The XFL announced on Friday that they are suspending operations and laying off nearly all of its staff in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The league plans to keep some of its top-level executives on board, but they currently have no plans to resume play in 2021. This is a major blow for a league that was making a comeback in 2020 and was off to a great start in terms of viewership ratings.
The league was forced to cancel the remainder of their inaugural season last month as the coronavirus pandemic was sweeping across the nation. Teams had played just five games, and the league was still a month away from beginning their playoffs.
In the announcement to cancel the season, the league announced that they were planning to return in 2021, but now that doesn’t seem like a possibility.
XFL Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Pollack delivered the announcement through a conference call on Friday. The call lasted right around 10 minutes, and the main message was to inform all of the employees of the league that they were now without a job.
Commissioner Oliver Luck was not a part of the conference call, and sources at ESPN have not been able to determine if he is still with the league. Luck is the father of retired NFL quarterback Andrew Luck, and he took over the commissioner role in 2018 to establish a widely popular spring football league.
Not The First Time
WWE Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Vince McMahon is the owner of the XFL, and this isn’t his first attempt at creating a new professional football league. He first launched the XFL in 2001, but it also folded after a year.
His original version of the league was extreme, while this new version of the XFL was much like the very popular NFL game.
This time McMahon tasked Luck with finding problems with the NFL game, or ways that the league could be improved. He wanted the XFL to be extremely innovative in both the style of play and the rules that were enforced.
Several of the unique features of the XFL caught the attention of the NFL rules committee, and both sides were interested to see how it would play out.
The XFL was also the first professional sports league to center their broadcasts around the sports betting industry. Graphics were used throughout the games to highlight betting lines and odds that were being offered, and commentators also reference odds when discussing key plays.
The league had tremendous ratings during their first week of play, but those ratings continued to go down as the league went along.
While the National Football League remains the most popular sports league in the United States, other professional football leagues have not been as successful. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) launched in the spring of 2019, and they had to suspend operations before their first season was completed.
The AAF was forced to shut down after failing to secure enough investments, and the league simply ran out of money.
The Houston Roughnecks were the only team to win all of its first five games. They led the West Division at the time of suspension. The DC Defenders, St. Louis Battlehawks, and New York Guardians were all tied atop the East Division with a 3-2 record through the first five games.
The Tampa Bay Vipers and the Seattle Dragons each won just one game through the first five weeks of the season. All players remained on the payroll through the conclusion of the regular season, which was scheduled to take place this weekend.