The first season of the XFL didn’t get to finish as the league announced it canceled the remainder of the games due to coronavirus fears.
Some joked the AAF, which folded eight weeks in, lasted longer than the XFL. That’s not accurate at all. The AAF folded completely and longer exists as a football league. The XFL was forced to cancel its season due to a pandemic that affected every single sports league.
Other leagues have the flexibility to suspend or postpone their respective seasons. Since players in the XFL are ultimately eyeing the dream of playing in the NFL, a suspended season wouldn’t have been fair to the players, especially since there’s no obvious date to which they can return to play.
The XFL had another five weeks to go, plus two playoff games and then the championship game. The title game was played the Sunday following the end of the NFL Draft on April, 26. With teams looking to fill a preseason roster of 90 players, you better believe they’ll be eyeing XFL stars to sign.
Also, while players were allowed to leave following the championship game, players were only signed through May 31. So a delayed or postponed season could only have lasted about about a month, which makes sense why the season was canceled all together.
Evaluating XFL’s success through TV ratings
A difference between the XFL and AAF is more people were watching the XFL. Part of that had to do with a better overall TV deal that had more games showcased on network channels, but even still, the numbers showed a big difference.
It’s hard to get a direct comparison, though, because several AAF games were broadcasted on Bleacher Report Live, which didn’t release numbers on how many people watched it. But let’s just look at the latest numbers, based on games broadcasted on cable in Week 5 of each respective league.
The XFL’s two Saturday games (not listed on chart above) in Week 5 averaged 1.547 million viewers and 1.497 million viewers, but since they broadcasted on network TV (ABC, FOX), it wasn’t a fair comparison.
Evaluating XFL’s success through attendance
Attendance varied from team to team in the XFL, but overall the numbers were solid. Especially in St. Louis where the team started selling upper deck tickets because there were so many fans wanting to attend games. The XFL also out-shined the AAF in this category.
Ticket sales through five weeks:
What’s next for the XFL?
As for the future of the XFL, the league said in its statement they are “committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.”
A key difference between the XFL and the now-defunct AAF is the funding behind it. The primary reason the AAF folded is because its initial investor, Reggie Fowler, was not reliable (he was later arrested on bank fraud charges), and threw the league for a loop early on.
The XFL is self-financed by Vince McMahon, who plans to put $500 million of his own money into this. McMahon’s initial vision is that this money would last for the first three years of operations. In other words, the XFL felt it would be around for three seasons minimum.
“We’re focused on building something for the long term,” XFL President Jeffrey Pollack said before the season started.
Players in the XFL are free to sign with NFL teams immediately, and this leads to one of the more interesting parts about the XFL. The XFL is already dealing with somewhat of a talent shortage because they’re signing players who couldn’t make NFL rosters for various reasons. This was a problem before the cancellation, but it’s still worth addressing.
How will the XFL replinish its star players each year and still remain a league people want to watch? It’s not a question I can answer right now, but it’s something worth monitoring by the time the second season comes around. P.J. Walker to Cam Phillips was fun football to watch in the first season, but those two are too talented to not find an NFL home in 2020.
But, in summary, this is not the end of the XFL. McMahon is willing to fund the league, and the XFL expects to be back for at least one more season in 2021.
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