Posted by Jesse Thomas on Feb 05, 2020
The Super Bowl this past Sunday didn’t mark the end of football season. With a “substantial amount of appetite for more football,” the relaunch of the XFL is at our doorstep, as shared by Ryan Gustafson, President of the Seattle Dragons, the newest professional sports franchise in town set to kickoff their home opener at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, February 15th.
 
Gustafson, who grew up in Bellevue, was invited to speak to Seattle 4 by Rotarian Mark Davis.  He was formerly Vice President of Business Strategy and Development for Sounders FC, and has also worked for the Seattle Seahawks, the San Diego Padres and Major League Baseball. Now leading the Seattle Dragons, he shared his excitement about bringing more, authentic football to Seattle throughout the spring with a focus on fan engagement, accessibility, and rule innovations that both speed up the game and help to eliminate some of the violent plays in a focus on health and player safety.
 
Dubbed as football reimagined, not reinvented, the relaunch of the XFL marks a second chance for a league that was first launched in 2001, and only lasted one year. With a startup mentality, the XFL has more than $500 million in capital behind it with Vince McMahon as an owner, recognizable names in coaches and players, and all games will be nationally televised. The XFL, which is owned by a single entity, unlike the NFL, will have eight teams, each playing 10 games. Jim Zorn will be the general manager and head coach of the Seattle Dragons, a familiar local name after playing for, and later coaching the Seahawks.
 
“This is going to be good football,” Gustafson said. He pointed to market research, key in the relaunch of the league in learning what fans want, that showed the XFL could build a fan base of as large as 38 million, similar to that of the NHL. For comparison’s sake, the NFL has approximately 73 million fans. Key feedback in the market research has led to the following rule innovations:
  • Faster: The average XFL game is expected to last 2 hours and 40 mins, versus 3 hours and 15 mins for an NFL game.
  • Safer: Changes to standard kickoffs and punt returns will seek to eliminate some of the more violent plays.
  • No Extra Point: Instead of an extra point after a touchdown, teams will get an extra play from scrimmage to score between 1-3 points, depending on the starting point on the field.
Accessibility is a top priority, Gustafson said. That starts with ticket prices beginning at $20, and bringing fans closer to the game through field access and lining the tunnel where players enter, along with other experiences still to be rolled out and announced. Amid a lengthy Q&A session, Gustafson also highlighted that each officiating crew will have a woman on it, generating applause from Seattle 4. The XFL season begins tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 8th with the Seattle Dragons traveling to play the DC Defenders at 2 pm ET on ABC. Tickets to upcoming home games are available to Rotarians via the following discount link, provided by Gustafson: https://fevo.me/seattlerotarydragons.
 
In her opening remarks, Seattle 4 President, Kim Moore, highlighted the theme of civil discourse and engagement. Howard Crabtree and Burr Stewart led us in song, America the Beautiful. Skip Kotkins provided inspiration for the day with a focus on Kobe Bryant. Seattle 4 was also visited by Bill McElroy, Rotary District 5030 Governor, who highlighted the upcoming District Conference in Seattle on April 3-4.

Thank you Totem Reporter Jesse Thomas.

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