Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the XFL did not finish its re-launched 2020 season and the CFL never got its 2020 campaign off the ground. Without massive television contracts and enormous war chests to float them through hard times, the events of last year left both leagues vulnerable.
And now both entities are wondering aloud if they might be stronger together.
The XFL, from its @XFL2022 Twitter account, announced Wednesday its planned 2022 season is on hold "pending the outcome of our conversations with the CFL." The stated goal of the talks will be to "identify opportunities for the leagues to collaborate, innovate, and grow the game of football."
What might those conversations entail? A full-fledged merger? Inter-league games? Media rights sharing?
In short -- yes, to all of it. Wednesday's announcement was light on specifics and full of corporate-speak, indicating the two sides will throw ideas at one another and see what sticks.
“Canada has an exciting game and devoted fans, and our discussion with the XFL provides a tremendous opportunity to build on that strong foundation," said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. "We look forward to exploring how we might work with one of the most innovative sports brands in the world to grow the game, engage fans in new ways, and reach new audiences. We look forward to seeing what possibilities our discussions might uncover, and to sharing those with our fans as the process unfolds.”
“Since we first acquired the XFL, we have focused on identifying partners who share our vision and values on and off the field," XFL chairwoman Dany Garcia said. "A vision filled with opportunity, innovation and the highest level of entertainment value for the benefit of our athletes, fans and communities. The CFL has expressed that similar sentiment and jointly we recognize a great opportunity to build exciting innovative football experiences that make the most of each league's unique strengths. I look forward to our continued discussions and we will update the sports community as we have more to share.”
Obviously, it goes without saying that combining Canadian and American football would be a difficult enterprise, to say the least. The CFL field is longer and wider, with more players (12) and less plays (three), and that's just the start. Those aren't the types of differences one can just gloss over during a boardroom lunch.
Beyond that, the XFL is a spring sport, while the CFL goes through the summer and concludes around American Thanksgiving.
The more one puts the differences to paper, the more one realizes that neither side would ever entertain such a discussion if they were healthy, in a world where the pandemic never happened.
But it did, and now the possibility of an XCFL is, at least hypothetically, on the board.