This is the United Football League. Haven't heard of it? That's because it doesn't exist yet.
But the UFL is in the planning stages, with backing from Wall Street millionaire Bill Hambrecht, Google executive Tim Armstrong and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. They're all willing to spend money, and they plan to kick off in August of 2008. The Times reports:
So the first step in Hambrecht's plan is to enter big cities where the N.F.L. isn't. As Mark Cuban put it to me in an e-mail, "There are quite a few good-sized non-N.F.L. cities that can support a pro team." So far, the U.F.L. has decided to put teams in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Mexico City. (Cuban is considering taking the Las Vegas franchise.) Each owner will put up $30 million, giving him an initial half-interest in the team; the league will own the other half. But eventually the fans themselves will become shareholders - because each team is going to sell shares to the public. Then the owner, the league and the fans will each own a third of every franchise.The league would apparently make Friday nights its signature TV time, as the NFL and big-time college programs generally cede Fridays to high school football. And it might get decent TV ratings, as far as cable TV goes, with a Friday night package of games.
But there is approximately zero chance that any rival league will ever siphon fan support off the NFL, the way the American Football League did in the 1960s. The NFL today is in such a dominant position with its fans, its players union, and the TV networks that there's simply no chance that another football league could become a rival, in any meaningful sense of the word.
I like Mark Cuban, and I'd like to have some football to watch on Friday nights, so I'll be rooting for the UFL. But the NFL has nothing to worry about.