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Where Did the UFL Go Wrong?


Word came down today that the United Football League was pulling the plug on their 2011 season (its third) halfway through and play its 2011 Championship game on October 21. This of course means that they are likely giving up and throwing the towel in on a two and a half year experiment that never really gained much ground with American Football fans. Once the league actually announces it is done we will do a full post mortem, until then let us look at where this league may have gone wrong.

Since I am one, of a very few, that not only covered this league throughout its existence but was a very big fan of the UFL product I think the first major misstep was not playing some exhibition games to test the waters. The 2009 the UFL was for the most part an exhibition, but without that title the fans out there thought they were sitting down to watch an established league. On top of that those god awful neon, bright uniforms worn in season one did not really endear this league to anyone. In fact we could argue that the first season uniforms were so similar between the four team that no one could really identify each distinct team.

Heading into season two it looked like the UFL had gained a foothold in the minds of American football fans. They added an expansion team (the Omaha Nighthawks) but also decided to move and rebrand two of its existing teams. Had 2009 been just an exhibition they could have played more games in non NFL markets and possibly stirred some interest,  instead the UFL took the fans they had and kind of confused them. 

While all of that is really subjective, the real reason the UFL never got going was they were simply in the wrong markets. Year one saw a team in New York go winless, the Las Vegas Locos and Florida Tuskers played in two straight UFL championship games but failed to build local support in their home markets. In fact the UFL gave up on Hartford in year three, when we could very well argue they should have given up on Las Vegas. 

In the end the UFL failed to identify non NFL markets, and markets with little or no other pro sports teams to place their franchises in. They were also very late to the game in developing local support for all of its teams. That is why this league ultimately failed, and yes giving up on year three halfway through is an admission of said failure. 

Here is some free advice for the next group of people who want to start the next upstart football league. Identify markets where other pro teams are scarce, build up local support for those teams first, and then try to market the league to a national audience. The UFL failed to do that, and now they are the latest to try and fail to carve out a chunk of the American football market for themselves. 



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