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Volume 21 No. 30
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Football’s fumbles

The gridiron is littered with the remains of leagues that didn’t last long or, in some cases, never played a down

World Football League

(1974-75)

 Led by Gary Davidson, who helped create the American Basketball Association and World Hockey Association, the league boasted high-profile NFL alums such as Larry Csonka and Calvin Hill. Its ability to lure players led to the demise of two other short-lived leagues — the Atlantic Coast Football League and the Seaboard Football League.

USFL

(1983-85)

 The startup attracted several big names, including Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Herschel Walker and Reggie White, but crashed after it left its spring season for the fall and sued the NFL. The USFL was awarded only $3 in damages in that antitrust case and subsequently folded.

Herschel Walker was a high-profile signing for the USFL in 1983.
Photo: getty images

Regional Football League

(1999)

 The six-team spring developmental league struggled
to play an eight-game regular season and lost more than $6 million during its only season.

AF2

(1999-2009)

 A total of 60 mostly small or mid-sized markets hosted teams in what was a feeder league for the Arena Football League. The death knell sounded when the AFL canceled its 2009 season. Three former af2 clubs still exist in other leagues.

XFL

(2001)

 WWE and NBC attracted an impressive roster of sponsors and started off with respectable attendance in eight markets, but the success was short-lived and the league folded after one season and $70 million in losses. The league announced in January that it was returning in 2020.

All American Football League

(2008)

 The concept was to play in college stadiums featuring alumni players, but the league had a $30 million shortfall before its scheduled 2008 debut and never got off the ground.

World Football League

(2008-10)

 The second iteration of this league consisted of six teams. The Oklahoma Thunder moved to, and still plays in, the Gridiron Developmental Football League.

United Football League

(2009-12)

 Positioned as a feeder league for the NFL, the UFL lost an estimated $120 million in its first three years. Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano is believed to be the only UFL alum still in the NFL.

Fall Experimental Football League

(2014-15)

 Five teams played a total of 13 games over two short seasons.

Source: SportsBusiness Journal research