Billionaire tech titan Peter Thiel is among the chief investors in a new football league that will eventually rival Vince McMahon’s resurgent XFL and play its games during the NFL’s offseason.
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Dubbed the Alliance of American Football, the spring league is set to kick off on Feb. 9, 2019, with eight teams, a 10-week regular season and a four-team playoff system. Charlie Ebersol, the son of original XFL co-founder Dick Ebersol, heads a leadership team that includes former NFL players and executives.
Chief investors include Thiel’s Founders Fund and the Chernin Group, which owns a majority stake in Barstool Sports. Host cities of the league’s eight teams are expected to be announced within the next three months, and teams will be composed of regional players.
"The Alliance of American Football represents a fundamental shift in the way we approach professional sports," Ebersol said in a statement. "We believe fans and players are what's most important, so our approach is simple -- we've created an Alliance where fans and players share in the success of their teams."
It’s unclear how much Thiel’s fund contributed to the league’s official funding. Dick Ebersol will serve on the league’s board of directors. Aside from the Ebersols, the league’s leadership team includes longtime NFL executive Bill Polian and former NFL stars Troy Polamalu, Justin Tuck and Jared Allen.
The Alliance of American Football already has a television partner with CBS, which will air its inaugural game and championship game. CBS Sports Network will broadcast one regular season game per week.
"As the Alliance of American Football launches next February we are excited to become the official television partner, adding more football to our robust programming line-up with a great package that includes two primetime games on CBS, as well as a full slate of regular-season spring football on CBS Sports Network," CBS Sports chairman Steve McManus said. "With Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian at the helm we are confident that the product they will deliver will be entertaining, exciting, engaging and something that fans will really enjoy.”
The new league will prioritize player safety and will not make use of the kickoff or the extra point, two NFL staples. The Alliance will also institute a shorter play clock and fewer commercial breaks.
The Alliance was announced weeks after WWE CEO Vince McMahon said he will relaunch the XFL in 2020 with eight teams and a 40-man roster. McMahon said the league will play its games in late January or early February, which would put it in direct competition with the Alliance.