A group of investors have decided that where other leagues in the past have failed, they can succeed. Michael Huyghue will be the Commissioner of the United Football League, or UFL, which will start things off slowly. The season will start in October and end on Thanksgiving weekend.
They will only start with four teams, and the cities are not final. Of the four teams, only one cite is final, and that is Orlando. The other three teams will try two different cities each to see which works better. Those three pairs will be San Francisco/Sacramento, Las Vegas/Los Angeles, and New York/Hartford. If the past tells us anything of minor league sports, I would expect the major cities to fall off. If there is already a pro team there, or multiple pro teams, then it is very unlikely the new team will garner any attention. Trying out the cities could be a nice idea, but it could also cause both cities to lack support.
The four teams will each start with rights to specific divisions in the NFL, to pick up the players that are cut from those respective teams. That is how year 1 will start. They will then try to resign players and build those teams, while adding more teams as the league, hopefully, garners more attention and more players.
After building up more teams, the league hopes to take each team public, and offer IPOs. This is not a new idea, but would be the first to try. It is very interesting because it could bring a lot more money into the league if people get behind teams. I think a lot of people would love to be partial owners (similar to Green Bay) and have a vested interest in their team. Most of us could never even dream of owning a professional sports team, but would love to be a part of it.
In the end, the league is going to have to have a relationship with the NFL to ever survive, and in order to get to that point, they will have to keep afloat on their own for a few years. That is going to take a ton of money, and most importantly, ESPN. If the league goes with a small network like Versus, there is no way people will pay attention. The NHL has already proven that, and they are a major league. The UFL will need ESPN to cover on their website, their magazine, live games, and sportscenter, and that is the only way the general public will ever pay attention. They are the rulers of sports, and a league will not prosper without their support.
I think they are going about things well, by starting out slowly. Not buring all the cash right away with lots of teams, but easing their way in. If they can get some attention at the start, and the growth plan works, then it could be possible. If they manage to get 10-12 teams and take them public, the league could grow based on investment opportunities, and the thrill of being a partial owner of a sports franchise. The timing could be poor, starting at the same time as the NFL and the MLB playoffs, but the season will be short and sweet. I don't think anything works without the support of the NFL, but the possibility of more football is always exciting.
Here is an article from ESPN on the new league and a link to the United Football League website.
Posted by Claytoris | 4/30/2009 09:57:00 AM | 1 comments »