The demise of the Alliance of American Football serves as a “cautionary tale” for the revamped XFL, Oliver Luck has told SportBusiness.
The Alliance abruptly suspended all operations two weeks ago, just eight weeks into its inaugural campaign, leaving its majority owner, co-founders and investors facing multiple lawsuits from former employees.
And XFL commissioner Luck says the spring-season American football league – which is being bankrolled by WWE owner Vince McMahon – has learned many lessons from the Alliance’s collapse ahead of its launch in 2020.
“Having been involved in start-ups before, I appreciate as much as anyone that you need time and you need a consistent and prudent plan that you can put in place in a proper, appropriate way because we want to build a strong foundation,” Luck told SportBusiness. “Vince has mandated that we build a sustainable, standalone league and that takes time.
“There’s a lot that we’ve learned [from the Alliance] and we’re trying to make sure that we make sure we use it as a cautionary tale, quite honestly. Some of the lessons are coming from things they did quite well. On the [American] football side, they did a number of things well.
“But we’re taking away the time that’s needed to establish a local brand in a marketplace is significant and it’s not just enough to say, ‘here’s a new football team, come out and join us’. You’ve really got to put roots down and connect with the community.
“We have taken away that while streaming is important and a way of the future, what a young league like ours, a start-up, really needs is visibility for the games, ideally over the air, fully-distributed cable broadcast that people can see.
“We’ve tried to be as clear-eyed and as sober as we could and analyse what went well – because some things went well – and what didn’t go well.”
Luck said that the success of the Alliance in San Antonio – which averaged 27,720 fans for its four home games – “will not go unnoticed down the road” for the XFL and hopes that the market’s success bodes well for the league’s two teams in Texas, which are located in Dallas and Houston.
Following the collapse of the Alliance, it was reported that co-founder Charlie Ebersol had asked the XFL for a merger in December 2018, which McMahon turned down. Luck said: “There could have been a conversation about that possibility but Vince has told me from the start that he has no interest in buying or supporting another league.”
The XFL is expected to announce a broadcast TV deal in the coming weeks. It has reportedly been in talks with Fox and ESPN.
On Tuesday, meanwhile, Kevin Gilbride was named the head coach and general manager of the XFL team in New York while Janet Duch, most recently an executive at On Location Experiences, was named its president.