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The Demise of The United Football League
In mid-October, the most predictable collapse in history finally happened. No, the United States is still limping alone. I mean the United Football League, that unwanted and unappreciated minor professional league with four teams spread far across the country.
The Examiner's Ted Fleming has a good write-up, so I need not rehash the whole story, but in case you didn't know, the UFL limped into a fourth fall season and secured a contract with the CBS Sports Network. Playing a small handful of games, despite a long list of former employees filing suit about unfulfilled payment contracts, the league abruptly suspended operations in the middle of the playing schedule, and announced an intent to finish the season in the spring.
But everyone has difficulty believing there will be a comeback. The league has simply failed to fulfill so many contracts. Unless cash is offered up-front, I don't see personnel being fooled again into suiting up. At best, we may see semi-pro outfits suit up to fulfill any last obligations the UFL has to the CBS Sports Network, if any.
As it stands, the UFL no longer has a website with updated content. They have multiple former coaches suing for back-pay. They had, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, an attendance of 601 show up at a week two game. Unable to make rents, teams were moving from proper division 1 college stadiums to minor league baseball parks.
All around, the league had major cash-flow problems.
(I'll write an update in a minute)
OK, the day after, I'm back on this. I wanted to restate an old point about cash-flow in alternate professional leagues. The UFL was appallingly stubborn in their franchise fee. In their business model as they started, the cost of a franchise was to be $30 million. A bargain, Mark Cuban pointed out, if the league managed to be on par with the lower-tier NFL teams.
But we never saw more than five franchises, even as teams began failing to make payroll. Steep discounts on expansion teams would have brought in cash needed to service the league's obligations (all teams were majority-owned by the league).
I understand wanting to protect the really valuable real estate for that $30 mil payout, but with towns like LA, Salt Lake, and San Antonio lacking NFL franchises, there were still plenty of places for the UFL to offer discount franchises. Say, Wichita, Tulsa, Memphis, Little Rock, and so on. Sell these for a couple million, and the league-owned franchises could have met their obligations, and the league would have maintained some credibility.
Yes, all those smaller franchises would have gone bankrupt in a year or two, but at least the founding teams could protect their credibility.