New pro-football leagues in the USA have been tried several times before with perhaps the most notable attempt to rival the NFL being the USFL in the eighties. Apart from the AFL which merged with the NFL in 1970 to expand the league, they have all failed.
When the revival of the XFL was announced two months ago, the interest with UK football fans was aroused because it meant the continuation of football after the NFL season finished.
In today’s social media driven society, keeping secrets is not an easy task, but a group of entrepreneurs appeared to have succeeded this week with the surprise announcement of the Alliance of American Football.
The XFL was due to start in 2020, but the AAF has stolen a march on the rival junior league by announcing they will be starting in spring next year. Kickoff is scheduled the week after the Super Bowl and this should guarantee fans maintaining an interest in football after the NFL climax.
One of the gripes about the NFL is the comparative short 16-game regular season, but the league has always been content with leaving the fans wanting more as it protects its operation in an attempt to keep the viewing figures intact.
The Alliance league is the creation of Hall of Famer Bill Polian, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Blitz. His experience with the USFL’s Blitz would surely have prepared him for the task ahead.
Polian has been general manager of the Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers before becoming President of the Indianapolis Colts and being part of their Super Bowl triumph.
Polian is joined by TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and his father Dick Ebersol, who pioneered NBC’s Olympic broadcasts. The league has a deal with CBS Sports to broadcast their games so everything is in place for the league to lift off.
Charlie Ebersol has spent three years putting together the Alliance. He and Polian, backed by numbers showing America’s passion for the sport, see a huge void the league can fill.
“Fifty-nine million people play fantasy and 20 million people play only fantasy football,” offered Ebersol. “We have to be able to take advantage of the people who just stop playing fantasy when the NFL season ends.”
Ebersol sees the hallmark of the league being no TV timeouts and 60 percent fewer commercials, as well as an innovative approach to broadcasting.
To protect players’ safety, there 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.
The league will have eight teams in cities and stadiums yet to be announced although it was implied they will be in warmer climates given the February-late April schedule.
The team’s rosters will be made up from ex-NFL players and from what Polian called, “the core of our constituency – collegians who have gone undrafted, including underclassmen who have lost any remaining eligibility; players looking to return to the sport; and free agents from the CFL or elsewhere.”
The AAF appears to have done their calculations to produce a model that has a good chance of succeeding where others have fallen by the wayside. The new league has invested in bringing ex-players into the organisation including Troy Polamalu who will be involved with player personnel and Hines Ward who will act as an advisor.
Polamalu said he was “excited to impart my experience to help our players maximize their potential, not only as football players but as human beings, as positive influences in their communities and in their families.”
Exciting times lie ahead as the new league announces its teams and provides more information on its draft process and coaching staff.