Monday, August 10, 2020

Did The Rock just save the Roughnecks?

It will be interesting to see where this goes:
The sale of the XFL to a group that includes actor Dwayne Johnson was approved Friday morning in a Delaware bankruptcy court.

U.S. District Judge Laurie Silverstein allowed the transaction after the XFL resolved a dispute over the $15 million sale price with the court's unsecured creditors' committee. Johnson, along with business partners Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners, will officially assume control of the league from former owner Vince McMahon later this month.
The sale also includes nearly $9 million in payment of cure amounts.
So now that the XFL has new owners, can we expect a third reboot next spring?
The league had marketed itself as a made-for-TV product that could transition to a bubble concept during the pandemic, and Garcia said this week that the new owners are "planning" for a 2021 launch.

"We're doing all the steps that need to happen for the execution of that," she said. "But we're also being mindful to what has actually been successful. It has been really interesting to see that [in sports], when you create a bubble, your players are safe. When you don't, it's chaos. We are a league, because of the number of teams we have, that actually can create a bubble environment. Those discussions are active."
I'd be surprised if the new ownership group could re-staff the league and turn things around in time for a 2021 season. It could be doable with only eight teams, but it's just one of the many questions that still surround the league following this sale. Including the most important question of all: will it ever make any money?
This remains the elusive question for spring football. There hasn't been a successful alternative to the NFL in 50 years, largely because no one has figured out how to make it profitable.

Broadcast fees are the lifeblood of successful major sports leagues, but they take time to earn. The XFL's 2.0 plan called for three seasons of investment and proof of concept before that point would come. Its 2020 television deals with Fox and Disney (ABC/ESPN) covered only production costs.

A 2021 bubble concept would eliminate all the costs associated with placing teams in multiple cities, as well as much of the local revenue. It also would reduce the number of players the league would need to sign for training camps, a substantial savings. But the XFL 3.0 likely will need to secure broadcast fees on some level to ensure long-term success.
I wish Johnson and his business partners the best, and I hope a third time really will be the charm for the XFL. The Roughneck games I attended last spring (ahh, such sweet memories of the days before the whole world went to pot) were a lot of fun and I'd enjoy attending more in the future. 

Sean Pendergast shares his thoughts.

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