Since the XFL 2020 season ended prematurely due to the pandemic, which by now feels like ten years ago, many of the XFL’s executives, coaches, players, and employees have moved on. However, some key figures from the XFL in 2020 have been quietly working behind the scenes during this transitional period.
The most prominent of which is XFL President and CEO Jeffrey Pollack, who has been with the league since 2019. Pollack has adroitly led all strategic and business operations for the league through the 2020 launch, shutdown, bankruptcy, asset sale, and re-emergence under new ownership. Joining Pollack all last year and during the league’s current process is a group of key contributors: Basil DeVito, Chirag Mithani, Thomas Van Wazer, and Cindy Wagner.
Two other prominent XFL 2020 employees have returned somewhat under the radar to join the league’s marketing and strategy department. They have actually been back since last September.
The first is Jordan Schlacter, the XFL’s chief marketing and commercial officer last year, who is back with the company, assuming a similar role to when he was hired by Pollack back in 2019. Schlacter and Pollack have actually known and worked with each other for over two decades now, dating back to their time together with the NBA.
Schlacter was highly bullish about the 2020 XFL and is now and in the future, as he told, Sportico.com‘s Scott Soshnick back in August of 2020 and before rejoining the XFL.
“I would love a second shot with this group. I was seeing the momentum grow from Week 1,” Schlachter said. “From their track records and the vision they’ve demonstrated, Dany, Dwayne, and Gerry are the ideal owners to build success through innovation, and particularly through content creation and distribution here and internationally.”- Jordan Schlacter to Scott Soshnick and Sportico.com in August of 2020.https://www.sportico.com/personalities/athletes/2020/the-rock-dwayne-johnson-former-xfl-employees-1234610562/
In case you missed it, Another key figure who is fittingly back on guard for the XFL is former New York Guardians team president Janet Duch.
The former marketing executive for the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, and NFL On-Location Services, is back with the XFL, working in a marketing and advisory capacity.
Janet Duch was a crucial part in building the New York Guardians brand from the ground up in a relatively short time. (9 months). Duch’s marketing expertise and experience with the league in 2019/2020 should be an asset moving forward.
Both Schlacter and Duch should continue to be instrumental during the XFL’s transitional period. The teams on the field may not be back yet, but a key one behind the scenes has been in play.
CFL Talks Update
Two months ago, the CFL and XFL dropped the bombshell that they were in talks about collaborating in the future. Since then, there has been radio silence from both leagues on what those conversations have entailed.
Because of the silence and the perceived lack of transparency, followers of both leagues and even the most informed experts out there have connected the dots and come up with their own conclusions of where the XFL-CFL talks will eventually land.
The common phrase attached to the rampant speculation is the word Merger. Every potential scenario under the sun has surfaced, and it has sparked some heated debates amongst American and Canadian Football fans.
The most popular conclusion or fear, depending on what side of the argument one is on, is that the CFL will eventually transition to a 4-down game to mirror their American counterparts. On the flip side, some sources have floated the possibility and idea of the XFL adopting a CFL-style in the states.
The theories on an XFL-CFL collaboration are all over the map. Some of those theories have led people to speculate about a potential global configuration between both leagues. Others are reading the tea leaves on how RedBird Capital has been expanding its international sports portfolio, and the assumption is that their next business venture would take them on a path up north.
So, where do these collaboration talks currently reside?
To this point, no business or football arrangement has been finalized by the CFL and XFL. But both leagues are still working towards a future alignment. Because the plans are so complicated and complex, it may take a while before a big announcement is made, much to the chagrin of most observers, who are anxious to unlock the mysteries surrounding these talks.
However, it’s been clear from day one and still stands true at this moment that there is a grander vision in play. And it will involve both leagues.
In the meantime, the CFL has been moving towards getting back on the field for the first time in two years.
Steps are being taken to ensure the return of the Canadian game later this summer. The clouds of uncertainty surrounding the CFL because of the ongoing pandemic are starting to clear up, but the league is not home-free yet.
For the sake of argument and entertainment, let’s accept the proposition that the CFL and XFL are going to merge or align. If it were to happen, the likelihood is that it wouldn’t occur until the 2023 season (most likely in April) simply because of the proximity of CFL seasons. Any CFL-XFL alignment season would have to occur in a period of time that doesn’t conflict with weather conditions up north or with NFL games airing head to head in the states.
So the die-hard Canadian fans, who are fearful of such an arrangement, should take solace in the fact that the CFL will be playing two seasons before any potential alignment takes shape.
2022 XFL Season In Doubt
It looks unlikely that the XFL will be returning to the field of play in 2022.
Neither the XFL’s new ownership group nor Jeffrey Pollack has made that announcement official yet, but as we sit here in late May of 2021, it seems like a foregone conclusion. Time has run out on that possibility. The handwriting’s been on the wall since the XFL called off their Chief Football Officer search in mid-stream earlier this year. The XFL is headed towards a different league structure than the one they originally planned. And it will involve the CFL.
The XFL’s new owner’s original intention was to return to play in 2022, but the CFL talks have changed all of that. Because now there is a grander vision in play. One that will take time to implement on the business and football side.
The new structure of the XFL moving forward potentially with the XFL side-by-side with the CFL is a much different universe for both leagues to inhabit. RedBird Capital Partners has a reputation for looking above and beyond the big picture. And these talks fall in line with that.
The vision that Dany Garcia and The Rock have for the XFL is multi-layered. Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson’s goal is to have multiple partners working in unison with them in a vision predicated on year-round content creation and distribution globally.
What that ultimately means is that the XFL is looking beyond the parameters of a traditional sports league. Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson are looking to accelerate the process of changing the game. They want to build upon what the XFL started in 2020.
Simply fielding teams and getting back on the field is not their aim. Quite frankly, if that were the case, the XFL would be on the field already in Hub Cities playing a scaled-down schedule of games without fans. A losing proposition financially and creatively for the type of product that the new XFL desires to present.
At some point, the XFL will announce that they will be returning in 2022, just not in the way they initially revealed back in October.
Instead, the league will use the entire year of 2022 as a rampway towards the 2023 season.
The plan for the XFL is to use social media channels, reality, and documentary shows during the entire year of 2022 to track the league, its famous owners, and its teams as they march towards play in 2023.
The timeframe of getting on the field by next spring doesn’t allow that plan the amount of time it needs to become a reality.
The XFL’s Future
It’s been less than a year since the XFL was rescued out of bankruptcy by RedBird Capital Partners, Gerry Cardinale, Dany Garcia, and Dwayne Johnson. And in that time since, information about the league’s structure, direction and plans has been scarce.
Enough time has passed since the XFL took the field a year ago; the logical conclusion is that, when it does return, the league will not be the same operation it was in 2020. Change is inevitable.
The XFL, as a league and entity, is going to be vastly different than the one we experienced. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be as good or better, but that’s a fact that can’t be escaped.
Let’s face it; the XFL is starting all over again. Vince McMahon is out of the picture, but his vision of reimagining the game was working.
The XFL in 2020 was an excellent product in its presentation on and off the field. The league was highly innovative, forward-thinking, and fan-friendly. The new owners recognize that and are in a unique position to launch something bigger, different, and new based on last year’s success and blended with their bold vision and influence.
There’s a famous quote by German literary figure Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that says, “Doubt can only be removed by action” The XFL’s new ownership group has a grand vision for the future. Still, until those plans are put into action, the seeds of doubt will remain and continue to grow. The supporters of the XFL are waiting patiently for the league to bring back the feeling they had over a year ago before everyone’s world changed.
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