As many football fans are gearing up for the Super Bowl, the XFL is preparing for its second inaugural season. Vince McMahon has gone all in launching and building a professional football league for a second time.
This time, he’s hoping for better results. The XFL kicks off the weekend following the Super Bowl and betting and fantasy will surely be a part of that. This week, New Jersey became the sixth state to authorize betting on the league, and operators are surely preparing to launch a market.
With big bucks behind the XFL and a nice TV package, the league may be spring football’s best opportunity for success. But as the recent failure of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) shows, success isn’t assured. What’s in store for fantasy players and sports bettors? Not a lot is known yet, but some information is beginning to take shape.
XFL takes a pro-betting approach
While the XFL hasn’t formally released its betting and fantasy plans, there has been some drips of news. Commissioner Oliver Luck spoke with the Tampa Bay Times in December about the league including some notes about sports betting.
The Los Angeles franchise planned to hold a minicamp in Las Vegas. While the league hasn’t outlined any plans yet to cater to the industry, a new betting environment could certainly help.
“That’s an opportunity for us to show the Nevada Gaming Commission and the sports wagering community what our game looks like,” Luck said of the Vegas camp. “I’m not sure what [sports betting] integration there will be this first year.
“The sportsbooks — I don’t want to speak for them — are interested in making the odds, accepting bets. We asked them what information they need and when, when they need depth charts, all those things. I’m not sure that there’s anything that we’ll do that’s different than any other league.”
The league also announced an agreement with Genius Sports recently. The company will help the league with integrity issues related to sports betting.
Fantasy games expected to be part of the mix
No other betting partnerships have been announced yet, but DraftKings confirmed that it will be offering XFL betting lines. The DFS side is also expected to offer fantasy markets.
A season-long fantasy option hasn’t been announced. But with fantasy football played by so many Americans, a game seems like a natural fit to increase interest in any new league.
A league source said several sites are considering offering some type of fantasy game.
“There are a lot of things that go into it, but there are lots of conversations to try to make sure that we capture that market because that is a huge part of what football is all about,” Dallas Renegades President Grady Raskin told TheLines.
“You really get people to stick around longer and get new people to jump on board because they wouldn’t normally if the fantasy football didn’t exist.”
XFL looks for keys to spring football success
Certainly broadcasting games on major TV networks in consistent times offers a chance for the league to find an audience. The XFL has partnered to air games on ABC, ESPN, Fox, and Fox Sports 1. That should please bettors looking to follow the action.
McMahon is also spending money on marketing. The league has been active on social media including ads and television spots have appeared in some markets. Network partners have also been promoting the upcoming season.
There seems to have been some successes. An XFL source noted that the St. Louis franchise has sold 10,000 season tickets. The league has also gained some traction by releasing its rule changes. Some highlights include:
- A 25-second play clock.
- More focus on bringing back kickoff returns and emphasizing the return game in general. That includes bringing the ball out to the 35 on punts out of bounds and out of the end zone. Kickoffs will look different, with a return almost assured.
- No kicks of extra points. Team can go for 1 point from the 2-yard line, 2 points from the 5, and 3 points from the 10.
The scoring changes and focus on special teams may throw some extra wrinkles into XFL wagering. Bettors will have some less traditional scoring scenarios to consider. The league hopes to create a quicker, high-scoring version of the game.
Making it look like ‘real football’
The original XFL may have focused more on hype than actual gameplay – to its detriment. Early games were sloppy and inconsistent.
The AAF experienced quarterback inconsistency as well, but the XFL has focused on more experienced QBs. Most, like Landry Jones, Matt McGloin, Cardale Jones, and Josh Johnson, have NFL experience. How those QBs pan out should be watched by those looking to keep their football betting going beyond the Super Bowl.
So far, Dallas Renegades coach and general manager Bob Stoops has been pleased with the talent level. The league has provided longer training camps with all teams in Houston as well as test games to fine-tune play. League officials are hoping for a much crisper debut.
“I believe there’s a market for these players to continue their careers in a positive way and people to watch some fun, exciting football,” Stoops told TheLines. “I’m looking forward to working with older players that are really good football players and are accomplished. They get it and they’re looking to further their career, so I see it as a major positive.
“I’m elated at the talent level – how physically mature and gifted so many of these guys are. People can expect to see exciting, fast, fun football.”
While these may not be NFL elite, simply providing a consistent on-field product will go a long way. The CFL could serve as an example. While the Canadian league may not have top-level players, the squads offer consistent play and a solid product.
The Alliance showed there may be a market for spring football. Early games produced some nice ratings and even topped some NBA games.
It’s as if the Alliance served a bit as a test launch for the league. But the play on the field may ultimately be the deciding factor for the XFL. Stoops is positive about what fans can expect.
“I feel like our team could go out and play tomorrow,” Stoops said. “But now we’ve got another three weeks in January to work, where [all teams] will be together in different places in Houston. We’ll get together to practice against each other as well, to simulate some game action. I think the extra practice time we’ve put in is going to make it a better game.”