On November 27, 2019 the Arena Football League (AFL), a brand of football that had managed to maintain a successful league for 30 years, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. AFL Commissioner, Randall Boe, briefly explained the cause by saying, “we all love the game and tried very hard to make it successful, but we simply weren’t able to raise the capital necessary to grow the League, resolve the substantial legacy liabilities and make it financially viable.” It seems like a going theme for most leagues to go under due to issues with financial sustainability. The same thing happened most recently with the Alliance of America Football League. If you don’t have a platform for long-term capital gain, you are screwed.
How can the XFL avoid this? We all want this league to be successful; and, I have a ton of respect for what the XFL brand attempted to accomplish in 2001. To be humble enough to pull the plug after one season, rather than make a mockery of something that was not polished enough to compete with the NFL was a huge move. And honestly, I think that decision is what makes it that much more special that they are giving it another try in 2020. Not only giving it another try, but saying that they want to be the lower tier or developmental league FOR the NFL, rather than try to compete against it. True football fans NEED something to tie us over while we wait for the NFL/NCAA football season to kick off again in the fall. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the CFL never quite scratched that itch for me, and I never kept up with the Arena League to ever give it any attention. The XFL literally has no competition, and establishing themselves as a brand of football for developing athletes for the NFL is a great selling point that could create some devoted fans who are diehard NFL lovers. Fans who know that their beloved NFL won’t be affected in any way could really hop on board with an XFL that not only supports the NFL but wants to team up, should be beneficial for both parties.
My personal hope is that the XFL tries to be as creative as possible during NFL off seasons when it comes to fan engagement. Going after those fans whose teams didn’t make it to the post season would especially generate a lot of buzz. Pitching advertisements to social media or even YouTube would be key. These platforms already collect a person’s cookies. Therefore, if the advertisement system is set up to seek specific fan related results for those teams that didn’t make it to the NFL post season, and just bombard those people with XFL hype advertisements, it could give those fans enough fuel to put their pride in an XFL team to support. Now, I’m just pitching ideas, but the only way to maintain any sustainability within an entertainment platform like sports, is to generate excitement and make them reach into their pocket. When I look at the AAFL, AFL, and even past football leagues that were unsuccessful, it came down to people not being willing to support a brand that didn’t give them an incentive to support. The XFL name itself has already garnered a pretty good amount of hype and support, I just really hope they become a viable partner of the NFL in order to become a long-term brand for small market cities around the nation.
U.S. Football Forum, Where Football Is King