As it stands right now, the city of St. Louis has lost its third ever professional football team as the XFL announced earlier today that they were ceasing operations with no intentions of returning to play in 2021. The news comes as a shock to all, as the XFL proved to have a loyal following and in its short five week season that had to be cancelled due to COVID19, started to prove it was becoming the most popular football league outside of the NFL that America had ever seen. Fans in St. Louis especially embraced the St. Louis BattleHawks, leading the league in attendance and having so much demand for tickets that part of the upper bowl was set to be opened and attendance for their next home game was anticipated to be at 40-45K before the season had to be cancelled.
While it may seem like the end now, there should be some hope that the XFL could still return to play again next season. The league has television contracts with ESPN and Fox, both of which run through 2022. While television ratings declined slightly over the weeks of the season, the XFL still had solid viewership as 12.5 million unique viewers tuned in during the XFL opening weekend. Viewership in St. Louis led the way, averaging almost a 7.0 Nielsen rating over five games. When the BattleHawks faced off against the Houston Roughnecks, the St. Louis Blues had a game at the same time and the BattleHawks local viewership nearly doubled the Blues.
Outside of St. Louis, the league was still faring well, as they were averaging between 70-80K total fans attending the four games on a given weekend. Every team but the New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats averaged at least 15,183 fans at each game, yet both still averaged nearly 13.600 in attendance. The St. Louis and Seattle markets led the way by being the only two teams to total over 50,000 in attendance with St. Louis totaling 57,081 and Seattle with 51.232. In total, the XFL had over 334,000 fans attend the 20 total games that were played which averages to 16,713 fans in attendance per game.
There is a clear demand for this league, both for fans who want a quality spring football league and for players who are still trying to reach the NFL, as 14 players from the XFL have signed with NFL teams since the season was cancelled. The XFL was losing money for Vince McMahon, as any new business would. Ceasing operations at this point seems like a “cut your losses” move, as having to pay all of the players and employees in the league while it is not functioning is hurting McMahon’s pockets even further.
Despite claiming they are not returning in 2021, it seems like that statement could be a smoke screen. For what exactly? I do not know. Perhaps to revitalize the excitement for the league if they were to announce it was coming back? There could be many reasons. The St. Louis BattleHawks sent emails to season ticket holders today that said fans who chose to not receive a refund and instead transfer their ticket credit to next season, will now be receiving a refund. However, they also said in the email that the season ticket holders’ seats will remain reserved and on account, meaning the league might not be done just yet. Hopefully this is not the end of the St. Louis BattleHawks and XFL entirely, as the league and this team especially created one big St. Louis party as football was back in St. Louis. But for now, we have been left to assume that this is the end and if indeed it is, what a great, short ride it was.