The National Football League’s monopoly on professional football could see some competition as early as next year.
Wall Street business man Bill Hambrecht is seeking to start up his own professional football league, the United Football League, as early as next August according to a report in the New York Times. He and business partner Tim Armstrong, a senior executive at Google, have pledged $2 million to help start up the league, hired a C.E.O. and C.O.O. and even lined up their first owner, Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks.
According to the New York Times report, Hambrecht is seeking to line up 8 owners for the start up league. They are looking to locate the teams in non-NFL cities. This includes Mexico City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Each owner entering the league will be expected to contribute $30 million to the league, which will give them half ownership of the franchise. The UFL would own the other half of the team. The plan is to eventually sell one-third stake of each team to the fans.
Hambrecht intends on finding players by looking at the best of the last 20 cut by each NFL team plus raiding the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League for talent. Even though they know they won’t be able to match the top salaries in the league, Hambrecht feels the UFL will offer a better financial opportunity to NFL rookies who are selected in the later rounds of the NFL draft.
It wouldn’t be the first time the NFL has seen competition.
In 1960, the American Football League started and operated in direct competition with the National Football League for nine years, competing with the NFL for both talent and television ratings before the two leagues merged in 1970.
In 1983, the United States Football League started its first season with 12 teams. Despite not competing head-to-head with the NFL (they played their games from March through June) and offering innovations the NFL hadn’t adopted yet, such as the two point conversion, the USFL only lasted three seasons.
An anti-trust suit, which accused the NFL of preventing the major television networks from carrying the games, failed in 1986 and, because of financial hardships, the league was forced to suspend operations for a season, eventually losing its best players to the NFL and Canadian Football League. It never restarted.
Most recently, the XFL was formed as a collaboration between the television network NBC and World Wrestling Entertainment and attempted to steal an audience from the NFL by advertising a more extreme form of football, with less penalties and scantily clad cheerleaders. The league lasted just one season before folding.