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The XFL canceled its inaugural season due to coronavirus pandemic

The fledgling league was only five weeks into its first season. Players are expected to be compensated for the full season.

St Louis Battlehawks v DC Defenders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The XFL was set to make its 2020 re-debut over the course of a 10-week regular season. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the fledgling football league is finished after only five.

Officials made the decision to cancel the 2020 season, eight days after the decision was made to suspend it indefinitely. The season had been scheduled to end April 26 with the XFL Championship Game in Houston.

XFL players will be compensated for their base pay and benefits for the regular season, while XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit toward future games. Finally, they expect to play a full season in 2021:

The XFL previously announced that March 15th’s XFL game between the Seattle Dragons and the LA Wildcats will be played as scheduled, but without fans present in the stadium.

This news comes a week after a CenturyLink Field concessions employee tested positive for coronavirus after working a Seattle Dragons game at the venue.

The news concerning the Dragons-Wildcats game came after Washington state Governor Jay Inslee announced a ban of public gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle metropolitan area. Similar bans have occurred in San Francisco, New York, and Ohio. They will likely occur elsewhere.

But that one game was always likely to be a precursor to these larger changes as the pandemic spreads.

The XFL later announced that a player for the Dragons tested positive for Covid-19, and that players on teams that have come into contact with the Dragons in recent weeks have also been tested. Further, players choosing to self-quarantine have been offered free extended-stay housing by the league.

This marks the second straight year a start-up spring football league has failed to play a full slate of games in its debut. The Alliance of American Football (AAF), which also had an eight-team membership and 10-week regular season, ceased operations last April after only eight weeks of action.

Unlike the AAF, which declared bankruptcy shortly thereafter, the XFL is expected to return in the future.

Why is this happening now?

On March 11, the NBA suspended its season in the wake of news that one of its players, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for Covid-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.

This set off a chain reaction across a spectrum of sports leagues that had originally intended to play games in the middle of empty arenas. College basketball saw all of its in-progress conference tournaments shut down. The NHL and MLB both suspended operations. The NFL canceled its annual spring meeting as teams across the league emptied their offices and scrapped pre-draft visits from scouts and executives.

Given this is a global issue, it was only natural that the XFL would make some kind of change.

What happens next?

While the initial wording left open the possibility they might try and move forward with playoff games, the March 18 announcement confirmed what most people already assumed. That’s because XFL players were technically allowed to sign with NFL teams as soon as exit physicals are completed on Friday, March 13, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Allowing players to sign with NFL teams in the offseason was always a part of the XFL deal, and its good that they are making them immediately available with the sudden end of its season.

Fans should expect the XFL, which is on much stronger financial footing than the AAF that came before it, to return to action for the 2021 season. For reference, the 2020 season began in early February, the weekend following the NFL’s Super Bowl.