Just last week, WWE head honcho Vince McMahon announced that his selling of $100 million in WWE shares is being put towards the restart of the short-lived XFL.
When this news broke, a revolution in the football industry began and football fans will look back on this time and remember it as when football regained its glory days.
While I don’t think the XFL will bring down the NFL, nor do I think the XFL will even last very long, it is my firm belief that the disruption of the XFL will improve the football industry.
As it stands today, American football is a monopoly. The NFL has ruled the land for decades, bringing in fans who love the product because the fans have nowhere else to go. This monopoly, much like any other, has led to progress of the sport not being based on quality of the product, but the gaining of profits. When you don’t need to worry about competition, it’s completely reasonable to only be concerned about the bottom line: money.
However, the XFL has brought the concept of capitalism back into football and the opportunity for competition and disruption to improve the quality of the industry.
In his announcement, McMahon cited the desire to utilize fan feedback to structure the game and implement technology as well as to reimagine the game of football. This is the spark needed to bring the game to a better light.
For the moment, the new league is in the early stages of development and it is difficult to say what these changes may include. So, let’s speculate.
For one, I believe that the idea of player safety and contract protection will be at the forefront of the debate. The current NFL is notorious for been lax on the issue of the player’s health. There is no avoiding the endless list of players who have died at young ages due to head trauma, or the number of players retiring before they turn 30, or the players’ health payments being under subsidized for whatever reason.
If McMahon wants his league to work, he needs talent on that field as soon as possible. The best way to bring in this talent is to give players the kinds of benefits that the NFL has refused to give them, including better equipment to improve player safety and contracts that can protect them if something horrendous happens.
I also believe this new league offers new opportunities to acquire talent that the NFL has no use for. There are thousands of football players capable of playing the game with professional-level talent, but there is only one league for them to show off their skills. In some cases, the Canadian Football League has become the minor league affiliate for the NFL because that’s where recently injured or undrafted college players go to get on the professional stage.
With a new league in the States on primetime, players who were overlooked or who are still developing their skills have a place to go without needing to give up on a career immediately after getting out of college.
The first (and only) season for the XFL was in 2001 and it was a proven prime-time contender right off the bat, with flashy game concepts like a foot-race for the ball rather than a kickoff (something the NFL has been trying to rid of), nicknames on the backs of jerseys (“He Hate Me Jr?”), and new camera angles for the broadcasts.
There are other innovations that the XFL brought to football in its only season and some of these innovations have been adopted by the NFL. This proves my point: competition improves industry.
This is not going to be a perfect league by any means. McMahon said that the league will rely on fan feedback, which means that politics and social issues will more than likely wiggle into the league’s formation (cough-cough-national anthem). Like any new product or TV show, however, everybody finds parts that they like and don’t like but when the XFL kicks-off in 2020, it will be a clear step towards making the game better and more enjoyable for everyone.
Jacob Notermann is a staff writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]