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Since the AFL, no second American pro football league has succeeded. RIP to the World Football League, United States Football League and the XFL (the original, anyway).
There always seemed to be room for another football league, given the insane ratings the NFL does, and the XFL is going to try again in 2020. Now there’s another league that seems to be more intent on competing with the XFL than the NFL. Weird.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that Charlie Ebersol plans to start the Alliance of American Football, and the scheduled start date is Feb. 9, 2019, the week after next season’s Super Bowl. If Ebersol’s name rings a bell, he did a documentary on the XFL for ESPN, and his father Dick helped found the original XFL in 2001 with Vince McMahon. The start date for the Alliance of American Football was seemingly set to get a jump on the XFL, which debuts a year later. It seems to want to beat the XFL to the punch.
Rovell reported that some recognizable names will be involved with the AAF. Former NFL general manager Bill Polian will help Ebersol. “The player side will be overseen” by former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Whatever that means. Former NFL legends Hines Ward and Justin Tuck will be involved too.
For about 50 years there hasn’t been one successful second football league, and now two will try to make it. The ESPN story said the investors in Ebersol’s league have a “7-10-year plan” for success, which is smart. It will take some time to take hold in the market. It will be practically impossible for the leagues to both survive, because there simply aren’t enough players to go around. Assuming neither league will try to pull a USFL and try to lure top talent from the NFL with huge contracts, the AAF and XFL will be having bidding wars for players who aren’t good enough to be on one of the NFL’s 32 53-man rosters. Good luck.
It’s not inconceivable one of the leagues could succeed, though either one would probably be better off not having to compete with another startup. The NFL is incredibly popular and if a second league could gather even 20 percent of the NFL’s ratings it would do fine. A developmental league would be good for everyone including the NFL, and it sounds like Ebersol plans to give players who couldn’t make the NFL a shot (“We’re looking for those Kurt Warners working in grocery stores and we think we will find them,” he told ESPN). The right approach could work, but there will still be some serious challenges.
If you were worried there isn’t enough football in your life, just wait for 2020. By then, two more pro leagues will enter your life. It seems impossible both will survive, however, and the odds are against even one making it. But they’ll try.
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