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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson announces XFL plans return for 2022 season

Matt Johnson
XFL logo at midfield during 2020 season
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson helped save the XFL from folding, now he is announcing that the top spring football league plans to return for a 2022 season.

Johnson, who co-owns the league with RedBird Capital Partners and business partner Dany Garcia, bought the XFL in August for $15 million. Once the sale was approved, the wheels were in motion as the team started working on plans to relaunch the popular football league.

When will the XFL return?

Even before Johnson helped buy the XFL, there was always hope the spring football league would return within two years. On Thursday, Johnson released a special video with an announcement sharing that the XFL plans to return in the spring of 2022.

Vince McMahon tried to bring the XFL back this season, relaunching the league this spring with relative success. Unfortunately, things took a turn when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The XFL suspended its season just five weeks into its season due to the coronavirus. Before long, the league closed operations and filed for bankruptcy.

With McMahon out of the picture, ESPN backed out of its broadcasting partnership with the league. However, with Johnson and Garcia taking over, FOX Sports has emerged with serious interest in broadcasting future XFL games.

While there was originally some hope the XFL could return in 2021, the reality of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the work it would take to relaunch the league have come into play. Now, league officials are targeting a return in 2022 with the purpose of doing it the right way instead of the fastest way.

“For the love of football and for the safety of our players and fans, we’ll be back on the field in 2022,” XFL president and COO Jeffrey Pollack said, via ESPN. “The opportunity in front of us, with our new ownership, is simply too big to rush back. We want to do this properly with care and thought for everyone who loves football, especially our players, coaches, partners and fans.”

It’s a great sign that the XFL wants to do this right, focusing on creating a long-term plan that increases the odds of being successful in the years ahead. However, plenty of work remains in a landscape where spring football has failed to sustain interest and viewership.

Can the XFL be successful with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson?

When the XFL launched this season, its debut drew a massive audience on ABC. However, the league saw its average attendance dip from its peak in Week 3 and ticket sales dwarfed the AAF before it collapsed. 

The XFL did deliver on its promise to provide opportunities for players and coaches who needed a second chance with the hope of making it back to the NFL. Multiple coaches and players, including XFL star P.J. Walker, are now in the NFL because of the exposure they received this spring.

We also saw the XFL’s unique rules gain huge support from fans and players, leading to the NFL at least considering major changes that could come in the next few seasons.

Johnson’s group has already thought about expanding the XFL, increasing from the eight-team league we saw in the spring. If the XFL wants to be more than just a one-year league, expansion might not be the best idea. We detailed in March potential changes the XFL should consider, with relocation being a priority instead of expansion.

The success of the St. Louis BattleHawks, compared to the Los Angeles Wildcats’ lack of popularity, shows the importance of picking the right cities over the biggest ones. The XFL can be a successful spring football league, but only if Johnson and Co. do it the right way.