly, for better or for worse, the XFL received its fair share of detractors due to its ties to Vince McMahon. He may be one of the most successful entrepreneurs in sports and entertainment, but McMahon is a polarizing figure. The issue of people turning away from the XFL due to its ownership group will be no issue with the Rock involved. Dwayne Johnson is a beloved figure and has a connection to the sports world as a former football player himself.
THE ENTERTAINMENT SIDE
The XFL’s Hollywood duo of Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson brings to the table an aspect that no sports league has ever had before.
The XFL has an opportunity, particularly with Dwayne and Dany, to lean into the entertainment side of the sport.
XFL Owner Gerry Cardinale to Sportico on August 26th
Dany Garcia has already expressed the idea of year-round content for the XFL. Johnson and Garcia are ahead of the curve when it comes to the way the younger demographics consume media.
Many can envision the XFL having multiple documentary shows dedicated to the league. The type of content that follows the XFL players and teams closely but also Johnson and Garcia as they build the company.
THE FOOTBALL SIDE
Supposing the XFL gets going and plays a 2021 season. There will be so much talent readily available for their league. I’m not discounting the over four hundred players still out there who played in the XFL this year.
NFL teams cut 320 players before training camp. As a result of roster reduction from 90 to 80. Then there are 352 players released who didn’t latch on to the active rosters or practice squads of NFL franchises—leaving 672 players in total.
Combine all these elements with the potential of CFL players vying to play in the XFL, the undrafted rookies, and the ever-changing aspect of college football players potentially seeking to become pro early. The cup of football talent is overflowing.
The NFL purists scoff at the notion that there are good players that don’t make their league. The evidence suggests otherwise. Whether it’s the over 98 percent of college football players that don’t make the NFL every year or the number of players that make the NFL after playing spring football. Quality football players are available for a league to benefit from.
It’s provided that the XFL is ready by 2021 to capitalize on them. Regardless, if it’s 2021 or not, there will always be good football players for the XFL to sign and cultivate. A known and proven positive for the league’s future.