The XFL is set to return in 2022 but it looks like they won't be alone. The CFL and XFL are in early talks for a partnership and possible merger when the XFL returns in 2022 with each league issuing their own statements on the matter this morning.
So we have no idea what these negotiations will turn into. It could be something as little as sharing equipment or it could turn into something as major as a merger which is what I believe all football fans would want. Let's take a look at what a merger would look like for each league and why it is a win-win situation.
The CFL would benefit greatly from a merger because they are desperate for new blood in the league. For a frame of reference, the CFL is in a similar situation to what NASCAR is in the US. Most CFL fans are older fans who live in rural Canada and young people have not really gotten into the sport due to some of their frankly baffling rules such as only three downs, a hundred-meter field, a grueling twenty-one-week schedule, and compensatory points for missing a field goal. So the CFL needs innovation to survive and appeal to casual football fans and that is what the XFL brings as well as an existing American fanbase to expand the reach of the league.
The XFL benefits greatly from a potential merger as well, The biggest criticism and common jokes are how the XFL has folded twice and will do it again. The CFL was founded in 1958 and has a rich history of great players like Doug Flutie and Warren Moon in addition to having some big names like Martavis and Kelly Bryant and having their own created stars like Mike Reiley. It also somewhat solves my biggest criticism of the XFL in the fact seven of its eight teams play in NFL markets. If the XFL wants to thrive the teams need to be the hometown team not playing second fiddle to the NFL squads. With a merger, the XFL adds nine markets that lack an NFL team.
But the biggest reason a merger makes sense is the TV deal. The CFL was already seeing dwindling attendance pre-COVID-19 and as we all know the XFL had to close up shop due to the pandemic so both leagues need a good TV deal to survive. Television as a medium is on life support and being kept alive by sports specifically the NFL but obviously, the NFL is not a year-long sport so broadcasters would be ecstatic to add more football to their lineup. While an eight-team league could easily have an exclusive rights deal with one network as we have seen with XFL 2000 and NBC and how the majority of CFL games are on ESPN affiliates a seventeen-team league will need multiple networks. With a new NFL TV deal on the horizon, we have already seen networks desperate to get football on their network which will allow the XCFL to become that much more profitable.
So there really is no reason to not merge. The XFL gets the CFLs rich history and the CFL gets the XFL's innovation as well as a fat combined TV deal that may give us the best spring football we have seen since the USFL.