There are plenty of reasons that the cash-strapped CFL is getting into bed with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and the upstart XFL, both financially or to attract a younger audience with the star power associated with the mega-star.
According to a new article by TSN insider Dave Naylor however, there is another motivation that is being overlooked by most.
“What’s been largely ignored in that conversation is the idea that XFL and CFL leadership share a similar vision of professional football going global,” Naylor said.
“Beyond the XFL-CFL merger itself, the new collaboration could be a launching point to aggressively pursue franchises in places such as Mexico, Germany and other European countries.”
That dream stems directly from the brainchild of CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, the CFL’s Global initiative. In the hopes of tapping in to international revenue streams, every CFL team carried one player born outside the United States or Canada on their active roster to mixed results.
That number will jump to two in 2021, though a reduction has been considered. Many in the league question how effective that long term strategy could be but the XFL could provide a more noticeable foray into the Global sphere.
“Could a collaboration with the XFL and a shared global vision be the vehicle to allow Ambrosie to pursue this in a more meaningful and impactful way? The idea of putting teams in foreign markets would seem to have more potential than expecting international fans to follow a nine-team league in Canada simply because it includes a few of their countrymen,” Naylor wrote.
Dwayne Johnson has stated he’s excited for the ‘unique opportunity’ the CFL and XFL ‘can potentially create together.’ The most recent incarnation of the XFL lasted just five games before the COVID-19 pandemic put their season on hold, which led to Vince McMahon filing for bankruptcy and selling.
Johnson, Garcia and RedBird Capital were selected as the winning bidders last August for all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL. It cost $15 million and the goal is to make the XFL a stable league in the future, which could be an agreement with the CFL.
You don’t have to dig deep to see how interested that group is in the CFL’s Global program.
“Start with Dany Garcia, co-owner of the XFL and the CEO of the Garcia Companies, a holding company with a portfolio that includes TGC Management, a global brand development and management company,” Naylor noted, pointing to the fact that Garcia placed the globe emoji alongside the Canadian and American flags in her initial tweet about collaborative talks.
“Further, Garcia added that day during an interview with TSN that the CFL’s international partnerships were something that helped bring the XFL leadership to the table. The XFL’s other co-owner, Redbird Capital, has investments in two European soccer teams and this spring purchased 30 per cent stake of Wasserman Media, a sports marketing and talent agency with international interests. It also doesn’t hurt that both the brand and primary businesses of XFL co-owner Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – pro wrestling and motion pictures – are global as well.”
With international football now growing at an unprecedented rate and Europe becoming a hotbed for NCAA recruiting, the time could be right for a bold new cross-continental venture that can stand in it’s own two feet, unlike NFL Europe.
“It may seem like a far-fetched idea today but could the XFL-CFL collaboration lead to a league with a third of its teams in Canada, a third in the U.S, and a third elsewhere? A global league, playing opposite the NFL calendar, drawing television revenues and sponsorship from several countries, reinforced by sports wagering interest from around the world?,” Naylor speculated.
“Ambrosie wasn’t wrong when he looked beyond Canada’s border and saw a world of potential for his nine franchises. He just couldn’t find a way to get there fast enough.”
The XFL may be the key to solving that dilemma.