The inaugural season of the new-look XFL is roughly one week in, and the majority of football fans are deeming the reboot a huge success. The promotional genius of league owner Vince McMahon has been on full display through the league’s innovative new rules and never-before-seen levels of media access.
To break down why this version of the XFL is different from the previous failed attempts to provide fans with professional football year-round, I have provided the five following areas of analysis:
The XFL is run by the aforementioned McMahon (league owner) and commissioner Oliver Luck. Luck provides the league with a much-needed level of stability and direction through a leadership style developed during his years as the University of West Virginia’s athletic director (2010-2014), the Houston Dynamo’s president and general manager (2005-2010) and the NCAA’s executive vice president for regulatory affairs (2014-2018).
Luck also played collegiate football at the University of West Virginia and professional football for the Houston Oilers. This experience as both a player and business executive shows why XFL fans should feel confident in the direction Luck is hoping to take the league.
As a newly-founded professional sports league attempting to make it out of its infancy stage, support from fans and media outlets is crucial for the XFL. Fortunately, that’s exactly what the league has been given from many major media outlets. Mainstream outlets such as Fox, ABC and ESPN combined have televised every game so far this season.
The XFL is receiving an estimated total of $40 million from these media outlets to broadcast their games without paying any fees in return. This immense amount of support being given to the XFL has provided the league a unique opportunity to grow its consumer base at a very low cost.
In a league comprised of players who are by no means household names, it is essential for the league to create some different form of familiarity between its product and the fans. The XFL has decided to do this by featuring recognizable media personalities such as Steve Levy, Pat McAfee, Greg McElroy and Joey Galloway both on the sidelines and in the commentary booth during the games.
In addition to media personalities, the XFL has done a fantastic job of highlighting when current NFL players are in attendance to show fans that even those play the game at the highest level appreciate this unique style of play.
The league’s rule changes regarding the on-field action have also been a pleasant surprise. The kickoff reform has provided a safer alternative to the classic version seen in the NFL, as it has altered the presence of “gunners,” thus reducing the chance of dangerous collisions.
The traditional extra point format has also been changed, as teams now have the option to go for one, two or three points after a touchdown all from increasing yardages. This new wrinkle allows teams to keep themselves in games that, under traditional scoring rules, would be too difficult to battle back in.
The shortened play clock and designated ball spotter are also new features that were implemented to speed up the game and provide a more exciting style of offense. Unfortunately, this new addition has not been as successful as the league hoped. The gameplay moves at a traditional pace, and offenses have struggled to put up huge numbers in the early weeks of the season.
The most exciting and unique feature has been the extensive amount of behind-the-scenes access given in the form of in-game coach and player interviews. Never before have fans been able to hear the thoughts of a quarterback fresh off an interception or a kicker fresh off a shanked field goal.
Just a week into the season, these interviews have provided fans with hilarious sound bites that almost give viewers secondhand embarrassment as they watch disgruntled athletes explain their shortcomings. This heavy focus on fan engagement will undoubtedly lead to consumers developing relationships with franchises at an accelerated rate.
This is why the new-look XFL is anything but a flash in the pan. The young league looks poised to capture the hearts of football craving fans with its exciting style of play and unique delivery for years to come.
Ethan Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EthanLee_99.