To Play, or Not to Play (in 2021) — That is the Question

XFL: To Play, or Not to Play (in 2021) — That is the Question

The deal between the new ownership group and the XFL should be finalized August 21st. This leaves a lot of decisions up in the air with little time to solve for them. The great debate happening online right now is if the league should target a 2021 return, or take their time and wait until 2022.

Prior to the sale announcement, we knew that one of the plans that the league had created for potential new owners is to play in 2021 utilizing the bubble concept and having all eight teams play in one location, isolated away from fans. We wanted to go over both scenarios that the new owners are going to need to figure out in short order.

Target 2021 XFL Return

The main draw to this approach is keeping the XFL fresh in peoples minds. It would also allow them to capitalize on the lack of live-sports since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. With college conferences across the country opting to cancel their seasons, many are saying the XFL should jump on the opportunity to fill that void. Beyond fans missing out on the action, there are going to be a lot of college players that wouldn’t mind picking up a check with the XFL instead of sitting out the season in the NCAA.

In plans that were drawn up for potential investors, the idea would be for the XFL to once again kickoff just one week after the Super Bowl. Although, for the initial return they would be using a 12-week ‘made-for-tv’ tournament model and would utilize one location for all teams. This would work as both a cost savings procedure and a safety precaution during the days of COVID.

It would also allow more time for the XFL to sort out the lease agreements for all eight franchises. Currently, we know that the league has reached out to the cities of Houston, Seattle and St. Louis to renew agreements. At the time, the only one that has been confirmed is the Houston Roughnecks home, TDECU Stadium at the University of Houston.

Does this mean that if the league returns in 2021 that Houston will be the bubble city? Not at all. But, the city and the league have had good relations in the past, even hosting all eight of the teams prior to the 2020 season for the XFL’s league-wide training camp. During which, all players, coaches, staff and broadcast partners traveled to Houston for nearly a month.

Another location that has been brought up is the St. Louis BattleHawks home turf, The Dome. What makes this suggestion so interesting is that it came from former BattleHawks Team President, Kurt Hunzeker.

You must admit, he makes a good point. The Dome is the only closed roof stadium in the XFL, providing a weather-controlled facility that will keep them safe from the outside world.

We’ve seen some other publications give their thoughts on the matter as well. Pro Football Talk, who is generally anti-XFL, but under the new ownership team seems to have changed their tune and opened up the the idea of the new spring football company. They joined the “Play’ movement this past weekend on Twitter to say that the league should target a 2021 return, using the ‘bubble’ concept we spoke about above. They even went as far to suggest offering top college talent an opportunity to join the XFL… and more importantly, make money.

Another huge name that’s on the play side is UFC’s Dana White who is close friends with Dwayne Johnson. He recently met up with TMZ Sports to chime in and had the following to say:

“I’d try to get that rolling as fast as possible…people are dying for live sports programming…even if the NFL does go, it’s another option for live sports on TV, and there’s not enough on right now.”

Wait until 2022

Now, lets look at the alternative. It’s easy to say that you want to target a quick return for the league. Even easier to say if you’re not going to be involved in the relaunch. One thing that always gets left out of the conversation is the number of personnel that the XFL needs to fill before anyone even steps on the field. Not to mention all the players and coaches that they need for each of the eight teams.

When Vince McMahon first announced that the XFL would be returning in 2020, that was way back in May of 2018; giving him nearly two years to get the league off the ground. According to many, this was a key factor in the XFL’s success.

If the XFL does target February 2021, that gives them a little over five months from the time the sale is finalized until kickoff to find and fill all of these roles.

New co-owner Dany Garcia has already said that she would like to bring back as many former staff as possible, and that definitely makes sense. Why would you want to lose all the knowledge of the folks that helped build each of their respective brands. That being said, it’s guaranteed that some of the folks will not be returning. Some have found new roles that they won’t want to leave, others may not trust the company and some will definitely be on board.

Beyond personnel, the XFL will need to re-establish their broadcast partners, sort league insurance, implement new marketing plans and this is just the tip of the iceberg. If the league does go the bubble route, it will make some of these items easier as they can plan on using a leaner team until they are on their feet.

But, the bubble concept is not going to be something you can just setup easily. There’s going to be a lot of work and thought and man-power needed for this to be executed successfully. You not only need ample amount of tests, but well thought out testing strategies and protocols. You need to find accommodations and transportation for all coaches, players and staff.

None of these are something that you can wait on. These will all need to be in motion as soon as the new owners have the keys to the castle.

In an interview with FOX 26, former Roughnecks Team President Brian Michael Cooper was asked when he thinks the league will actually get started.

Cooper said that what made this league great before was the planning process. With the leadership the league had before and the proper planning he thinks the league could really take off. He would caution the new owners to make sure everything is in place for real long-term success going forward.

Conclusion

We can see the argument for both sides. Clearly the new owners are going to want to get up and running as soon as possible. On the flipside, they’ll want to build this investment and that can only be done with time and proper planning.

We took to Twitter to get your thoughts on the return timeline and needless the say, the reactions are mixed. See for yourself:

 

Regardless when the XFL returns, you know we’ll be here to cover it. Do you think the league should capitalize on the lack of college football and try for a 2021 kickoff or do you think they should take their time and target 2022? Let us know down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.

Owner/Editor XFL Newsroom
  1. I loved absolutely loved XFL Football. First it filled the void after college faded. Second, they arranged the contest with fast paced attractive features.. made it a collection of the things we like and took out the ones we don’t. Third, if afforded opportunity to stellar players who found a niche to play their hearts out. Bring it back soon!

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