Red Comet

Alternative Leagues: This Time We'll Get It Right!

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Posted (edited)

I've seen this idea get bounced around for a thread and in the wake of the demise of the AAF, I feel now is a good time to discuss how an alternative league can potentially survive (and with a few strokes of luck, even thrive). While I'm focusing on alternatives to the Big 4 sports leagues in North America (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL) as that is what I know, discussing alternatives to leagues outside of North America is obviously welcome. 

 

As for a potential alternative (American) football league, here are a few starters that would help IMO:

 

1. Have a secure source of funding and be willing to lose tens of millions of dollars to start.

2. Don't try to beat the established leagues right off the bat. After all, you have to prove that you can stick around as the longest lasting league since the NFL-AFL merger was the United Football League.

3. Maintain a smaller staff compared to an NFL team. This is obvious. Keep expenses down as much as possible. 

4. Get a TV/streaming contract. Streaming is the next evolution of TV but get a TV contract because not everyone can access Internet fast enough to stream.

 

Clearly this is nowhere near a complete list of steps necessary to establish a foothold in the sports market but it's a start.

Edited by Red Comet

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24 minutes ago, Red Comet said:

1. Have a secure source of funding and be willing to lose tens of millions of dollars to start.

 

This is by far the most important factor. I will repeat here a comment that I made in another thread: a new league needs owners who function more like patrons of a cultural institution than like proprietors of a traditional business.

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I may not understand how it works, but it seems to me TV is where these leagues get burned the most.  Can't they just put all games live on youtube and sell ads there?

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26 minutes ago, CaliforniaGlowin said:

I may not understand how it works, but it seems to me TV is where these leagues get burned the most.  Can't they just put all games live on youtube and sell ads there?

That would be nice, but you might have some people call it Bush league to just upload games on the web.

 

Also, you might still have older folks who would otherwise be shut out of your customer base if you don't have at least some exposure on a regular TV channel.

 

Maybe there's a terrestrial subchannel hidden within those digital antennas that could use a viewership boost?

 

But for the younger, more tech savvy fan, make sure to have a mobile app ready before kickoff.

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The AAF is dead and we have in 2020: The XFL, the APL and the Freedom Football League coming out.  There is also the Pac Pro League created by Don Yee, Tom Brady's agent, but that is a much smaller entity than the other three leagues. 

 

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5 hours ago, GDAWG said:

we have in 2020: The XFL, the APL and the Freedom Football League coming out.

 

I wouldn’t put money on that. 

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The first thing a league needs to decide is if they are independent or if they intend to be subordinate to the NFL. And don't ever describe your league as a tech company. The AAF, and the XFL, have stated they will be complimentary to the NFL. That doesn't mean subordinate, just that you're giving free agents an opportunity to get game film to put them back in the NFL.

 

AAF had an initial investor withdraw and instead of vetting Durdon properly brought him straight in to make sure they met their financial obligations. If this had occurred prior to training camps they should've stepped back and delayed the launch a year. Yes they'd go head to head vs XFL but they aren't in the same cities. 

 

Tech apps. Ebersol has a good play by play mobile app but it didn't offer actual real time stats, only the current score and guess the next play. You had to be at the league web site to see those. Raw feed is a great way to show all the games people can't see because they don't have certain channels but it lacked the score bug at the beginning and the down and distance was usually off because it was synched to the web site which was two plays ahead. If the web site had the same bells and whistles as ESPN or NFL mobile apps it would work better.

 

Social media/advertising. Some teams embraced it and others did the bare minimum. All had Instagram and Twitter to push out information but how many went out and engaged with the community? San Antonio had billboard ads up as soon as the uniforms were revealed.  They even put their name on an upcoming 5K supporting local school districts. 

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Isn't it better to start off small and slowly build up than to make a big splash and crash and burn later?  

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3 hours ago, MJWalker45 said:

AAF had an initial investor withdraw and instead of vetting Durdon properly brought him straight in to make sure they met their financial obligations. If this had occurred prior to training camps they should've stepped back and delayed the launch a year. Yes they'd go head to head vs XFL but they aren't in the same cities. 

 

This is what I keep on returning to as well. The AAF didn't fail because of how it was run, the concepts behind it, or the quality of football. It failed because it turned out their financial backing wasn't near as solid as they thought it was. So on one hand I do kinda blame the founders of AAF for its failure because to establish something like this you have to have rock solid investment from the beginning, but on the other hand they thought they had that investment and then it didn't pan out.

1 hour ago, CaliforniaGlowin said:

Isn't it better to start off small and slowly build up than to make a big splash and crash and burn later?  

 

This is definitely true, and it makes me wonder about the strategy that both the AAF and XFL have employed where they try to have a national footprint immediately in terms of team geography. I see how this may be necessary if you think that's how you can attract enough fans to pay the bills, but it also means that your bills are higher from the git go just because spaced out geography = more travel costs. That's a reality a lot of mid-major college athletics programs face all the time.

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I liked what the AAF did with the raw game video on the website.  Maybe pair that with a radio broadcast?  I've seen that in college baseball.  Would save money on TV broadcasters.

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27 minutes ago, CaliforniaGlowin said:

I liked what the AAF did with the raw game video on the website.  Maybe pair that with a radio broadcast?  I've seen that in college baseball.  Would save money on TV broadcasters.

 

The MASL shows all its games on its YouTube channel.  The games are produced by the various teams.  And the teams sell ads.

Of course this doesn't earn the money that a real television contract would.  But the AAF was buying time, wasn't it?  So the league's "TV deal" was probably costing it money. Still, the broadcasts were top-notch, from the production to the announcers.  This gave the AAF a big-league feel; so the league was paying for a presentation that enhanced its credibility.

This approach might be necessary for American football; whereas fans of indoor soccer understand that the league is a small entity, and so do not consider watching games on YouTube to be beneath them.

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Posted (edited)
38 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

 

The MASL shows all its games on their YouTube channel.  The games are produced by the various teams.  And the teams sell ads.

Of course this doesn't earn the money that a real television contract would.  But the AAF was buying time, wasn't it?  So the league's "TV deal" was probably costing it money. Still, the broadcasts were top-notch, from the production to the announcers.  This gave the AAF a big-league feel; so the league was paying for a presentation that enhanced its credibility.

This approach might be necessary for American football; whereas fans of indoor soccer understand that the league is a small entity, and so do not consider watching games on YouTube to be beneath them.

 

It's funny you mention indoor soccer because I think that if the MISL of the 80s had ever gotten a solid TV contract, I don't think MLS would've taken off. Hell, MLS was on death's door in 2001 and if they had established competition they wouldn't have even made it to that time. Would certainly have been an interesting WI timeline though if outdoor soccer had something like the WWF vs WCW rivalry in the 90s with indoor soccer. Indoor soccer was created with the idea that it would be on TV so I don't get why that wasn't priority number one.

Edited by Red Comet

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There's the American Flag Football League:

 

https://www.affl.com/

 

It's basically the football version of the BIG3 Basketball League run by Ice Cube but the AFFL also has teams of players who were never pro athletes. 

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21 minutes ago, CaliforniaGlowin said:

I liked what the AAF did with the raw game video on the website.  Maybe pair that with a radio broadcast?  I've seen that in college baseball.  Would save money on TV broadcasters.

This would've made watching games on the phone a little more enjoyable. 

 

Just now, Red Comet said:

 

It's funny you mention indoor soccer because I think that if the MISL of the 80s had ever gotten a solid TV contract, I don't think MLS would've taken off. Indoor soccer was created with the idea that it would be on TV so I don't get why that wasn't priority number one.

MLS was a FIFA requirement for the World Cup.  If ESPN went all in like NBC did with Arena Football in the 2000s it could've helped. 

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, MJWalker45 said:

This would've made watching games on the phone a little more enjoyable. 

 

MLS was a FIFA requirement for the World Cup.  If ESPN went all in like NBC did with Arena Football in the 2000s it could've helped. 

 

I know that but I don't think it would've lasted long if there was already another big-time soccer league that had been established. There certainly wouldn't be a Sporting Kansas City at the very least as IIRC the Kings were driven out of the Kansas City market by the success of the Comets. 

 

And yeah, if ESPN did decide that indoor soccer was worth a live-TV contract, I don't think the original MISL would've folded. At least not in 1992 anyway.

Edited by Red Comet

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I wish there were a unity between the indoor and outdoor leagues. The original NASL set up its own indoor league to complete with the MISL; the indoor NASL teams had the same names and wore the same uniforms as their outdoor counterparts.  And many of the star NASL players played indoors; Giorgio Chinaglia scored something like 7 goals in the Cosmos' first indoor game. After the NASL shut down its indoor league, it let its teams play in the MISL; and the Cosmos, Chicago Sting and San Diego Sockers did so. 

It would be great if MLS did a similar thing; and it would be even better with futsal. I wish each MLS team had a futsal team (though I would expect that every futsal team would have its own roster).

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2 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

I wish there were a unity between the indoor and outdoor leagues. The original NASL set up its own indoor league to complete with the MISL; the indoor NASL teams had the same names and wore the same uniforms as their outdoor counterparts.  And many of the star NASL players played indoors; Giorgio Chinaglia scored something like 7 goals in the Cosmos' first indoor game. After the NASL shut down its indoor league, it let its teams play in the MISL; and the Cosmos, Chicago Sting and San Diego Sockers did so. 

It would be great if MLS did a similar thing; and it would be even better with futsal. I wish each MLS team had a futsal team (though I would expect that every futsal team would have its own roster).

 

I would not be surprised at all if the MLS started an eSports league because that is the "hip and cool" thing to be a part of now apparently.  Also, the NBA has their own eSports league

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3 minutes ago, GDAWG said:

I would not be surprised at all if the MLS started an eSports league because that is the "hip and cool" thing to be a part of now apparently.  Also, the NBA has their own eSports league

 

Oy.

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For those who liked the Alliance's elimination of kickoffs...

 

I still wonder if there is a way make kickoffs more of a ceremonial thing at the start of each game.

 

Any thoughts?

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I think I'd offer something different in the billion to one odds I was ever in the position of creating a football league: six-man or eight-man ball.  And such a league would use the Schiano proposal.  Hell, I'd be inclined to test something out: replacing the game clock with some number of drives.

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