The XFL is a professional American football league owned by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his ex-wife Dany Garcia. The league offers a second chance to players who have failed to make it to the National Football League (NFL) and is different from other US second-tier football leagues in its fan-first approach, fast pace, and diverse coverage. Johnson’s own failure to make it to the NFL, despite playing college football and signing with the Canadian Football League (CFL), was the inspiration behind the XFL.
Garcia made history by becoming the first female owner of a US professional sports league when she and Johnson completed a $15m deal for the XFL’s assets in August 2020. The league has given 400 players a chance to succeed in their dreams and showcased their talent to NFL scouts, with some leaving their jobs in retail and delivery services for another chance at professional football.
The XFL, formerly owned by Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), is a professional American football league that has been re-launched in 2023 with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his ex-wife Dany Garcia as co-owners. The league aims to provide football players with a platform to showcase their talent and potentially make it to the NFL. The XFL has already attracted a lot of attention due to the involvement of Johnson, a former football player turned wrestler and Hollywood actor. In this post, we will delve deeper into the XFL and explore how it is different from other football leagues in the US.
Background: Johnson’s Football Career and XFL’s History
Johnson played college football at the University of Miami and was part of the team that won the national championship in 1991. However, he was not selected in the NFL draft in 1995 and ended up playing for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. Johnson’s football career did not take off as he was released two months into the season. This experience has remained with him throughout his life and has been the driving force behind the creation of the XFL.
The XFL was initially launched in 2001, but it folded after just one season due to poor ratings and criticism for its extreme style of play. In 2018, Vince McMahon announced the revival of the XFL, and the league began playing in 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to suspend its operations, leading to the bankruptcy of McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment. This is when Johnson and Garcia stepped in and bought the league’s assets for $15 million in August 2020.
XFL’s Ownership Structure and Funding
The XFL’s ownership structure is unique in the world of professional sports. Johnson and Garcia own a majority stake in the league, with RedBird Capital’s Gerry Cardinale holding a minority stake. RedBird Capital is a private investment firm that owns stakes in several European football clubs, including AC Milan and Toulouse, and has a stake in Liverpool FC’s owners FSG.
Apart from Johnson and Garcia’s personal investment, the league is funded through various partnerships and sponsorships. The XFL has secured a five-year broadcast deal with ESPN and the Walt Disney Group, and a multi-year partnership with Under Armour, who are producing the uniforms for all eight teams. These partnerships provide the league with a steady source of revenue, ensuring its long-term sustainability.
Revival of the XFL
The XFL was originally launched in 2001, but it was abandoned after just one season due to low ratings and financial losses. A revamped XFL was launched in 2020, but the season was halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the league filed for bankruptcy.
Garcia suggested the idea of buying the XFL’s assets to Johnson, and they completed a $15m deal in August 2020. Garcia became the first female owner of a professional US sports league, and Johnson and Garcia promised to deliver a diverse, fan-first, fast-paced league that would give NFL hopefuls a second chance to prove themselves.
The XFL’s New Direction
Johnson and Garcia have reinvented the XFL to offer a unique alternative to the NFL. They secured a five-year broadcast deal with ESPN and the Walt Disney Group, and a multi-year partnership with Under Armour, who are producing the uniforms for all eight teams.
The XFL aims to be fan-first and engaging, with innovations such as live in-game betting, real-time injury reports, and enhanced audio. The league also uses social media and a behind-the-scenes docuseries called Player 54 to build the profiles of players and tell their stories.
The XFL’s eight teams include the Dallas Stampede, Los Angeles Leopards, New York Empire, Seattle Kraken, St. Louis Swarm, Tampa Bay Sharks, Toronto Mounties, and Washington Warriors. Each team has a unique identity and culture, and the XFL aims to appeal to fans in diverse markets across North America.
XFL’s Unique Features
The XFL’s unique features are designed to make the league stand out from other football leagues in the US. The league’s new owners have emphasized a fan-first, fast-paced league that puts players’ stories at the forefront. The XFL’s unique features include:
- Extended Playing Career The XFL allows players to prolong their playing careers, providing an opportunity for those who go undrafted or never make it to an NFL roster. Some XFL players have left their jobs to pursue their dreams of playing professional football.
- Behind-the-Scenes Docuseries The XFL’s behind-the-scenes docuseries called Player 54 aims to build the profiles of players and coaches by showcasing their journeys and experiences on and off the field. Players and coaches are mic’d up during games, giving fans a unique perspective on the game.
- Unique Rule Changes The XFL has introduced several unique rule changes to make the game more exciting and fast-paced. These include:
- Kickoffs: The kicking team lines up on their own 30-yard line, while the receiving team lines up on the opposing 35-yard line. Players are not allowed to move until the returner catches the ball.
- Extra Points: The XFL offers three options for extra points: a one-point play from the two-yard line, a two-point play from the five-yard line, and a three-point play from the ten-yard line.
- Overtime: The XFL’s overtime rules are different from the NFL’s sudden-death format. Each team gets five attempts from the five-yard line to score, with the team with the most points at the end declared the winner.
Giving Hopefuls a Second Chance
The XFL aims to give NFL hopefuls a second chance to prove themselves. Many players who go undrafted never play again, and the same goes for those who spend time on off-season and practice squads with NFL teams without ever making their active roster. But the XFL allows them to prolong their playing careers, with some leaving department store and food delivery jobs for another chance to showcase their talent to NFL scouts.
The XFL operates from a central hub in Arlington, Texas, giving all teams and players full-time access to training facilities and medical care. The league also holds tryouts, including one that focused on players from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Dwayne Johnson’s Role in the XFL
Johnson is not just a co-owner of the XFL, but also a hands-on leader in the league’s operations. He serves as a brand ambassador and is actively involved in promoting the XFL through social media and other channels. Johnson is also a vocal advocate for player safety and mental health, which he believes are often overlooked in professional football.
In addition to his role as an owner, Johnson is also involved in the XFL’s on-field operations. He has been seen working with coaches and players during practices and has provided guidance on the league’s rules and gameplay. Johnson’s football background and experience as a former player have been valuable in shaping the XFL’s direction.
The XFL’s revival under Johnson and Garcia’s ownership has been a breath of fresh air for football fans in the US. The league’s innovative features and unique rule changes have attracted a lot of attention and have made the game more exciting and fan-friendly. The XFL’s future looks promising with its sustainable funding sources and commitment to putting players’ stories at the forefront. With Johnson’s passion for football and entertainment, we can expect the XFL to continue to innovate and push the boundaries of what a football league can be.
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