A new American football league backed by senior figures in the industry has launched, with the goal of filling the void created following the end of the NFL season.
The Alliance of American Football will kick off its season on the Sunday following the 2019 Super Bowl and executives have stated that it’s not intended as a mere developmental league.
The Alliance has been created by Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian, one of the most respected executives in NFL history and now an analyst for sports broadcaster ESPN, along with television and film producer Charlie Ebersol.
Ebersol is the son of Dick Ebersol, former chairman of the NBC Sports Group division of US media company NBCUniversal and creator of the Sunday Night Football franchise. The senior Ebersol will serve on the Alliance’s board of directors.
Charlie Ebersol told the Associated Press news agency that former NFL players such as Justin Tuck, Hines Ward and Jared Allen will have significant roles in a league he calls a “true partnership.” “That’s the best way a league can perform and will be ultimately the key to success, having an interwoven product,” he said.
Polian (pictured) added: “Whenever you have an endeavour that involves the kind of teamwork football involves it implies a partnership, the need to get their buy-in and do things, particularly in a startup, that represent their best interest ... to make sure players know we have their best interests at heart. That is the guiding philosophy.”
The league will run across a February to April schedule, with the eight teams to be announced at a later date. Rosters will be made up of players who fail to make NFL squads, college athletes who have gone undrafted, players seeking to return to the sport and other free agents.
“Football is so dominant for six months of the year,” Ebersol said. “It even hides a number we focused on: millions of fans who stop watching the top five sports in America when football is off the air. Millions of football fans who don’t want to watch other sports. And there are 59 million who play fantasy sports, 29 million of them stopped when football ended.
“So what to do to really empower our fans? Fans are investors. They invest time and emotion and money... and what they get in return is the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. We wanted to empower the fans so they will be rewarded for being fans of their team, so fans have a real stake in the league.”
News of the Alliance of American Football comes just weeks after another new league emerged. In January, Vince McMahon, chairman and chief executive of US wrestling organisation WWE, resurrected the XFL by announcing that the league would be reborn in 2020.
McMahon, who founded WWE, launched the initial XFL in partnership with US network NBC in 2001, only for it to last one season before collapsing. The new-look XFL will launch in January 2020 with eight teams across the United States playing a 10-week schedule.