Why the Downfall of the XFL Was Inevitable
As the Coronavirus pandemic carries on, and the sports industry takes a major hit, many leagues and teams seem unlikely to recover. While the NFL’s of the world will never truly face the uncertainty of whether or not they will continue to exist, the XFL has had to face that reality. The XFL has announced that they are suspending their season with no intentions to return next year. Although this development is certainly tragic for the XFL players and staff, I personally didn’t see the XFL surviving much longer even without the Coronavirus pandemic
The XFL is a league for players with NFL aspirations. As NFL free agency picked up, we saw several XFL players make the jump to the NFL. The XFL is playing the role that college plays as a development league for the NFL, and like in college, the best players from each team are granted promotion to the NFL. Even if the XFL were to have carried on for years to come, each year, their best players would have been poached, leaving a lower quality of football in the XFL. When I watched the XFL, the drop in quality from the NFL was evident, and thinking of what the league would have been without their PJ Walker or Jordan Ta’amu-level players is hard to imagine being worth watching in the future. Walker and Ta’amu were the league’s best players, most marketable players, and biggest fan attractions. Without them in a hypothetical future season, the league would have suffered. It seemed impossible that the XFL could have ever taken off in a world where every players’ goal is to leave the league as quickly as possible.
One of the reasons that college football can continue to serve as a sustainable feeder system for the NFL is the loyal fanbase. College football on Saturday afternoons is engrained into the national psyche, where schools can call upon both location-based fanbases as well as the integration of an endless supply of students and alumni to help to keep their product alive. The XFL struggled to integrate themselves into the national spotlight, as they saw declining viewership every single week after their strong opening weekend. The lack of natural fan support, in combination with the decreasing quality of play year on year as the best players leave for the NFL, indicates that the XFL would have struggled regardless of the Coronavirus pandemic.