WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon announced Thursday he is giving a professional football league another go. It will be called the XFL, the same name of the league McMahon and NBC tried for one season in 2001, but it won’t rely on flashy cheerleaders and antics as its predecessor did, he said.
McMahon said he is the sole funding source for the league, which is slated to begin in January 2020. Its first season will have eight teams around the country playing a 10-week schedule. The initial outlay of money is expected to be around $100 million, the same amount of WWE stock McMahon sold last month and funneled into Alpha Entertainment, the company he founded for the project.
“I wanted to do this since the day we stopped the other one,” McMahon told ESPN in an exclusive interview. “A chance to do it with no partners, strictly funded by me, which would allow me to look in the mirror and say, ‘You were the one who screwed this up,’ or ‘You made this thing a success.'”
Vince McMahon’s commitment to his relaunched football league, the XFL, is significantly larger than originally expected.
The WWE chairman, who began funding the league by selling approximately $100 million in WWE stock and putting it into his wholly owned subsidiary Alpha Entertainment, has informed insiders that he expects to spend closer to $500 million in the league’s first three seasons. The XFL is scheduled to reboot in February 2020.
“People were focused on the $100 million, but the truth is that doesn’t even get us to the 20-yard line,” league CEO and commissioner Oliver Luck told ESPN. Luck accepted the job June 5 and starts at his office across the street from WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, on Monday.
Luck said the biggest cost will be the salaries to pay players and coaches. He said that the average salary for the 40-man rosters will hover around $75,000, with players who are more in demand making much more than that. Players in the first iteration of the XFL, co-owned by McMahon and NBC, paid players an average of $45,000 for a 10-week schedule.
Another significant cost is insurance to cover player injuries. “I’ve been at all levels of football, and the importance of a broad-based insurance program cannot be understated,” Luck said.
Luck said that before McMahon announced the relaunch of the league, one of his first moves was to secure an insurance policy for the league. “There are very few participants who underwrite for this market anymore and it is obviously costly,” he said.
Luck didn’t say how much coverage the league will have but did say that the insurance premiums will come to more than $10 million a year. Shortly after McMahon announced the XFL would be coming back, Charlie Ebersol announced the launch of another professional football league, the Alliance of American Football. Ebersol directed the ESPN “30 for 30” film on the ill-fated XFL, which lasted just one season in 2001.
Ebersol, whose father, Dick, is the former president of NBC Sports and McMahon’s partner on the original XFL, scheduled his league to launch a year before the XFL and has already announced the eight teams and the markets they will play in — Atlanta, Orlando, Birmingham, Memphis, San Antonio, Salt Lake, San Diego and Phoenix.
Significantly less is known of the financial commitment the AAF has made, as the league has said that is private information. Initial investors are Peter Chernin, Peter Thiel and former NFL Pro Bowler Jared Allen. By DARREN ROVELL via ESPN