NFL

You’ve Heard About the XFL But What About the Freedom Football League?

We’ve seen many pro football organizations come and go. You may be familiar with some: the Arena Football League, United Football League, United States Football League, Alliance of American Football, and most recently, the second coming of the XFL or Xtreme Football League. This last organization has unfortunately suspended operations indefinitely due to COVID-19.

While profit is always part of any business endeavor, these leagues serve a vital function, not only for the NFL but for football fans across the country. As many of you know, the NFL’s regular-season spans from September to early January with a January-to-mid-February postseason.

This leaves a six-month gap in between seasons, which spring football fills. Spring football helps keep fans occupied while the NFL is out of commission. It can also work as a sort of G league for the NFL to scout for up-and-coming talent.

The reception of the XFL

Vipers corner Demonte Hurst makes an interception
Vipers corner Demonte Hurst intercepts | Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The XFL first appeared in 2001, as a joint ventured by NBC and WWF (now known as the WWE). The strategy behind the original XFL was to fill the void left by the end of the NFL season and to combine the WWE’s antics with a style of football that had limited rules and promoted tougher play. It lasted just one season and was met with mostly critical reviews.

In 2017, Vince McMahon set plans in motion to revive the XFL using his own capital. On December 22, 2017, McMahon sold $100 million of his WWE shares to fund the league under his new company, Alpha Entertainment. In late January, it officially announced the revival of the league, which began in 2020. This time the XFL focused on increasing the speed of play, as opposed to using the gimmicks it previously employed.

The XFL consisted of eight teams and a 10-week-long season that the coronavirus pandemic cut in half. Although the season ended abruptly, viewers and critics alike got an idea of the potential of the league. The pros of the XFL included creativity concerning the rules.

During kickoffs, the kicker would standalone, while his teammates would line up on the oppositions 35-yard line and other opposition five yards away from them. No one would be able to move until the kickoff returner touched the ball, adding excitement to the game. A con was the XFL’s level of talent. While there were some standouts, for the most part, the talent wasn’t enough to make games compelling.

What happened to the AAF?

The AAF, or Alliance of American Football, was founded on March 20, 2018, by Charlie Ebersol. The organization showed a tremendous amount of promise. This feeling was validated at the start of the season, as the ratings surpassed 3 million.

Unfortunately, issues began to arise a few weeks into its inaugural season. These issues included a lack of talent, and most importantly, financial issues that prompted AAF chairman Tom Dundon (owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes) to take over operations.

He implemented a plan to contract NFL practice players to play in the AAF, which the NFLPA rejected because they felt it would violate conditions embedded in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. This rejection triggered Dundon to suspend operations weeks before the season’s end due to a lack of funding.

New organizations, like the Freedom Football League

A new organization, positioned to take over a significant portion of the market in the NFL’s absence is the Freedom Football League (FFL) founded by Ricky Williams and Terrell Owens in 2018.

The FFL seeks to put an emphasis on the long-term well-being of its players and spread the wealth amongst those who help the league function, like the owners, which consist of former and current NFL players, franchise operators, and fans.

The FFL consists of 10 teams, with a regular-season spanning from April to June. 2020 was supposed to be its inaugural season, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the season has been put on hold. What do you think about spring football? Can the FFL withstand, given the short lifespans of its predecessors in combination with COVID-19?