Fall Experimental Football League
|Founded||May 7, 2014|
|No. of teams||4|
plus ESPN 3
The Fall Experimental Football League is a professional football minor league that began play on October 8, 2014. This league is the latest to attempt to be a feeder system for the National Football League.
In the summer of 2013, Brian Woods began work on a business plan for a future football development league. With NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent indicating in an April 2014 interview a need for a developmental football league, Woods, a sports lawyer and executive director of the Medal of Honor Bowl, put that business plan in action to launch such a league in October 2014 that envisioned six franchises primarily based in minor league baseball stadiums. The Fall Experimental Football League was announced by Woods on May 7, 2014. Original targeted markets for teams were New York, Boston, Omaha, Orlando, Portland, and either San Antonio or Memphis with Wednesday games. The league is expected to own two teams outright and four franchised teams. By June 20, Tommie Harris and Eric Bassey were announced as the first owners for a franchise in Austin, Texas, the Texas Outlaws, with other teams announced without ownership were New York, Boston, Omaha, Portland, Oregon and an unselected Florida city.
On August 20, 2014, Woods announced that the league would consist of just four teams — Brooklyn, New York, Boston, Massachusetts; Omaha, Nebraska; and Miami, Florida — with players released from NFL teams to allocated and reporting on September 24 with games to start October 8th. Cities in which interest in franchises came from Columbus, Ohio, and Springfield, Missouri. The Miami team became a traveling team.
The FXFL debuted on time with the inaugural game in Omaha on October 8, 2014 between the Omaha Mammoths and the Boston Brawlers at TD Ameritrade Park with the Mammoths winning 41-18. By Week 3 of the 2014 season, Nivea had become a sponsor of the league, with sponsor logo on the left shoulder and helmets; additionally, a reality web show on the FXFL appeared, sponsored by Nivea.
The inaugural 2014 season was cut short after the November 7 contest, with one regular season game and a championship left unplayed. In a report from the Associated Press, commissioner Brian Woods said that he was satisfied with the season and said he envisioned a bigger FXFL in 2015, with more affiliations with minor league baseball teams and stadia, targeting such cities as Memphis, Austin, Oklahoma City and somewhere in Florida. Woods also expects Brooklyn and Omaha to return. Woods later backed off plans for expansion and said that 2015 would most likely only have five teams at most.
As its name implies, the league plans on adopting several experimental rule changes differing from those at other levels of the game with some at the request of the NFL. Initial plans for the league had punting, the PAT and kickoffs taken out of the game, but this proposal was scrapped prior to the start of the season.
- Extra points are attempted from 35 yards out.
- All kicks originate at a wide hash mark for a greater difficulty.
- Kickoffs are administered from the kicking team's 25-yard line, as to decrease touchbacks and "increase coverage opportunities". In addition, eight players on the receiving team line up between the kicking team's 35-yard and 45-yard line for the possibility of decreasing "high-impact collisions". Once a kickoff passes the 45 yard line, fielding rules become similar to punts in that the kicking team is not be allowed to recover and regain possession.
- Games are played on Wednesday nights to avoid competition with high school football (Friday and Saturday), college football (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and the NFL (Thursday, Sunday and Monday); the league also plays some Friday night games later in the season.
- All players on a team's roster play in each game whenever possible.
- Players do not have their names on the back of their jerseys, do not have separate home and away jerseys, and carry a sponsor label on the left shoulder and helmet.
Woods was quoted as saying about the new league: "Our long-term goal is to establish a partnership with the NFL and we feel can do that on many platforms. It would give them a way to work with younger players that they don't currently have. We can help them train prospective NFL officials - in the NBA, every referee entering the league (in recent years) comes from NBA Developmental League. We can be a testing ground for proposed rules, too." The league has an agreement with the NFL to use officials from the elder league's training academy for FXFL games. If the FXFL were to succeed in establishing a formal partnership with the NFL, it would be the fifth such time the NFL has established a partnership with a minor league, following the Association of Professional Football Leagues of the 1940s, the Atlantic Coast Football League in the 1960s, NFL Europe of the 1990s and 2000s, and the NFL-owned teams in the Arena Football League (prior to 2008).
Each team employs 40 players on their roster, with a base salary of $1000 per game and a maximum potential payout of $1250 per game. The league is mainly recruiting those who released from NFL training camps in August and were not assigned to practice squads with the players being pooled then allocated to the teams and transferable at the league's direction. Those that cannot go or will not go to college can be considered, but the league will not actively recruit NCAA players. The league also does not pursue experienced professional players and will not allow any player to play more than three years in the league; one anecdote had the league turning down Maurice Jones-Drew on account of his career being near its end (the anecdote may not be true, since Jones-Drew was already signed to a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders before the league was founded). Each team has territorial rights to players, so any player in a team's territory is first choice is to that team. The league and team owners originally planned to arrange host families for the players, similar to other minor leagues; players instead ended up being housed in suburban hotels.
The league is operating under a budget of $8 to $9 million for the first season and expects to be able to be viable with minor or development team attendance of 3,000 plus. The league has reported receiving enough financing to operate for the first season. In the long term, the FXFL does not expect to be profitable without official NFL support.
A franchise cost was set at $500,000. The Brooklyn Bolts is a joint venture between the league and Jeff Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets and Brooklyn Cyclones. The Blacktips and Omaha Mammoths are league owned and operated. The Brawlers were initially reported as being independently owned but no owner was ever identified and the league later admitted that it is still seeking an owner for that team.
The league syndicates its games to a collection of 14 regional channels: Sportsnet New York, New England Sports Network, NESN National, Cox Sports (New Orleans), Cox San Diego, Altitude, Tuff TV, Soul of the South, Untamed TV and The U Too. In addition, ESPN3 holds streaming media rights. The broadcast deals provide no guaranteed revenue to the league but does offer a share of advertising; it is not known if the league has to pay for production expenses or airtime as the UFL had to do.
|Team||City||Stadium (capacity)||Debut season</span>|
|Boston Brawlers||Boston, Massachusetts||Harvard Stadium (30,323)||2014|
|Brooklyn Bolts||Brooklyn, New York||MCU Park (10,000)||2014|
|Blacktips||No home city||Traveling team||2014|
|Omaha Mammoths||Omaha, Nebraska||TD Ameritrade Park Omaha (24,505)||2014|
Teams that were originally on the list, but did not play in 2014
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