No matter what Vince McMahon's revised plan for XFL success is, he's going to have a seriously uphill battle to compete with the NFL for even a sliver of the pro football market. According to a report published by ESPN's Darren Rovell on Tuesday, that battle's going to be even tougher, as yet another league is being planned, and it's set to debut prior to the XFL's upcoming comeback in 2020.
To add yet another layer of intrigue, the league is being put together by Charlie Ebersol, who is the son of longtime TV executive Dick Ebersol, who was also one of McMahon's partners when he originally put together the XFL nearly 20 years ago.
As Rovell reports, Ebersol's league will be called the "Alliance of American Football," and it's currently set to debut on February 9, 2019, a week after next year's Super Bowl. The season will span 10 weeks, and all eight teams will be made up of 50 players. The cities in which the teams will be based will be announced over the next three months.
The league will be comprised of players that didn't quite make the NFL cut (duh) and it will also have a number of former stars in advisory and front office roles. Rovell writes:
To help him steer the league, Charlie Ebersol brought on former NFL general manager Bill Polian, currently an analyst for ESPN. The player side will be overseen by former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, and the team side will be guided by former USC standout and executive J.K. McKay.
Advisers to the league also will include former NFL players Hines Ward and Justin Tuck, as well as Dick Ebersol.
While McMahon's league is backed by McMahon's money, Charlie Ebersol's league is backed by others, including former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen.
Ebersol also backed up his announcement by revealing a media plan, which was not included in McMahon's unveiling of his reborn league. Ebersol says both the initial games as well as the championship, will be aired on CBS. Beyond that, one matchup per week will air on CBS Sports Network, and the rest of the games will be available on the league's app. Ebersol also stated that they will incorporate "live fantasy play" in each of their broadcasts.
"Fifty-nine million people play fantasy and 20 million people play only fantasy football," he said. "We have to be able to take advantage of the people who just stop playing fantasy when the NFL season ends."
Rovell also writes that the league will have a number of innovative rules to separate it from the NFL:
There also will be no kickoffs (the ball will be placed automatically at the 25-yard line) and no onside kicks. The losing team will just start on its own 35-yard line with fourth-and-10. Play clocks will be 30 seconds and every touchdown will be followed by a two-point conversion attempt.
Finally, Ebersol elaborated on what must be the backbone of any successful league, which is solid game action from players who are highly competent. "There are 28,000 Division I football players. Only 1,700 have NFL jobs," Ebersol added. "We're looking for those Kurt Warners working in grocery stores, and we think we will find them."
Perhaps most intriguingly of all, Ebersol says the games will have 60 percent fewer commercials than NFL games, and there will be no TV timeouts. Despite some promising signs, starting a new football league that is ultimately embraced by the American public still seems like a real long shot.