XFL/CFL/International: What A Global Initiative “Should” Look Like
24 min read
There’s something about International competition that’s special. Any time you can bring the world together through a sport, there’s a sense of pride that comes along with it that you don’t typically get from pro leagues that play under one particular Nation’s flag. In this article, we explore nearly every corner, plateau, hilltop, oceanside, riverfront, desert, and island I could find, that I believe could be a host, and be the template for what we could very well see 10-20 years from now. If you’ve ever read anything I write, you probably know it’s a lot of fan fiction with a little business common sense mixed in, and very, very long. So here’s your warning: This is for the purpose of entertainment and deep discussion, not necessarily to be taken with more than a grain of salt. I do hope however you enjoy tapping into the imagination, and hopefully you’re challenged to come up with a plan of your own. Below you will find an article I put together about a month ago, outlining the NFL’s actual rough plans to launch their international marketing and expansion plan. In that article, you will see that the mightiest league of them all hasn’t yet closed the door on expanding beyond its borders.
Back in February I wrote a piece on what I thought the XFL needed to do in order stay in business long term. In that one you’ll find everything from salaries, locations, coaches, mergers, and minority ownership details. This article came out about two weeks before it became public that the XFL and CFL were having discussions about merging, and or working together in some form. In this article I outlined some coaching and minority owner suggestions, as well as front office personnel. You can check that out below:
So now that you’re all caught up on the first two Sear’s catalog sized articles, here comes volume III!!! Not really, but kinda sorta, this will be a combination of what I’ve put out there before, but bigger, and hopefully better. If you love the game of football and you also love to travel, this plan would be a dream come true. One of my ultimate bucket list goals is to simply travel the world while consuming all the football and culture I possibly can. 10 years from now I’d like to see if places like China dominate using the Triple Option or the Air Raid. Do they like the Martyball, three yards and a cloud of dust offense in Germany? Does defense reign supreme in the Pacific? How does traveling abroad to play for two to four games straight impact how a team plays? Also wouldn’t it be great to see a league full of teams and coaching staff traveling the globe to play the greatest team activity ever handed to us by God, with an inside look into how they take in all this great culture, scenery, and game day experience? I think that’s a top five badass idea all time myself, but that’s just me.
First up: The idea that a second tier level of football outside of the NFL can’t be successful, needs to be laid to rest permanently. If a league outside of the NFL and NCAA can simply stay in business with a television deal for three full seasons, there’s no reason it wouldn’t hit the ground 100 miles and running. The fans need to be sold on the entity running the show, that they will stick to the plan. The fans need to be sold on the players, and that the teams will play at a high level. The markets need to be sold on a name, or two they can hang their hat on long term, so that they can establish and maintain an identity. The networks need to be sold on the product in order to be willing to make a substantial investment that occupies a lot of air time. For that, they need to be sold that the product they’re buying will be full of entertaining, must see TV, with endless on-demand streaming content. Last but not least, there’s been a lot of players and coaches that have been burned the last couple of years. You’ll need to close them on the fact that as long as the game of football exists, you’ll be in business paying competitive wages to play and coach it.
If RedBird Capital is going to be the main entity for the financial part of the launch, then Dwayne Johnson and Danny Garcia need to be the closers of all the above mentioned. This is not a knock on the CFL which has in fact been in business for over 100 years, but unfortunately I don’t think their business acumen, brand, and or rules are anywhere near appealing enough to get something of this magnitude done. There may be personnel from the league retained on the levels of players, coaching, owners(at the minority level), and league to keep a little continuity, but I think you want the best you can afford at every position within the wheelhouse, in order to find success at the global level. I also feel they will have to convert to an XFL rules style of play since four down football is simply an easier sell. Maybe one or two subtle rules can also be brought on board, but if the game is “too” Canadian, I believe you’d lose more viewers before you ever have them. True Canadian Football League purists won’t like the idea at first, but if they want to continue to see their favorite teams compete, like The Mandalorian says, “This is the way”.
Continuing with the theme of selling, let’s continue with some of the cardinal rules:
Attention: Does the league have the networks’, fans’, markets’, players’, and potential coaches’ attention? No, not at the moment. In order to get it, it’s going to take major marketing, marketing, and more marketing. Once they’ve put together one of the largest scale marketing plans the world has ever seen, they’ll need to launch it. As said marketing plan is being put out there they will graduate to the next level.
Interest: Are you interested? You’ve seen our commercials. You’ve seen the buzz on social media growing. You’ve heard some in the media coming out and talking about how exciting this thing sounds and how much potential it has. Chances are, you’re getting there. Because the league will Always Be Closing, while you’re becoming interested it’s a great time to hit you upside your head with more marketing. This is the biggest reason the NFL is as popular as it is. They continue to pound away at marketing all year long. Once they have become a part of daily discussions at the level of not only fans, but in the media, it’s time to level up.
Decision: Decide who you’re going to do business with. Sponsorships, minority ownerships, broadcasting partners, network launching, apparel providers, and more. Break out the big guns.
I’m talking about Disney, Under Armor, Body Armor, Schutt, Walmart, EA Sports or 2K, DraftKings, Funko, and as many high profile sponsorships you can get in bed with. Launch the first season with a video game, collectors’ items, and plenty of downloadable content trailing not far behind.
This league is going to be traveling a ton, so it’s a no brainer that there needs to be a big push to get a deal done with a major airline, and hotel chain that can be found in just about every market represented. There’s a few to choose from but keep in mind these two industries just experienced the worst financial year they’ve ever had due to the pandemic, so there’s no doubt there “should” be mutual interest.
It helps that RedBird Capital already owns “On Location Services”, which provides travel package arrangements for NFL games, especially those played internationally. This way they can not only launch marketing campaigns showcasing some of their biggest sponsors year round, but they can put together the most competitive travel packages and offer them in house. Buy a ticket/travel package to your home town team’s away game with a three nights stay, and get a head-to-toe team outfit, four hour group tour, and one meal at participating locations thrown in. That my friends is the kind of service fans remember.
Minority ownerships are a must to get more investors in the house, and spread the costs out. Not to mention it potentially brings more star power to each team throughout the league. Athletes, local business owners, Hollywood stars(music, tv, movies, etc), and anyone else looking for a big money opportunity can join the party. Think Dwayne Johnson knows any of those kinds of folk? The MLS is killing it right now doing this. The NBA, MLB and most Euro based soccer leagues are also dipping into cutting up their ownership pie to get more investors in the door and grow their popularity, leading to more revenue. The NFL doesn’t do this as much, but they don’t need to. They like to keep their money with the few they have, but these other leagues are starting to figure it out, and it’s paying off.
Action: If you can get their attention, and keep it long enough to get them interested, you can close them into a decision. At this point it’s time to take action. This is where the network you’ve launch needs to go live. The broadcasting partnerships need to start making some noise. The announcements of coaching and management hires start trickling in. The world tour meet and greets and fan engagement functions start lining up. Your season ticket sales firm starts thumbing the white pages. Create the demand. There are football fans out there screaming, “TAKE ALL MY MONEY”, and all the league has to do is give them the product. If you build it, they will come.
THE PEN DROP
The last people that needs closing are likely the most important of them all… the players. In order to get some good ones you’re going to have to pay for them. In order to keep them, you’ll have to keep paying them, and likely pay them more. It’s a balance of, not overreaching, and paying competitively enough to be a desired destination. No time is better than now to attempt what I’m outlining. The talent is out there. The talent is plentiful. The desire to play professional ball is a life goal for thousands and thousands of players every year that slip under or through the NFL’s radar. There were thousands that slipped under and fell through the last few years, and will be thousands more next year, and the year after that. I love it when people say they don’t want to watch second rate football. These same people couldn’t cover the last receiver on the Towson Tigers depth chart, or get a sack on Taulia Tagovailoa’s third string left tackle. Yet they like to sit there and tell you, me, or anyone willing to listen, that they are above and beyond anything under elite level football. Guy couldn’t play left side, fourth string, nose bleed, bleacher, bench for a midget league, but he’s too good for tier two ball… gotcha. The good news is, that there’s millions of others out there that will watch, show up, and buy what the league is selling, if they they can be given something to believe in. That’s why it’s imperative that the league sign at least one solid player per team. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the quarterback, but one player that the coach, and fans can identify as the heart and soul of that team. Get that player to sign, and you’ll never have a problem finding more players looking to be the next icon of that city, and build a career with the league. The Pen Drop gets em every time…
The chart below is an estimated suggestion as to the type of salaries that would consistently get talent to want to be a part of a football league and stick around. Will it land Patrick Mahomes? No. It will land some 3 star, and perhaps some 4 star recruits that don’t want to be in school, and would like to be paid to play until they are NFL draft eligible. It may also attract players in the 4th-7th round NFL draft level to consider slightly more money. For some, being under the bottom of the bench is less valuable than being a full time star in a tier two league. Practice squad guy? Come on down, we’re paying more. Veteran squeezed from the roster seeking the vet minimum? Come on down, you’re the next contestant on, “this league is just right for you”!!! Deciding to jump into the transfer portal, because you can’t beat out the kid in front of you, who all but has a lock on his roster spot since he’s a 5 star recruit with an endorsement deal? Great!!! Come on down to the Global Initiative and be a part of something special. Although not every tier of salary can compete with those in the NFL you’ll see that there’s opportunity for nearly two dozen guys per team to make NFL type money, and make a name for themselves. For those lower tier salaries, it’s not exactly peanuts.
Roster Slots Avail.
Now that we’ve got some players to play, let’s talk about what we pay the coaches. As I said earlier, players and coaches have been burned recently so they would also have to be compensated fairly well. Again, you won’t get Bill Belichick, but there are coaches available every year looking for work, just like players. Coaches that know how to teach, how to prepare, how to lead, and how to build from the ground up. There’s also an endless supply of ex players who understand the game well enough to be great assistants at this level, and I’m certain the opportunity to travel around the world is a selling point.
Interior Line Coach
Running Backs Coach
Edge Defender Coach
Tight Ends Coach
Offensive Line Coach
Offensive Assistant Coach
Defensive Assistant Coach
Special Teams Coordinator
Special Teams Assistant Coach
Strength & Conditioning
Ok so we got players, and coaches, and sponsors, oh my. We’ve got minority owners, and sound management, and season ticket holders, oh my!!! How’s it all going to work? Well, the first thing you want to do is stay out of scheduling anything when the NFL or major college programs have things going on. Don’t try to play when they play nor schedule games during the NFL Draft or things like that. That’s just asking for trouble. However, much like the NFL, I believe this league needs to be, for the most part, a year round league with the bulk of the offseason happening when the NFL and NCAA is playing. The XFL was smart in 2019 to hold their draft just after the final NFL cuts took place. It would also be smart to have another draft right when the NCAA and NFL seasons end. That way, twice during the year, players have the opportunity to be drafted, and both levels aren’t all being thrown in to one pool.
As far as scheduling games is concerned, late February sounds about right to kick off the regular season. For those about to say that the whether during that time of year isn’t suited for their region, that’s ok. Those teams can play a few away games to start the year. I feel that if a championship game was played on Labor Day, the league would have plenty of time for an 18 game regular season with a couple bye weeks for each team. An all star week with a skills competition that could feature some form of Pros vs Joes events in various markets around Memorial Day week. An FCS sized and style playoff series could start the first week of August. Last but not least, a championship game on Labor Day weekend with the trophy being a modified Grey Cup(World Cup). Lots of travel time and short rest at times, but that’s football.
Since I like to accessorize in everything I do, let’s take a look at the new batch of teams ready to get this show on the road. Warning: If you love college football you will love this list of teams. It brings variety. It stretches all six continents that are actually livable. It gives the league a World Cup feel to it. Enjoy!
We start with the Western Conference:
New York Guardians
Red Bull Arena
New Jersey Generals
Red Bull Arena
Pratt Whitney Stadium
M & T Bank Stadium
Oh yeah, I went there. All four major branches of the United States Military have joined in on the sweet action. Not the Academies though. This is for those that are active duty career guys that would like to earn extra cash while serving their country. I cannot tell you enough how cool it would be to see the Triple Option at the pro level racking up 340 yards a game on 53 carries, and mopping the floor with the opposition week in and week out in the process. Population is represented by the number of active members of each branch. Yes, in case you’re wondering, I am fully aware that the Marines are an extension of the Navy, but after they graduate from the academy, on a personal level they are Soldiers of the United States Marine Corps. Trust me, I’ve logged many hours in Quantico… The Marines and The Navy are not the same.