As if the failures of leagues like the XFL - and to a lesser extent, the AFL - weren't enough, yet another outdoor football league will try to become David to the NFL's Goliath. The United Football Leagues official website released a statement yesterday.
The United Football League, a new professional outdoor fall football league, will kick-off the "UFL Premiere" season in October 2009. As previously announced, the UFL will feature high quality traditional football played by world-class athletes and will provide fans with affordable, innovative and entertaining game-day experiences.
Invigorated by a recent $30 million funding courtesy of a group led by Paul Pelosi, husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the league will kick off with four teams (scaled back from a desired six), none of which will technically be assigned to a specific city. The four teams that will participate in the inaugural season are Los Angeles/Las Vegas, New York/Hartford, Orlando and San Francisco/Sacramento. More about Pelosi, who was former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's Georgetown roomate, can be found in this Sports Business Journal article.
UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue explains the leagues mission:
"With the confirmation of four teams and the announcement of an infusion of a $30 million investment to operate the league, the UFL is excited to bring affordable, accessible football to underserved markets this October," said Commissioner Michael Huyghue. "The "UFL Premiere" season will allow us to set the foundation within the cities we feel would be a good fit, demonstrate the terrific talent of the coaches and players at our high level of competition, and integrate innovation into all aspects of the league so we are ready for expansion in 2010."
“The real focus is to treat this as a soft launch and come back strong in 2010,” Huyghue said.
A few more of the details:
- The season will last 6 weeks.
- It will include 12 games.
- Each team will be made up of 50 players.
- The championship is tentatively scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas.
- A $20 million training complex is being constructed in Casa Grande (that means big house in Spanish!), AZ.
- The league will begin signing players on July 1st.
- Training camp will begin September 1st.
- The UFL still does not have any official agreements with stadiums. Advanced talks are underway for the Home Depot Center in the Los Angeles area; Hofstra University on Long Island; at AT&T Park in San Francisco; in Orlando at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium; at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. and in Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium.
- There is no TV deal either but the league is in final negotiations with a major sports cable network for a weekly game.
One of the other cool and unique aspects of the league is their "Name Your Team" campaign that allows fans to submit their own name ideas for the future UFL teams. If that's something you might be interested in, click here and give it a shot.
Here's the stupid interesting part: the league will kick-off in October, directly overlapping with the NFL season. Call me crazy but wouldn't that be the worst time to test the waters? Of even more concern for the league should be whether or not there is demand to watch football players with less talent than those in the NFL. Sure, it's another opportunity for NFL traning camp throw-aways to play the game they love and maybe keep their dreams alive but do we really want to see Aaron Brooks playing for the Boise Lazer Kitties? Personally, that has always been my gripe with leagues such as these; they're just plain inferior. Perhaps with the ever-growing threat of Personal Seat Licenses in NFL stadiums there is a chance for another league to pick up fans who just wouldn't be able to afford NFL games anymore but that time still has yet to come, if at all. Until then - or some other catastrophic mistake or economic circumstance - the NFL will only continue to grow and be not only the darling league of football but all of sport.
What are everyone's thoughts on this new league? Is there enough room for another football league and would you support it? Does the UFL really have a chance? Most importantly, are you going to watch?