Are you ready for some more football? As the NFL struggles with ratings and other issues on and off the field, a new pro football league is ready to suit up in just 11 months. And no, it’s not the XFL.
The Alliance of American Football today announced a February 9 kickoff and a TV deal with CBS. Billed as “a shift in the way we approach professional sports,” the eight-team league is going for a fan-friendly vibe with free streaming of games, integrated fantasy football elements and greater interactivity.
Set for a 10-week regular season and four-team playoff, the Alliance — not the AAL, if you please — was formed by TV and film Charlie Ebersol and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian, an ESPN analyst and former NFL GM. CBS will air two primetime games starting with the season opener and continuing through the championship game on the weekend of April 26-28, 2019. One regular-season game will air each week exclusively on cable outlet CBS Sports Network.
No word yet on potential cities, franchises, players or coaches.
It’s certainly not the first upstart pro football league to lace ’em up. Along with the XFL, whose lone season was in 2001, there was the World Football League, which launched a bidding war for players and decimated the then-two-time-defending Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins’ roster. It played parts of two seasons in 1974-75. Less than a decade later came the United States Football League, which kicked off in 1983 as a spring league then tried to make the jump to fall in 1986 to compete with the NFL. Among its team owners was New Jersey Generals’ Donald Trump, who hoped to force a merger with the NFL but ended up helping to kill the new league. That 1986 season never happened, and some future NFL legends made the jump from the USFL including Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Reggie White.
Among the planned innovations are safety-focused rules including the elimination of kickoffs and onside kicks. Offenses will start at the 25-yard line, and in lieu of onside kicks, the trailing team will receive the ball on their own 35-yard line facing fourth down and 10. Also new are a shorter play clock and fewer commercial breaks in the interest of shortening the total time of game and eliminating the extra point to require two-point conversions after every touchdown.
“We believe fans and players are what’s most important,” Ebersol said, “so our approach is simple: We’ve created an Alliance where fans and players share in the success of their teams. Players have our commitment that we will seek the highest degree of safety and our support as we continue to invest in their success off the field with post-football career scholarships and financial wellness programs. With the expertise of Bill Polian and a leadership team of respected former All-Pro players and executives, we are committed to putting the best football product possible on the field every weekend, ensuring that 2018 will be the final year fans have to experience a six-month period without football.”
Those All-Pro players he mentioned include Justin Tuck, who will serve on the player engagement advisory board, and Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu and Jared Allen, who have been tapped as senior-level player relations execs.
“As the Alliance of American Football launches next February, we are excited to become the official television partner, adding more football to our robust programming lineup with a great package that includes two primetime games on CBS, as well as a full slate of regular-season spring football on CBS Sports Network,” said Sean McManus, Chairman of CBS Sports. “With Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian at the helm, we are confident that the product they will deliver will be entertaining, exciting, engaging and something that fans will really enjoy.
The suddenly-rival XFL, that short-lived league best remembered for some wacky rules and nicknames like “He Hate Me” on uniforms, is being revived. WWE impresario Vince McMahon will relaunch his league in 2020.