Out of something awfully bad, is coming something good. That is, learning how to run a sports league properly in the middle of a pandemic. Thus far, the NBA and its new "bubble" quarantined concept is showing the sports world and maybe our world culture itself how to somewhat reduce a serious illness. It also has influenced the potential positioning of the reborn XFL, and its surprise renaissance this week for another season in 2021 or 2022.
A group, including popular actor and former WWE star Dwayne Johnson, has agreed to purchase the XFL for a meager $15 million, according to a news release issued Monday morning. The lowball price might have been in a dead-heat shock with the news the league was aiming for a quick return after a disaster short-lived attempt for survival only a year ago.
The XFL declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy April 13th and has been seeking a buyer for the past several months. It is marketing itself as a made-for-TV product that could transition as early as 2021 to a bubble-oriented concept during the extended coronavirus pandemic. Johnson (aka "The Rock") and his investor, which include his business partner Dany Garcia, along with RedBird Capital Partners, are making plans to quickly play next season, according to Ms. Garcia.
Like Johnson, she is also an accomplished athlete, a professional body builder and will become the first female owner of a professional sports league. Dany Garcia also happens to be Johnson's ex-wife, divorcing in 2007. Garcia and Johnson co-founded Seven Bucks Productions and she is listed as a producer of several of Johnson's top hits, including "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" and the Jumanji sequel "The Next Level", "Rampage", "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw" and the HBO sports comedy "Ballers". (HBO, like CNN, is owned by AT&T's WarnerMedia unit.)
Together they share a deep love of football. So, who knows, this also might also be a revolutionary bold professional step in terms of repairing relationships between men and women.
Announcing the New Game Plan
Following its last bankruptcy version from WWE owner Vince McMahon, the new XFL will have eight teams, possibly a few more if things all work out. At the time of its latest demise, two franchises in Seattle and St. Louis were doing reasonably well, so figure them to be certainly included within the new list of franchises. It is likely they will pick up the football in the Spring, shortly after the Super Bowl as before. The number of games, playoff format, etc. is to be determined.
"Our approach to the XFL is looking at it as a property that lives year-round with the live portion happening in the spring. The rest of the year and even during the season where we have, obviously, the games going on, as we move through that there’s so much more content and storytelling that needs to happen and should happen, so that there is relevance," Garcia said. "And the players mean something to our fans and our audience."
Because of COVID-19 and the pandemic, Garcia did not fully commit to the XFL returning immediately in 2021. She seemed to hint at the possibility of a one-city bubble, like the NBA, if games are played next spring.
Bet on 2022
Here is the inside tip to follow regarding this XFL reincarnation:
If games are not played next spring, then the following spring becomes the focus. However, it plays out, it is a long-term project that eventually will become part of the effort to give fans live sporting events to watch. As licensed and regulated sports betting continues to spread throughout the USA, visible, promoted sporting events like the XFL will be highlighted to be bet upon.
By fate and timing, that is the key. When the most recent XFL version failed we were just seeing the beginning of states in the U.S. opening up sports wagering. Only New Jersey and Nevada were included in the mix, with nowhere near the list of proposed state expansion we are currently witnessing and planned for 2021.
Also, most importantly, we did not have any U.S. sports leagues or specific sports franchises signing deals with gambling companies, as we are experiencing today. That opens aggressive opportunity for the XFL to not only embrace, but passionately seek, finance efforts to ambitiously succeed this time around.
As for the sports bettor, it is now proven they will accept all opportunities to wager upon a televised, visible sports product. If darts, Russian ping pong and South American soccer can find a two-fisted wagering audience, it will not be exceedingly difficult for a re-branded XFL to find new betting support. Especially conjoined with aggressive wagering bonuses and clever promotions along for the ride.
The greatest sell here might be the new commissioner himself. The Rock is one of the most popular movie and television stars in the entire world. And, a natural to hype this type of entertainment programming in many ways. He all but could suit up and play defensive tackle in one of the XFL games itself. You may recall he once teamed with guys named Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis at the "U", the University of Miami, coached by Dennis Erickson in the early 90's.
Current organizational plans for this newest version of the XFL are not clear yet. McMahon fired last version XFL commissioner Oliver Luck on April 9th, and Luck responded by suing McMahon for wrongful termination. He is seeking $23.8 million in court! The lawsuit was on hold awaiting the results of the bankruptcy.
Considering the past numbers, the bankruptcy price of only $15M seems unbelievably low. The league averaged a very respectable 1.9 million television viewers per game and generated nearly $20 million in gross revenues in 2020, according to the court filings. It had projected $46 million in gross revenues for the 10-game season, each data point exceeding internal expectations, according to sources.
Within our current unpredictable COVID-19 status, it is difficult to predict with certainty whether the new XFL will be ready for Spring 2021 or 2022. I can tell you it is a mortal lock to look for betting company insignias on the XFL football field and plenty of point-spread talk during the game broadcasts whenever it does kickoff. Also, a likely popular wagering cousin for the list of top online sportsbooks to join NCAA College Basketball March Madness.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, will you be watching and listening this time?
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.