XFL forced to cancel season after five weeks

A view of the The Dome at America Center during the first half of an XFL game between the St. Louis BattleHawks and the New York Guardians (Credit: Getty Images)

The rebooted XFL has been forced to cancel its inaugural season after just five weeks due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The start-up spring season American football league, which is backed by World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon, says it is committed to return in 2021.

Its players are now clear to sign for National Football League or Canadian Football League teams.

In a joint statement, XFL commissioner Oliver Luck and president Jeffrey Pollack told fans: “The Covid-19 pandemic, and the most recent local and state regulations, have left the XFL no choice but to officially cancel the remainder of the 2020 season. While we are disappointed to not complete the 2020 season, our hearts are full of appreciation for your overwhelming support.

“Your passion, your commitment to your favorite XFL team and your love of football made our season a success beyond our wildest dreams. We’re grateful for the incredible response and look forward to playing full seasons for you – and with you –  in 2021 and beyond,” they said.

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

Domestic television ratings fell below the one-million mark for the first time earlier this month. 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.

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, though, 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.

Other XFL team markets such as Washington were similarly praised for building a vibrant in-venue fan experience, and the overall quality of play was praised as solid given where the XFL is in its lifecycle and where it exists in the overall framework of American football.

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