The XFL and NFL are now in business, having reached a partnership agreement to "further expand the game of football and create increased opportunities for player development both on and off the field."
After halting operations and declaring bankruptcy at the start of the pandemic, Vince McMahon was forced to sell the XFL to a group including Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale, who agreed to purchase the league for about $15 million in August 2020.
It was announced on Monday that the XFL entered into a partnership with the NFL to focus on enhancing health and safety initiatives. The XFL will serve as a "petri dish" for the NFL to experiment with newly proposed rules and test equipment. XFL co-owner and chairwoman Garcia stated:
We are extremely pleased to collaborate with the NFL in these important areas... We are bringing forward an XFL that is progressive and forward-thinking when it comes to innovation, leveraging the newest technology to enhance gameday experience. We have an open field for innovative rules to enhance in-game access. Sharing insights and practices between the XFL and NFL will do a tremendous amount of good for the game of football and support the player ecosystem overall.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent, met with new XFL owners to discuss the partnership last fall. In a statement from Vincent, he said:
The XFL has shown us that innovation is one of its core principles. We are hopeful that this relationship will support further development and improvements in the game of football at all levels.
The agreement does not allow player sharing between the two leagues, but the partnership speaks volumes of the growing market outside of the NFL. When asked whether the relationship could one day incorporate a player sharing clause of any kind, part-XFL-owner Dany Garcia said:
That's a no. We are a spring league. We will play at the highest level in the spring. There is not the anticipation of any player sharing that changes the dynamic. That's not how we're executing our vision.
Despite this limitation, the agreement will support the development of prospective officials and coaches, allowing movement and growth for officials between the two leagues.
Garcia also told reporters that the partnership with the NFL isn't intended to put the XFL "in position [as] a developmental league" instead it will make the XFL what Garcia calls a "natural" partner for the NFL. She seems more than confident that the XFL will have greater longevity than it's previous stints, and I'm sure that NFL fans wouldn't mind getting year-round football back. Garcia stated:
One of the things we made clear starting off is that we were going to take a stewardship position on the game and the game of football, expanding it and being impactful to the industry... So I would say the field sees us as what we are, which is deeply leaning into innovation, and we were confident that having important conversations and articulating what we wanted to accomplish would be advantageous to anyone sitting in the room with us. We're excited about that. Our relationships with football and the NFL are deep and long-standing, so it was a natural process.
This news only means good things for players and fans alike. The return of the XFL will give those who fall short of the national league a highly competitive platform to showcase and better their skills. This partnership agreement will only improve health and safety standards, as well as test and develop rules and protocols for the NFL. The fans will also get another season of football to watch, instead of twiddling their thumbs every Sunday in the NFL offseason.
To celebrate the return of the XFL in 2023, here's some of the best plays from the 2020 season.