How the XFL’s 2023 Season Laid the Foundation for League’s Future
The XFL seems to finally be on stable ground after more than two decades of ups and downs.
Originally launched in 2001 by WWE chairman Vince McMahon and then-NBA Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, the XFL lasted only one season after its initial launch and lost $70 million.
There seemed to be a few factors that resulted in its downfall including too little time for preseason preparation and “unworkable 50-50 ownership with NBC.”
How the league operated was controversial, too. For example, instead of a coin toss, the XFL had an opening scramble where players would run and dive for a football at midfield.
But the story didn’t end there for the league.
In 2018, McMahon announced the league would return in 2020 with new rules, adding that he had learned from past mistakes.
The inaugural season included five weeks of games until it was suspended and canceled due to the pandemic. The league’s parent company then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020.
About three months later, a group including actor and former WWE star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, his business partner Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners agreed to purchase the league for roughly $15 million.
The newly owned league launched on Feb. 18, 2023.
First Season’s Success
As with any new league, there’s always work to be done. But near the end of the first season, the XFL’s owners shared their feelings of success.
“Knowing that we have a lot of work to do, I just see a tremendous amount of success,” said Garcia, the league’s chairwoman. “Overall, I give us a high grade.”
The league reportedly averaged around 13,000 fans and 561,000 TV viewers per regular-season game.
The St. Louis Battlehawks, which has more than 18,000 season-ticket holders, had the highest attendance in the league’s history when they hosted the Arlington Renegades with nearly 38,310 people. The Missouri city is reportedly the top XFL market by ticket revenue.
There’s no question about the quality of football in the league, either.
As of May 12, a reported 54 players had received tryout opportunities with NFL teams, and while the turnover is high, Garcia said it was expected and even hoped for.
“We celebrated this potential because it means that we become an even more attractive property year after year,” she said.
Garcia added that the league will be looking to eventually expand.