The XFL burst onto the American sports scene in 2001, and then left just as quickly. The league, like many other sports leagues in history, was founded on the idea that more than one organization can co-exist in the same country. Unfortunately for the XFL, the reality of professional sports is that competition is very stiff. Sports leagues must put together a quality product, be instantly adaptable, and capture a target market very quickly. Otherwise, the cost of running the business will quickly overtake any hope of success. Here are a few thoughts on why the XFL failed.
It turns out that fans usually want to watch the best of something. The XFL was mostly populated by players who could not make it in the NFL, which meant that fans were not watching the best football. Fans certainly enjoy a certain quality of football if they are expecting it to be that level. This is why they will watch high school and college ball, because they have adjusted their expectations to the level of competition and quality. However, if a league is supposed to be “professional,” then expectations will be high. The XFL was unable to deliver a product that rivaled the overall quality of the NFL.
Same, but different
Another problem with the XFL was that it didn’t do enough to differentiate itself from other football leagues. The XFL did experiment with camera angles, creative player names on the jerseys, and other variations. However, that type of material will only hold the fan’s attention for so long. In the same way, movie studios may produce a glitzy movie with a new technology, but if the story isn’t good, people are not going to enjoy the entire experience or recommend it to their friends.
Tradition and history
The XFL may have been trying to create an alternative to the NFL, but they could not escape a comparison. Many fans have been following the NFL for their entire lives and it is part of their upbringing and cultural make-up. Perhaps if the XFL could have stuck around for a few years it might have cemented itself into the consciousness of a new generation. However, it was unable to grab the attention of the American people long enough to create this sort of lasting impression.
Finally, the XFL was created by Vince McMahon, who also owned World Wrestling Entertainment. While professional wresting is certainly popular with a particular demographic, it also has a certain reputation in the greater sports world. McMahon brought a certain personality to the league, which was probably appealing to some, but not to everyone. The combination of timing, competition, McMahon’s plan, and the relative lack of interest displayed by the American people caused the XFL to fold before it had an opportunity to get started.