XFL's demise = CFL Should ReVisit US Expansion

Honestly I think the only sports league that could benefit from Covid-19 is the CFL, long term anyway. The XFL posed several short and even more long term problems for the CFL, the severity of which is certainly debatable, but with the XFL out of the picture now some lessons certainly can be taken and opportunities exploited.

The XFL was doing well, it really was and if not for Covid-19 shutting it down early and threatening McMahon's primary source of funding the WWE he was originally prepared to throw a billion dollars into it (besides I think he was gambling on a NFL players strike). Covid-19 has altered the landscape and show us one very clear thing, that the US is hungry for more football and if done right it will work.

Some of you may jump to the 'yeah but the 90's US expansion was a disaster' argument. That's a false argument and not supported by the actual facts if one has done the research, in point of fact you can make a good case that US expansion was 100% successful in achieving its primary goal, saving the CFL, it did that. Either way even if you disagree I think you can at least admit that the context today is very different than the context of 25 years ago.

Also let's be fair, the CFL at the time didn't exactly do anything that even vaguely resembled due diligence of the owners they sold franchises to, nor did the CFL require the fields be modified by owners to meet CFL standards, nor did the CFL make any real meaningful effort outside of Baltimore which was one the only glaring exception to making CFL actually work in the US.

Any objective person will agree the CFL set themselves up for failure in the US, to a large extent I would argue it didn't care because that wasn't the primary objective. CFL working and lasting in the US was secondary, saving the three CFL teams on verge of bankruptcy and bringing football back to Montreal were always the primary objectives which were achieved. Even then the league was still forced to take a cash handout form the NFL since it wasn't able to collect all the franchise fees owed to it. A problem they should have foreseen when you pick owners who were already being actively sued for not paying bills when you gave them the franchise without requiring payment upfront.

Things have changed a lot in the 25 years since then, the power of sports TV, internet on-demand, etc. The CFL has almost never been more stable than it is now and the NFL has very graciously opened up several ready to tap markets, more than it ever has.

Take the lessons learned from the 90's, honestly every sports league since then that has done expansion has taken a lesson from that. Then also take what we learned from the XFL and apply it. Expansion to the US has never actually made more sense, tapping US TV markets would ensure a massive growth of revenue for the entire league, who would argue with higher player salaries and improved product on the field?

The league would have two choices in terms of path in how it approached expansion, one of the biggest complaints of US owners during the 90's was revenues and butts evaporated as soon as the NFL season started up. Only exception really was Baltimore but they were unique in that it was a football town that was NFL ready still stung from having their team stolen from them, also San Antonio wasn't doing too bad.

The NFL is likely done with US expansion, if they expand it is pretty clear it will be international, not domestic. The NFL has been prepping the San Antonio market to be NFL ready to use as the new LA whipping stick we'll relocate our team here city if you dont buy us a new stadium. The NFL bailed on St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland, not because they couldn't support an NFL team but because of greedy owners and citizens not willing to subsidize a stadium for a person who was already a billionaire. So rather than having just one NFL ready city we have four, something I am sure the NFL enjoys having to strong arm future cities that won't get in line on a stadium deal.

The XFL also showed a spring league will work in the US and allow you to tap existing markets that already have NFL teams but crave more football. So the CFL's two choices would to either just limit expansion to US cities that are NFL ready without an NFL team, or shift the start of the season to open up more US markets. Or hybrid, start off with just those four cities and reevaluate after a few years based on the success or failure of those teams and look at shifting to the start of the season to expand TV revenue (an option anyway).

Franchise fees could be used to bring Halifax finally into the league as well as improve player salaries. San Diego and the Bay area some of the largest TV markets in the US and a TV rights deal could be worth just as much if not more than the total of the current deal the CFL has just with Canadian based media. You could even look at under served US markets like Chicago.

Chicago is a football crazy city, 3rd largest city in the US, has two MLB teams, yet only one NFL team and one of if not the smallest stadium in the NFL. To say that Bears stadium doesn't come anywhere close to being able to meet local demand is an understatement. The point is there are other markets in the US that have NFL teams that could work even if the schedule isn't changed if you pick the right market.

Either way there are 4 ready to go and likely another 2 to 4 markets that could be cultivated without having to adjust the schedule, but it would hurt potential TV revenue but when we're talking about doubling or tripling the current TV revenue does it matter? Mexico is an option later on as well and the league in terms of cost of ticket and expected fan base would be a lot easier to achieve for the CFL than the NFL. The NFL will continue to promote the sport there as it tries to grow fan base in all of Latin America but it will be a very long time before any city in Mexico could legitimately support an NFL level franchise, a CFL one on the other hand after the NFL has been pumping millions into the area and with a CFL team in Texas and Southern California could likely work.

Reality is if one is objective, truly objective I think it becomes clear the XFL's loss is the CFL's gain and the CFL should pounce quickly. The markets are ripe, the cities would likely gladly modify existing stadiums to fit a CFL regulation field and viable ownership likely could be far more easily be obtained.

If you aren't growing you are stagnating, and stagnation is slow death. This opportunity won't last indefinitely, the league should act while it is strong and can command larger fees. Then use those fees and increased revenue to improve game play, player salaries, expand to Halifax and even take the sport internationally like the commissioner keeps claiming he'd like to do.

Just a thought.

A post was merged into an existing topic: After the XFL debacle, should we think about US Expansion?