Are You Ready For Some (More) Football?
Apparently they’re going to actually go ahead with this United Football League thing. Four teams, I’m going to guess six games (play everybody else twice), since they say they’re starting in October and the championship game is Thanksgiving weekend.
ESPN’s Greg Garber thinks they have a chance. And while I’ve long thought that Greg Garber is an intelligent guy, he’s just not doing the math here.
UFL teams are supposedly prepared to play $12-$20 million for players (a recent ESPN Magazine blurb said $16M with an average salary of $320,000 for 50 players per team). The investors supposedly ponied up $30M for each team, so they’re in this to the tune of more than $50M each.
How are you going to make that money back? The ESPN Magazine article quipped that profitability for the UFL is “like third-and-short: completely do-able.”
Are you insane?
Do the math: Just with the $16M expenditure on players, if each team is playing 3 “home” games (some will be played outside of the supposed markets these teams represent), and they’re hanging their hats on being an “affordable alternative” to the NFL (with an average ticket price of $20), they’d have to sell 266,667 tickets to each game. What stadiums are they talking about using here?
The NFL model of completely overpaying for everything works because (a) the NFL is insanely popular and ( b) the TV money (largely) takes care of the biggest budget line-item (player salaries) before the first snap of the season.
Is the UFL getting millions of dollars from Versus to televise games? I’d be skeptical.
Las Vegas coach Jim Fassel, when asked what gives this league a shot, said, “Financial discipline.”
Really? Spending $16M on players for each team (50 players, too? You need 50 players to play six games? Really?) is financial discipline?
XFL teams paid about $2M in salaries per team – and no health insurance – and even at just under 25,000 a game in attendance, they bled themselves to death quickly.
The UFL’s going to do the same. They’re really just hoping they can muddle through and that there’ll be a work stoppage in the NFL in 2011. But that’s a long time from now.
Now, I’m a sucker for alternative sports leagues, especially football leagues. I loved the USFL. I was too young to follow the WFL, but I love reading about it. I actually watched the XFL (yes, that was me). I’ll check out the UFL.
But they’re kidding themselves if they think this is going to be anything but an unmitigated financial disaster. A professional football league that attempts to compete with the NFL is going to get crushed, and even one that doesn’t attempt to compete – that offers itself up as an “alternative” – is going to see that the startup and ongoing operational costs are simply too large to be recouped by ticket sales (especially at an average of $20) for games played on Thursday and Friday nights. Without a pot of TV gold, it’s just not happening. Whether they get Michael Vick or not.
(ALSO: After all the sturm und drang with the guys behind the “New USFL” telling me that I was wrong, that they were going to make it, they’ve taken just about everything off their website and they’ve been promising “an exciting announcement” for a while now.)