The XFL may be dead yet again. But is it buried? We don’t know quite yet.
Following a relatively successful rollout to the second incarnation of the league’s inaugural season, the XFL was forced, like every other sport in the world, to cease operations. They had played just five weeks of a planned 10-week season by the time the COVID-19 epidemic had been getting bad enough to raise legitimate fears in even the most skeptical.
Rather than put a pause on the season, which is what the other active major sports leagues in the country had planned, with the intention of resuming their current seasons at a later date, the XFL decided that it would end the season entirely. At the time, it was announced that they intended to return in 2021 as planned.
Yesterday, the league held a conference call announcing that it is suspending operations entirely, and nearly their entire staff has been laid off. Already, several players had signed contracts with NFL teams, with the Pittsburgh Steelers the most active in signing them.
In a change of tune from the earlier optimism, they are now “evaluating next steps”. According to one person who was involved in a 10-minute conference call announcing the widespread layoffs, CEO Jeffrey Pollack did not explicitly say that the XFL was shuttering its doors and going out of business, but the sentiment was that that is most likely the case.
If so, it will be the second upstart league in as many years to fail before their first season was over. Last year, the Alliance of American Football played eight weeks of a 10-week season before folding, with their problem being the unreliability of their financial backers. A late, in-season investor bought majority shares, and it was his decision to pull the plug.
It was thought that the XFL would meet with a more pleasant fate as the brainchild of Vince McMahon. He had reportedly withdrawn enough funds out of his own personal accounts sufficient to fund the league through at least three seasons.
McMahon had originally formed the XFL at the start of the millennium, but it only lasted one season before he called it a day. At least then, they did finish the year. But his desire to see his dream to fruition remained.
Given the background, it would be a surprise and disappointment if this is really the end of the league yet again, especially since the on-field product showed promise. The coronavirus has formed hundreds of businesses to fold. This may be yet another casualty.