RedBird Capital partner Alec Scheiner: ‘More people watched the XFL on TV than a lot of sports’

Photo courtesy: Cleveland Browns

RedBird Capital partner Alec Scheiner has shared his insight into the potential the firm sees in professional football in North America.

RedBird Capital joined forces with The Rock and Dany Garcia to purchase the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL from Vince McMahon last August. The owners of the XFL and CFL are currently in discussions regarding the possibility for collaboration.

“More people watched the XFL on TV than a lot of sports that have been around a long time. That’s just because people love football at its highest level. I’m not sure you want to or can take on the NFL, the NFL is the gold standard,” Scheiner said on the Are You Not Entertained? podcast in late February. 

“I think you start from the premise, which seems like a pretty safe premise, that there’s more than enough demand for football, American football. The interesting thing about the last iteration of the XFL was how many people watched it. You couldn’t argue with that, a ton of people watched it.”

Scheiner helps lead RedBird Capital’s sports practice, including direct investing and strategic advisory work. He helped source RedBird’s investment in Fenway Sports Group, which is anchored by two iconic teams, the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club. 

Prior to joining RedBird, Scheiner served as president of the Cleveland Browns from 2012 through 2016. He joined the Browns after spending eight years with the Dallas Cowboys, initially as general counsel and then as the first non-ownership senior vice president.

“If you can find a place in the ecosystem where there’s demand, you should do well — if you operate it well and have the right vision behind it. But professional football, it’s not cheap to put on,” Scheiner said.

“That’s because you need big stadiums, you need big rosters, you need big equipment staff, big training staff, lots of coaches. And because of that, it’s historically been hard, not impossible, but hard because there’s so much that goes into it. versus creating a new challenger league in a much smaller sport.”

The most recent incarnation of the XFL lasted just five games before the COVID-19 pandemic put their season on hold, and led to its cancellation. According to XFL News Hub reporter Mike Mitchell, through five XFL weeks, 10 games, ESPN and ABC averaged 1,893,000 television viewers.

“Because there’s more demand for this product, and then you partner with people like Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson, who in and of themselves have so much popularity that it rivals big brands in sports, and then you take Gerry Cardinale’s sports business building acumen, and I think we have a fighting chance,” Scheiner said. 

“But it’s not easy, I don’t think it’s ever been easy, the history of it says it’s been really hard. The hardest thing typically is finding people who care, and the last group found people who care, and then they were confronted with the pandemic, which didn’t help when you’re that early in the building of it.”

Scheiner and RedBird Capital believe if there is demand, and it’s run properly, a league can have success.