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XFL files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after suspending operations

The XFL has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, making the move on the first business day after the spring-season American football league suspended operations and fired virtually all its staff.

The XFL canceled the reminder of its inaugural season last month due to the global Covid-19 pandemic and initially committed to returning to 2021. The suspension of all league operations and subsequent bankruptcy filing, however, make it all but certain the XFL will not return, at least under the auspices of World Wrestling Entertainment chairman and league majority owner Vince McMahon.

In a Delaware bankruptcy court filing under the name of Alpha Entertainment LLC , the XFL listed assets and liabilities of between $10m-$50m. Creditors include broadcast services firm NEP ($1.208m), head coaches Bob Stoops ($1.083m) and Marc Trestman ($777,777) as well as ticket sales agent Elevate Sports Ventures ($856,175), Ticketmaster ($655,148), and the New Meadowlands Stadium Company, LLC, for a MetLife Stadium lease ($368,000), among others.

In a statement, the XFL said: “The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football. 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 US 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.”

The filing also showed that WWE owned 23.5 per cent of the league’s Class B shares, while McMahon owned 100 per cent of Class A shares and 76.5 per cent of Class B shares. McMahon repeatedly liquidated WWE stock to help pay for the XFL. The outspoken executive also has faced several pressing corporate issues within WWE.

The filing’s reveal of WWE holding an equity stake in the XFL directly contradicts roughly two years of repeated claims that the league was an entirely separate entity from WWE, unlike the original version of the XFL in 2001 that was a joint venture between WWE and NBC.

As recently as two months ago, Frank Riddick, WWE interim chief financial officer, said, “there’s no plan to put the XFL back in as a part of WWE investments. It’s a completely independent entity.”

The XFL had proven a mixed success before it stopped play due to the ongoing public health crisis.

In early March, domestic television ratings fell below the one-million mark for the first time. The March 8 game between the St. Louis BattleHawks and DC Defenders averaged 767,000 viewers on cable network FS1, representing the smallest audience yet for the rebooted league. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Vipers-Los Angeles Wildcats game later in the day on ESPN averaged 833,000.

XFL commissioner Oliver Luck also admitted to SportBusiness that attendances in both Los Angeles and New York needed to improve.

But the BattleHawks were a huge local success story, with the team opening up the upper deck of the Dome at America’s Center in downtown St. Louis for its planned future home games before they were called off. The team generated league-best home crowds of 29,554 and 27,527 in its two home games.

More broadly, the overall XFL quality of on-field play garnered generally positive reviews, as did several rules innovations that sought to differentiate the property from the National Football League.

Multiple reports indicated the XFL could be sold during the bankruptcy process. But that could be a tall order given the XFL’s demise also closely follows the bankruptcy of the rival entity Alliance of American Football in 2019, in turn extending the repeated failures over several decades of spring season football as a concept in the United States.

Read this: XFL confident its second act will prove a success and avoid same fate as AAF