On Thursday afternoon, following a month or so of more-concrete-than-usual rumors, Vince McMahon officially announced that the XFL will be back starting in January 2020. McMahon said he believes the additional year will lend itself to a better product, rather than rushing to air like the league did during its first attempt:
According to McMahon, the new version of the league will not be reliant upon cheap gimmicks, cheesy antics, and flashy cheerleaders, as its 2001 predecessor was. He said he'll be the sole financier of the league, and that the first season will consist of eight teams and a 10-week schedule. Four of those teams will advance to the playoff. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the league is that McMahon says it will have faster games, with an ideal running time of just two hours.
"I wanted to do this since the day we stopped the other one," McMahon told ESPN. "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.'"
McMahon stated that players in the league will not have the ability to advertise their personal views while on the playing field, which speaks to the NFL market vulnerability McMahon is trying to chip away at. "People don't want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained," the WWE chairman said. "We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time."
He also said any player with a criminal record would not be welcome in the league, though one wonders if there will be a sliding scale there. As McMahon said "We are evaluating a player based on many things, including the quality of human being they are. If you have any sort of criminal record or commit a crime you aren't playing in this league."
If you're wondering why McMahon thinks he'll have more success this time, he answered that by saying TV ratings are no longer the sole measure of success. "To me the landscape has changed in so many different ways," he argued. "Just look at technology and companies like Facebook and Amazon bidding for sports rights. Even if ratings go down, there's no denying that live sports rights continue to be valuable and continue to deliver."
For the record, he did state that the rebirth was not because of the NFL's falling ratings, which declined this past season for the second straight year. "The start of this league has nothing to do with the NFL's troubles," McMahon said. "What has happened there is their business, and I'm not going to knock those guys, but I am going to learn from their mistakes as anyone would if they were tasked with reimagining a new football league."
In the next few months the eight cities that will house franchises will be announced, with team names soon to follow.