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The NFL and XFL have entered into a partnership agreement that will focus on creating innovation programs and protecting players’ health, the XFL announced Monday.
XFL officials made it clear that the collaboration will not include player sharing for development purposes, but the adaptation is remarkable given the growing number of alternative leagues in the football landscape.
XFL is scheduled to resume play in February 2023 under new owners Dany Garcia, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and RedBird Capital Partners. The news of the deal comes as a revived USFL works toward its launch in April. The agreement is non-exclusive and does not prevent any of the leagues from working with others.
The NFL-XFL agreement will give the NFL a “petri dish” to experiment with proposed rules, test new equipment and develop potential officials and coaches, XFL President Russ Brandon told ESPN.
Brandon, who has been head of the Buffalo Bills for two decades, said NFL officials routinely discussed the need for such a business after NFL Europe shut down in 2007.
“People would ask, ‘What are the possibilities of looking at the game through a different lens from a player development point of view?'” Brandon told ESPN. “‘How can you be an incubator or an accelerator in many different verticals, from officiating to rule innovations to game surfaces, to player development?” You can go on and on.
“Any opportunity that the NFL has to promote the game of football, I think they have always been open to, and we have had a really good dialogue, led by our ownership team.”
Garcia told ESPN that the partnership with the NFL is not intended to put the XFL “in position.” [as] a development league. “In both of its previous incarnations under former owner Vince McMahon, in 2000 and 2020, the XFL could not use players under contract with NFL teams. The XFL suspended operations and declared bankruptcy in April 2020, leading to McMahon sold.
Asked if the XFL could one day evolve into a position to use allocated NFL players or construct another form of sharing deal, as happened in NFL Europe, Garcia said: “It’s a no. We’re a spring league. We want to play. “at the highest level. level in the spring. There is no expectation of any player division that changes the dynamics. That’s not how we execute our vision.”
Garcia, Johnson and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital Partners met last fall with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent to begin discussing the partnership. Johnson appeared on the field for the Super Bowl LVI and announced the impending kickoff to fans and television audiences.
The XFL built its 2020 version as an innovative football brand and plans to continue this approach, making the XFL what Garcia said would be a “natural” partner for the NFL.
“One of the things we made clear from the start is that we wanted to take a management position on the game and the football game, expand it and have an impact on the industry,” Garcia said. “So I would say that the field sees us as what we are, leaning deep into innovation, and we were convinced that having important conversations and formulating what we wanted to achieve would be an advantage for to sit someone in the room with us. We “We are excited about it. Our relationship with football and the NFL is deep and long-lasting, so it was a natural process. “
In a statement issued by the XFL, Vincent said: “The XFL has shown us that innovation is one of its core principles. We hope this relationship will support further development and improvements in the game of football at all levels.”
XFL’s football staff was a regular presence at recent all-star college bowl matches. Brandon said the league is working on plans for regional combinations for the fall, where it will test new approaches to evaluating players with a view to opening training camps by January 2023.