Thursday 22 March 2018 / 07:21 AM


On the back of a highly successful Rugby League World Cup, which for once wasn’t dominated by the three usual sides and saw plenty of nations showing dramatic and significant improvement, the eyes of many rugby league fans have been focused on the state of the game internationally and how to further improve it.

In 2017 we saw Canada provide a team, the Toronto Wolfpack, to the English third division. The Wolfpack decimated their opponents and have become quite a force already. Talk of a team from the United States in the English comp has begun already.

Enter Vince McMahon. He is the billionaire owner of the WWE, the elite Pro Wrestling organisation in the world. In 2001, McMahon decided to create his very own professional American Football League to compete against the NFL, which was called the Xtreme Football League.

The XFL was promoted as being sexier and essentially more hardcore than the NFL in an attempt to align the game more with his pro wrestling business.

The XFL, though, very rapidly descended into what McMahon himself described as a “colossal failure.” It lasted just the one season and the concept was dead and buried, costing McMahon in the region of US$70 million.

That was up until a month ago, when McMahon was rumoured to have sold US$105 million in WWE stock to prepare for a second attempt at a rival football competition.

Now back to rugby league, and I think you can see where I’m going with this. McMahon’s foray into professional American football was a failure in the past, which was at a time when his pro Wrestling business was arguably at its peak in popularity.

With that money, the huge media presence of the WWE and McMahon’s desire to branch into football, someone with all the right connections should do whatever they can to steer him towards bankrolling a National Rugby League competition in the US.

He has everything the fledgling code there requires to become an overnight success and it could be exactly what the game needs, while also allowing McMahon to grow and expand into new areas.

Furthermore, he wouldn’t have to go toe-to-toe product-wise with the already well-established and powerful NFL juggernaut, as he would have a different game that is arguably faster, tougher and could even be seen as being more, dare I say it, ‘Xtreme’.

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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