The coronavirus outbreak has hit sports worldwide causing event postponements and cancellations.
Now it appears the pandemic has led to the total shutdown of a league.
Monday, the parent company of the rebooted XFL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This followed last Friday’s decision by the pro football league to suspend operations and lay off nearly all of those who worked for the XFL.
There are no plans at this point for the league to come back in 2021.
“The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football,” the league said in a statement, adding, “Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, we have filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. This is a heartbreaking time for many, including our passionate fans, players and staff, and we are thankful to them, our television partners, and the many Americans who rallied to the XFL for the love of football.”
XFL owner Vince McMahon, who’s also the chairman and CEO of the WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] reportedly decided to shut down the league after talking with the WWE board. The bankruptcy filing lists the top creditor owed money as the St. Louis Sports Commission….at $1.6 million. Seven of the league’s eight head coaches are among the top creditors, with Dallas Renegades head coach/general manager Bob Stoops owed the most, over $1 million.
On March 20th, halfway through its inaugural season, the XFL announced it was cancelling the remainder of the schedule because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In “A Thank You to our Fans” league Commissioner/CEO Oliver Luck and President Jeffrey Pollack said they “look forward to playing full seasons for you – and with you – in 2021 and beyond.”
After the season began with strong attendance and TV ratings numbers, there was a steady decline as the novelty started to wear off. There was talk the league may be heading for the same fate as another upstart pro football league, last year’s Alliance of American Football, which folded after one season.
For Vince McMahon, this is the second time his XFL league has ended prematurely, although this time much of it was out of his control. The first XFL, in 2001, featured a lot of pizzazz, some say craziness, including a two-player dash for possession of the ball instead of an opening kickoff; player nicknames on the backs of their jerseys, such as the unforgettable “He Hate Me;” and scantily-clad cheerleaders contributing to a sex and violence image…even more so than the pro football standard-bearing NFL. But all the craziness wasn’t enough, as a football-hungry public ultimately didn’t get enough of what it really wanted…good football.
The new XFL was designed to address that.
“I was assured that we would build this the right way,” Oliver Luck told NPR in February, “with 100% focus on football. And all the other stuff that the XFL was known for – some of the gimmicks, if you will – those are all consigned to the dustbin.”
But ultimately, football fans weren’t given the chance to see if the XFL had staying power. And whether a second pro football league finally could survive and even thrive in a country where the NFL continues to be the most popular spectator sport.