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Creating a Successful competitor/farm-system for the NFL: Your Turn!


Soarindude

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Professional football has always had one outlet, the NFL. Numerous attempts to make a "competitor league to the NFL" or a "minor league" have all failed. (you could argue that the AFL has been somewhat successful) Examples such as the USFL, UFL, WLAF, and of course the prototype leagues like A11football and the new USFL are all expected to fail before they even take-off. But why hasn't there been a successful minor-league with true NFL style rules?

So I thought of a fun "game" for the people on these forums to participate in.

You're a wealthy businessmen that's willing to try and create an up-start league. You have a solid amount of funds (remember, the UFL had two billionaire owners backing it up at the beginning), and you can do whatever you want with the league. Choose when the games are played (during NFL season, weekdays, etc), what markets you plan on expanding too, etc. I will post my idea after I see what some of you guys can come up with.

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Fun thought experiment, but I wanted to address one of your questions:

But why hasn't there been a successful minor-league with true NFL style rules?

There is one. It's called college, and that's why you won't see another.

I have seen that argument before but College football and a Minor League football (that may or may not run during a different time period) isn't exactly the same market. Football is a popular sport, there's surely room for professional, college, and minor league.

If Triple-A teams can sometimes get 5-10 thousand fans on average, you would assume a Minor league for football, with far fewer games throughout the season, would be able to get 10-25 thousand per game.

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Fun thought experiment, but I wanted to address one of your questions:

But why hasn't there been a successful minor-league with true NFL style rules?

There is one. It's called college, and that's why you won't see another.
I have seen that argument before but College football and a Minor League football (that may or may not run during a different time period) isn't exactly the same market. Football is a popular sport, there's surely room for professional, college, and minor league.

If Triple-A teams can sometimes get 5-10 thousand fans on average, you would assume a Minor league for football, with far fewer games throughout the season, would be able to get 10-25 thousand per game.

The UFL did not average 10k/game in year one.

http://www.kenn.com/the_blog/?page_id=4860

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Fun thought experiment, but I wanted to address one of your questions:

But why hasn't there been a successful minor-league with true NFL style rules?

There is one. It's called college, and that's why you won't see another.
I have seen that argument before but College football and a Minor League football (that may or may not run during a different time period) isn't exactly the same market. Football is a popular sport, there's surely room for professional, college, and minor league.

If Triple-A teams can sometimes get 5-10 thousand fans on average, you would assume a Minor league for football, with far fewer games throughout the season, would be able to get 10-25 thousand per game.

The UFL did not average 10k/game in year one.

http://www.kenn.com/the_blog/?page_id=4860

My point in why the UFL was a failure. The point of this thread is to create a league that could average a solid attendance over a certain period of time.

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Fun thought experiment, but I wanted to address one of your questions:

But why hasn't there been a successful minor-league with true NFL style rules?

There is one. It's called college, and that's why you won't see another.
I have seen that argument before but College football and a Minor League football (that may or may not run during a different time period) isn't exactly the same market. Football is a popular sport, there's surely room for professional, college, and minor league.

If Triple-A teams can sometimes get 5-10 thousand fans on average, you would assume a Minor league for football, with far fewer games throughout the season, would be able to get 10-25 thousand per game.

The UFL did not average 10k/game in year one.

http://www.kenn.com/the_blog/?page_id=4860

My point in why the UFL was a failure. The point of this thread is to create a league that could average a solid attendance over a certain period of time.

And you missed Gothamite's point on why it wouldn't work: A minor league isn't going to work, when you already practically have one in almost every corner of the country, and some of those are selling out 80,000+ seat stadiums every Saturday. A fun thought exercise but for all serious purposes, a complete failure.

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Fun thought experiment, but I wanted to address one of your questions:

But why hasn't there been a successful minor-league with true NFL style rules?

There is one. It's called college, and that's why you won't see another.

I have seen that argument before but College football and a Minor League football (that may or may not run during a different time period) isn't exactly the same market. Football is a popular sport, there's surely room for professional, college, and minor league.

If Triple-A teams can sometimes get 5-10 thousand fans on average, you would assume a Minor league for football, with far fewer games throughout the season, would be able to get 10-25 thousand per game.

College baseball is not nearly as popular versus professional baseball (in all its forms) as college football is to professional football (in addition to playing at different times of the year). Also, the minor league system is heavily subsidized and reinvented itself as a family entertainment destination in smaller cities

Also, football season is too short for teams to field farm teams for "callups" 4 months/16 games vs 6 months/162 games. So NFL teams will see less benefit from subsidizing a farm team.

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I think some of you are being too tough of the OP. I think a spring/supplementary league to the NFL could work. For all of the derision the XFL gets, it did give a handful of guys NFL jobs.

I think a 10-week league that begins after the NCAA tournament and wraps up before NFL training camps could be moderately successful, especially with a strong network partner (ABC? Fox?). It could give NFL teams a look at undrafted guys or guys that have been in the arena leagues but can't make it to the NFL teams. Pay the players $50,000 or something, keep it limited to 12 or so secondary markets, and you could make a go of it.

I think the biggest hurdles would be legitimacy -- that's what killed the XFL more than anything. If you could get organizational support from a network and/or the NFL, you could pitch a minor/supplemental league as an affordable NFL product.

If I lived in Birmingham, Columbus, Tacoma, Sacramento, Las Vegas or a city like that, I'd pay $20 on a Saturday afternoon to see something like that.

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If I lived in Birmingham, Columbus, Tacoma, Sacramento, Las Vegas or a city like that, I'd pay $20 on a Saturday afternoon to see something like that.

Do you currently pay $5 to see any of the semi-pro football teams that are likely within an hour of where you live? If no, than I challenge that statement.
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If I lived in Birmingham, Columbus, Tacoma, Sacramento, Las Vegas or a city like that, I'd pay $20 on a Saturday afternoon to see something like that.

Do you currently pay $5 to see any of the semi-pro football teams that are likely within an hour of where you live? If no, than I challenge that statement.

I don't think you could compare the two. That is, depending on the legitamacy of the league.

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If I lived in Birmingham, Columbus, Tacoma, Sacramento, Las Vegas or a city like that, I'd pay $20 on a Saturday afternoon to see something like that.

Do you currently pay $5 to see any of the semi-pro football teams that are likely within an hour of where you live? If no, than I challenge that statement.

I don't think you could compare the two. That is, depending on the legitamacy of the league.
But that's your entire premise. You can't compare semi-pro football to the NCAA. I work for an 8-time national champion semi-pro football team. We're successful, but we draw 1500 fans per game. On the road, we play in front of 200, and at least a quarter of those are generally our fans.
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If I lived in Birmingham, Columbus, Tacoma, Sacramento, Las Vegas or a city like that, I'd pay $20 on a Saturday afternoon to see something like that.

Do you currently pay $5 to see any of the semi-pro football teams that are likely within an hour of where you live? If no, than I challenge that statement.

The first year me and my wife moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, at the time we was staying with a business partner of mine living in Dallas County, we would go catch some Dallas Desperados games of the Arena Football League. This before they became the Vigilantes and stopped playing.

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If I lived in Birmingham, Columbus, Tacoma, Sacramento, Las Vegas or a city like that, I'd pay $20 on a Saturday afternoon to see something like that.

Do you currently pay $5 to see any of the semi-pro football teams that are likely within an hour of where you live? If no, than I challenge that statement.

The first year me and my wife moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, at the time we was staying with a business partner of mine living in Dallas County, we would go catch some Dallas Desperados games of the Arena Football League. This before they became the Vigilantes and stopped playing.

The Storm games used to get awesome attendance 4-5 years ago. The atmosphere was electric and to be honest, it was on pace with being as exciting as going to a Bucs/Lightning game. I'm assuming the Storm just lost their swagger though, haven't heard/seen much from them in a while. I know they still have a team but rarely do I see or hear about anyone going to games, advertising for the storm, etc. I guess the AFL charm wore off in Tampa Bay.

I think a major problem that minor-league teams do is they price the tickets way too expensive. I think the best style of marketing for a minor-league team is cheap..cheap..cheap. The bigger the crowd, the more exciting the game is. The more exciting the game is, the more likelyhood people will return. I heard that UFL tickets weren't cheap the first year. I'm sure by the end of it they were giving tickets away for free though. However, by that time, it's too late.

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If you make it too cheap, how do you pay for everything?

Exactly.

Even if you set your projected revenue at say, "cost +1%" you're still losing streams of cash. While the OP uses a premise that there are billionaire investors, they will want return of investments. Low ticket prices are one thing, but it alone will not cover the daily costs of the business like non-football staff and real estate. As soon as you sign your first contracts, you are running a negative variance.

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Lets go with a league 12-16 teams and 12 weeks. These teams would be set up in states WITHOUT professional football teams. This would mean Oregon, Alabama, Nevada, etc. recieve bids for teams. Games are played on Thursdays and Fridays. Prominent business will be give LAST bid for team ownership. Up and coming business owners will recieve first bid of ownership.Once teams are awarded ownership, team names will be assigned. A partnership with NFL may be needed in order to produce optimum revenue. The first year league draft order will be organized by randomization. Every following draft and draft order will be set by record EXCEPT the first 4 spots. They will be auctioned off to the 4 teams with the worst records in the league. Example: a team with a 2-10 record could end up with the 4th pick while a team with a 5-7 could end up with the 1st overall pick. Just an small idea for this concept

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If you make it too cheap, how do you pay for everything?

I'm no sports economist, but I think an NFL subsidy (the brand would be incredibly valuable -- funds more so) plus network rights could fund a league more so than ticket costs. Especially if the players didn't make much.

What's the operating cost for MLS? What are their sources of funds? I have to imagine it's an order of magnitude less than the big three pro leagues (and if not, hoo boy!).

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If you make it too cheap, how do you pay for everything?

I'm no sports economist, but I think an NFL subsidy (the brand would be incredibly valuable -- funds more so) plus network rights could fund a league more so than ticket costs. Especially if the players didn't make much.

What's the operating cost for MLS? What are their sources of funds? I have to imagine it's an order of magnitude less than the big three pro leagues (and if not, hoo boy!).

MLS is very gate driven for now, but they're in talks for the next TV contract.

http://rslperspective.com/2012/12/31/why-sepp-blatter-is-right-about-major-league-soccer/

When the Timbers entered the league, the city of Portland made the ownership group and MLS show them some of their financials which can be seen on the city webpage (registration required). Older owners get money back through expansion fees.

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If you make it too cheap, how do you pay for everything?

I'm no sports economist, but I think an NFL subsidy (the brand would be incredibly valuable -- funds more so) plus network rights could fund a league more so than ticket costs. Especially if the players didn't make much.

What's the operating cost for MLS? What are their sources of funds? I have to imagine it's an order of magnitude less than the big three pro leagues (and if not, hoo boy!).

Why should the NFL pay for something they don't have to pay for now?

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Love the question! In order for a league to thrive, revenue must come from the following: ticket sales, media rights, sponsorship, merchandise, concessions. What I think makes feeder systems work is when they involve the best of the best on their paths to the top league in the sport (e.g. Durant MUST play in college in order to get to NBA, Bryce Harper MUST play in the minors to play in MLB, any football player in the world MUST play in college before going into the NFL). The NFL is designed such that high profile draft picks don't need any seasoning before suiting up for the NFL teams. That suggests to me that a minor league system wouldn't be a road to the NFL, but rather a 2nd tier NFL (similar to the NBADL or AHL). So, to answer the question, if I were a wealthy business man in charge with starting a football league, I would not affiliate it with the NFL. Instead, I'd make it an entirely stand alone event that can coexist with the NFL, maybe even utilizing some of its players. How do you do this? Money (you said I'm wealthy, so let's go with it). Here's my answer:

My league would play April/May

It would be a winner-take-all event for $50,000,000

The "league" would select 16 teams each year

Teams can form themselves however they like (size of roster is restricted)

Unlimited amount of teams apply online from March 1st - April 1st

The 16 most popular teams online over that 30-day period would be accepted, scheduled and fielded

Then, you'd play the following schedule:

Mid April Weekend 1: 16 down to 12 (4 games)

April Weekend 2: 12 down to 8 (4 games)

Early May weekend: 8 down to 4 (4 games)

Mid May weekend: 4 down to 2 (2 games)

Late May weekend: $50,000,000 game

That would be a nice 15-game media rights package. Throw ticket sales, concessions to the wind. Who knows who you'd get to play, but who cares...format trumps talent.

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