Remember that time the XFL was a thing? Now remember that other time the XFL was a thing? Boy, that didn’t work out. And somehow it ended up even worse the second time around.
Vince McMahon’s original league at least completed its inaugural season a couple decades ago. After resurrecting it for 2020, they were only able to play five of 10 weeks of its regular season, but in fairness, they like the rest of the sporting world were forced to shut down because of the coronavirus.
The second incarnation of the XFL, though, was portrayed to be a dedicated project. It was said that McMahon had withdrawn funds that would allow him to sustain the league for at least three seasons. But instead they declared for bankruptcy after initially saying that they would be back in 2021.
Now they are looking to sell the XFL. Amid the pandemic, McMahon is searching for a buyer, with letters of intent due to be filed by the middle of next month. Axios reports that formal bids to purchase the league are due by July 6.
The league’s sales pitch rests on the claim that they were doing just fine before the pandemic swept them away like a tsunami. According to their own claims, they were tracking to draw in revenue of around $46 million during their inaugural season, should they have been able to complete it.
For what it’s worth, it did largely seem to be going well. It varied by franchise, but some of their teams were packing in their stadiums, and all things considered, the ratings were solid, and displaying signs of potential for growth.
The league reports an average attendance of nearly 20,000, with an average broadcast viewership of 1.9 million for their nationally-distributed games. The XFL did have a very robust broadcasting package that featured a lot of primetime national attention—the advantage of being a spring football league.
The question, Axiom writes, is whether or not there will be a buyer who is willing to go all-in for the entire league, rather than vulturing the company’s assets, which is what we saw happen with the Alliance of American Football a year prior.
“There are lots of people who are very rich but not rich enough to own an NFL team, so maybe someone will see this as the next best thing at a bargain price”, the article quotes one source as saying, also noting that sports can attract all source of unpredictable potential buyers.
What does all of this mean? Well, potentially, it is a lifeline, even with the slightest of heartbeats, for spring football in the future. If somebody really wants to carry on the XFL, they can swoop in and place a bid and see what they can do. But the uncertainty of the coronavirus will likely discourage many potential investors as well, because it’s hard to predict what the situation will be like even by February, if you have to bid by July.