In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the merger between the XFL and USFL, and what it might mean for the National Football League (NFL).
You can read the full column below.
Two successor football leagues, the XFL and United States Football League (USFL), in the third and second iterations of itself, respectively, have decided to join forces in a merger following in the footsteps of nearly every major sporting league in history. Even the professional ranks of pickleball recently joined forces to make two independent leagues, one. It also follows UFC and WWE joining forces under the TKO banner.
While history shows that mergers are often the answer to upstart professional sports leagues, for example, the American League joining the National League to eventually create Major League Baseball where the American League was the upset league challenging the dominance of the senior circuit National League. The XFL and USFL merging is the first in recent memory where two upstart leagues decided to join forces. Unlike the growth of sports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where it is mostly pushing capital into existing leagues or using capital to fund existing professional ranks (e.g., PGA Tour—LIV Golf merger), the XFL and USFL is also a savvy business move that may ensure survival for both leagues and dare one say as the first official minor league for the NFL?
The XFL and USFL may fight the notion of becoming a minor league, but it may be the way to survival to have full National Football League (NFL) endorsement, which has not occurred to date. Such a move might also relieve the pressure from NCAA athletes looking to become professional athletes without college. On the other hand, name, image, and likeness (NIL) changes in the college ranks has opened possibilities for athletes to be paid. Meaning, with the NFL’s endorsement, there will be welcome competition between choosing to play in a professional minor league and getting paid versus playing college football with NIL. If the merged XFL-USFL league, new name pending, has full NFL backing with a considerable streaming-television broadcast contract, competition would result in improved choice, product, process, and result.
As of this writing, private investment in sports franchises continues to reach new heights. As the price to purchase and have ownership increases, so will the ways in which teams are purchased through groups, partners, and with start-up investment when a league is launching or in its early years. It is doubtful at this point that the XFL-USFL wants to challenge the NFL, especially with both of their seasons starting and ending before the NFL. However, two upstart leagues teaming with or offering an alternative to the NFL with a good television deal and terrific talent on the field, could mean sustained success.
Currently, the XFL-USFL players cannot be NFL players as existing contracts forbid playing for another professional or football team in general. However, if the NFL partnered with the new league, there would be opportunity as an official minor or developmental league. For the XFL-USFL and all sports leagues, the age-old adage about success in sports still reins true. It requires a great venue, lease, market, and personnel. How much more success would a combined XFL-USFL have if it had NFL backing through television negotiations, venues (at a discounted or free price tag), in mostly large popular football markets, and an unlimited supply of personnel in partnership?
About Jeremy M. Evans:
Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.
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