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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Newly Formed UFL Draws Equally From USFL-XFL Merger

  • The new spring football league features equal team and lead executive representation from its predecessor entities.
  • The UFL is looking to separate itself from a long history of leagues trying to challenge or supplement the NFL.
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Many corporate mergers, both in and outside of sports, are anything but unions of equals—instead, they’re more like acquisitions in another name. The newly formed United Football League is bucking that trend in its attempt to create a stable spring football league. 

The UFL, created from a merger of the XFL and USFL, splits its predecessor entities right down the middle in many key respects. The eight-team league will feature four teams from each of the XFL and USFL: Birmingham, Houston, Memphis, and Michigan franchises will compete in the new USFL Conference, as expected; and Arlington, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C., teams will play in the XFL Conference. Former XFL president and CEO Russ Brandon will lead the business operations of the new entity under the same title and role. Daryl Johnston, formerly the USFL’s president of football operations, will continue in the same role for the UFL. 

The UFL also brings in each of the former leagues’ primary media partners: the USFL’s Fox and the XFL’s ESPN. Team head coaches were drawn equally, as well, from the USFL and XFL.

Cutbacks, another common trait of mergers, are carrying over to the UFL, as the USFL’s New Jersey, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh teams were dropped, as were the XFL’s Houston, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Seattle teams. The UFL’s Houston team, however, will take on the Roughnecks nickname used in the XFL, as opposed to the USFL’s Gamblers. 

Troubled Lineage

On-field action for the UFL will begin on March 30, but other details, including team schedules and broadcast plans, have yet to be announced. The UFL’s move to draw the very best from the USFL and XFL in equal measure is a deliberate attempt to separate itself from decades of failed pro football leagues that sought to either challenge or supplement the NFL, including prior iterations of both the USFL and XFL, plus the Alliance of American Football. 

Gerry Cardinale, founder and managing partner of UFL investor RedBird Capital Partners, called it “a tremendous opportunity to achieve something unique” and he believes the UFL has “a legitimate shot at becoming one of the top professional leagues in the country after the big four,” referring to the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL.

Editor’s note: RedBird Capital Partners is a joint venture partner in Front Office Sports investor RedBird IMI. 

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