XFL suspends operations permanently, cites coronavirus

Tribune Content Agency

The XFL’s second attempt at spring football didn’t make it a full season. On Friday, the XFL told its employees that the league is suspending operations.

Per a source, XFL CEO Jeffrey Pollack held a Zoom call with employees from all over the eight-team league. The call lasted 10 minutes, and “We were told the league was suspending operations, and all employees were terminated effectively immediately.”

A call to XFL commissioner Oliver Luck was not returned. It is not certain whether the most visible football-person with the XFL is still with it.

The league suspended play after five games into its 10-game schedule because of the coronavirus. The league had pledged to come back for a second season, and at the time planned to maintain all operations.

The person on the conference call on Friday said there was no mention of the 2021 season. According to a report on ESPN, a staffer said the league will not come back.

On Thursday, a letter had been sent to the ticket holders of the Dallas Renegades and the other seven teams saying that they would be issued a full refund. Employees were re-assured to be positive about the league returning next season.

But by Friday morning all that had changed. Fifteen minutes after the conference call ended, all email accounts, Zoom accounts and similar accounts associated with the league were discontinued.

Players had originally been told the league would honor the remainder of their 2020 contracts.

“My financial advisor called me and then it popped on ESPN,” Renegades running back Lance Dunbar said in a phone interview. “I had not heard about it. This virus is killing everything. With everything that is going on right now, I could have expected it was going to happen. This is happening to a lot of businesses right now.”

During the interview, Dunbar checked his email account on his phone. He received an email from the XFL stating that he would be paid through April 10.

The last week of the XFL’s first regular season was to be April 7 through 13. Two rounds of playoffs were to follow.

Arlington, Texas, was home to the Renegades, who played two games at Globe Life Park. The stadium had undergone renovations to play football games in the previous home of the Texas Rangers.

With the Renegades potentially gone, the future of Globe Life Park now comes into question. The XFL had a three-year agreement to use the ballpark as its home stadium.

The City of Arlington has an agreement with the Texas Rangers that the stadium either be used, or be torn down.

Funded by WWE chairman Vince McMahon, there was hope the XFL would finally field a successful spring football league. McMahon tried the XFL back in 2001, but that lasted one season before folding.

The XFL’s 2020 re-boot involved two years of planning, and support from networks such as Fox and ESPN. The early reviews from fans, and the media, were virtually all positive.

All of the gimmicks that made the 2001 version of the XFL a joke were gone. Rather than gimmicks, the league tweaked some rules to the game, and played a version of football that looked more like football.

Also, there was virtually no presence of McMahon. Unlike in 2001, the man associated with scripted wrestling was kept far away from the marketing of this football league, even if his company funded it.

“It was good football. The environment was outstanding,” Dunbar said. “It was like professional football. I enjoyed playing it every Sunday or Saturday.”

As far as revenue, the XFL received no rights fees in its TV deals. All of the revenue came from merchandise, and tickets.

Attendance in places such as Seattle and St. Louis were strong, with both attracting more than 25,000 fans per game. The XFL’s weekly attendance through five weeks was a little more than 18,000.

This is the second time in as many years a spring startup football league abruptly stopped. In 2019, the Alliance of American Football League shutdown during the season because of a lack of funding.

The XFL is shutting down, perhaps forever, because of a global virus.


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