Wednesday, May 28, 2014

FXFL Plans to Bring Developmental Football League to Omaha

This fall, sports attorney Brian Woods plans to launch a new professional developmental football league in six markets:  New York, Orlando, Boston, Portland, Omaha, and either San Antonio or Memphis. The new FXFL, standing for Fall eXperimental Football League, will play a six week schedule on Wednesday nights, starting in October. The goal isn't to compete with the NFL (or college football), but rather to complement the NFL.  In fact, their goal is to turn the league into a developmental program for the NFL.  Woods told ESPN Cleveland that the goal is to run the league as a source for development and training mid-season replacements for NFL squads.

"Forty percent of the (college) juniors that declared for the NFL draft this year were undrafted. Because of the new rookie contract structure and the college landscape changing, now more than ever there’s a need for a developmental league."

The FXFL is well aware of the failures of past attempts to create a league like that. But if the FXFL is planning on Omaha, then they clearly are looking at the one place where a lower-level professional football team actually seemed to work. The Omaha Nighthawks drew huge crowds in 2010 at Rosenblatt Stadium, and did OK in 2011 as the league floundered. But in 2012 with almost no organization, the Nighthawks succumbed as the UFL crashed.
I still believe that if you can make a developmental football league work, Omaha is about as proven of a market as you can. The FXFL is planning on utilizing 40 man rosters, with a reduced emphasis on special teams to help keep roster sizes manageable. Players will earn about $1000 a game. A television contract is being negotiated as well.  The plan is to make teams sustainable with average crowds of 6000 fans, and ticket prices averaging $30. Players will be allowed to leave for the NFL, with the goal being to establish a relationship with the NFL.

Sounds an awful lot like what the UFL was generating, before people realized that the league wasn't going to make it.

So where would a FXFL team play?  Alcohol sales (and the revenue from it) might suggest that the most likely candidate would be TD Ameritrade Park.  But don't rule out Werner Park in Sarpy County, though. While it's unclear whether it could accommodate a full-size football field, it would be big enough for the crowds that the FXFL wants to generate.  The league will own "two or three" franchises, and will franchise the others at a cost of $500,000 per team, typically to owners of minor league baseball franchises, who already have the infrastructure in place for selling tickets and operating events.  And the fact that the @GOFXFL Twitter account follows the Sarpy County baseball team sure indicates that they are likely working together.

Reports from Cleveland and New York indicate that announcements could come early in June.  My main question is whether a new football team in Omaha would try to reclaim the Nighthawks name.  It probably could be acquired very cheaply, with ready made logos and likely some equipment as well.  It is a cool name, but did the UFL's demise tarnish the brand?

1 comment:

Patrick said...

My hunch is, "minor league football" is tarnished, moreso than the specific Nighthawks brand. I wouldn't be surprised if Omaha fans collectively said "hey, we'd love to see the Nighthawks again, but let's see you build a league that lasts...that stays stable for a few years...before we jump in and invest in a team."