On April 13, the XFL filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy only a few days after the league completely suspended all of its operations and laid off a majority of their employees. This was supposed to be the resurgence of a league that was considered dead by many experts. However, it was not the quality of play on the field that killed the league.
Like most other professional sports leagues, the XFL canceled its season due to the spread of COVID-19 but was planned to reopen for the 2021 season. This plan was quickly shot down after a mass layoff of its employees ruined all hope for a season next year. The XFL released the following statement after publicly announcing its plan to file for bankruptcy:
“The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football. Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, we have filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. This is a heartbreaking time for many, including our passionate fans, players and staff, and we are thankful to them, our television partners, and the many Americans who rallied to the XFL for the love of football.”
Although the news of the XFL shutting down is disappointing for football fans everywhere, the league should still be looked at as a success rather than a failure.
After owner Vince McMahon made the announcement of the return of the league, many people quickly dismissed it with the belief that the league would instantly be a failure due to its collapse in 2001. However, league officials had a plan to give fans a more respectable product to watch while keeping some of the qualities that made the XFL different from competing football leagues.
I was able to attend the first home game of the Seattle Dragons and was impressed with what I saw. The overall fan experience was like any other professional football game; fans were loud, rowdy, and enthusiastic the entire time. Not only this, but with the entire lower bowl of CenturyLink Field filled, the game was close to a full sellout.
The rule changes that were implemented to differ itself from the NFL gave fans a new and fresh product to watch. The two I thought were the most successful included having players start five yards from each other on kickoffs as well as the point after touchdown attempts where the extra point kick was eliminated and thus granted teams the choice between attempts for one, two, or three points.
In the following years, I can see the NFL implementing these same rule changes as they make the game both more exciting for fans and safer for players.
The XFL wasn’t established to directly compete with the NFL, that was never going to happen. Instead, the goal was to give football fans a watchable product during the time of the year that consisted of no football, and that is exactly what they did.
After filing for bankruptcy the league is looking for a buyer for the sale of their brand to give us hope that somewhere down the road the league will be back. In the two months of play, the XFL proved that football leagues outside of the NFL can be successful and I anticipate in the next couple years another league will develop.