Back in 2001, Vince McMahon of the WWE decided to try his hand at creating a football league. As anyone who studies the history of sport will know, it was a huge failure. However, anyone who follows wrestling will know that Vince McMahon is not a man who likes failure. It would have been a safe move to indulge in some Indiana sports betting in an attempt to get the league up off the ground again due to his track record of not giving up.

As many expected, 2020 saw the return of the XFL. This time though, McMahon has attempted to address many of the issues that led to the failure of the league the first time out. With the ratings for the NFL falling and High School Football offering a more exciting product, he knew that it was the right time to try and fill the gap in the market.

Knowing his place

McMahon still knows that going up against the NFL directly was a huge mistake. Just as it eventually led to the demise of his competitor WCW in the 2000s, challenging the big dog in the fight is always a huge risk, that almost always results in failure. As such he has chosen to take advantage of the desire to keep watching football that always seems to be in place once the Super Bowl has finished. As such the XFL started just a week after the Super Bowl. It means that the league should be able to still bring in big numbers, at least for the first week.

This is what happened in the original incarnation of the league. The first week brought in large numbers but subsequent weeks saw a fall in viewers until it became a millstone around the neck of both McMahon and NBC. This time McMahon has partnered with ABC in order to broadcast the games and has taken a different route in order to show that the XFL can be a better viewing experience to the NFL.

Giving viewers what they want

The first main aspect of the game that McMahon and company have tackled is the running time. With the NFL running games of at least three hours, even without overtime, McMahon felt that football could be condensed into a faster paced game that will keep viewers more engaged over a shorter period of time. As such the average run time for the test games of the XFL were just over two and a half hours. On top of this it was also found that if a game went into overtime, it would still finish within three hours. Meaning a full game with overtime would still take less time to watch than a standard NFL game.

This was added to some rule changes which were put in place to make the on pitch action more exciting. For example, the conversion has been replaced by a scrimmage that can award up to three points for the team that scores a touchdown. The team can take the play from two yards away, five yards away or ten yards away. Each choice will award one, two or three points respectively. This adds some extra excitement and strategy to the game, especially for teams chasing games.

There were also some really nice broadcasting touches. These included the ability to hear the referees and coaches making calls and decisions, and instant interviews with players and replay officials talking with referees. It was overall a really great start to the season which is a good sign for McMahon and ABC.

Strong viewing figures and sales

What has been a good sign for the XFL so far is that the opening game of the season got very strong viewing figures. While this was something the previous XFL also managed, it did not do so with critical acclaim like the current version has. There have also been excellent merchandise sales, which also bodes well for the future of the company. Football is a sport passed on through generations so safeguarding the future is of vital importance.

Can the XFL fix what went wrong the first time? Vince McMahon has a track record of eliminating failures from his resume. Expect the XFL to be a much different proposition to the last time out. It may never challenge the NFL as the dominant football league in the US, but this time it has a good chance of becoming a popular addition to the schedules and being a success. That is all that Vince McMahon ever wants from his properties, to be a success.