The XFL Files for Bankruptcy After Canceling Season

Alpha Entertainment, the company that owns the XFL, filed for bankruptcy on Monday, three days after the league suspended operations and laid off its staff.

“The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football,” the league said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 crisis.”

The XFL returned in February, 19 years after its first and only other season. The revived version, originally slated for 10 games, lasted only five weeks before the season was shut down last month because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league had also scheduled a four-team postseason, with a championship game in Houston for late April, that were also canceled.

At the time of the shutdown last month, league leaders vowed that it would return in 2021. Now that seems unlikely.

In its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Alpha Entertainment said that it had liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million, and that it had 1,000 to 5,000 creditors. It also listed assets of between $10 million and $50 million.

“This is a heartbreaking time for many, including our passionate fans, players and staff, and we are thankful to them, our television partners, and the many Americans who rallied to the XFL for the love of football,” the XFL said in its statement Monday.

Oliver Luck, who served as the league’s commissioner and is the father of the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, declined to comment through a spokesperson.

The new version of the XFL featured eight teams that were strategically placed in cities that had strong football fan bases. The teams played in some N.F.L. stadiums in places like Seattle, Tampa Bay, Fla., and East Rutherford, N.J.

The XFL created rules that differed from the N.F.L.’s, including a policy to make kickoffs safer by allowing only the kicker and returner to move before the ball was caught. Every game was set to be televised, and players did interviews during games.

The league’s games drew an average of 3.1 million viewers on opening weekend. Ratings declined each week, and games averaged only 1.4 million viewers by Week 4.

Both versions of the XFL were owned by Vince McMahon, the chairman and chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment. In order to reboot the XFL, McMahon sold shares of W.W.E. stock with an estimated value well over $100 million, according to several news reports.

The original XFL, a joint venture between McMahon’s wrestling company and NBC, relied on gimmicks and a more violent brand of the game — fair catches were banned — to attract fans. It was a huge success in its opening weekend, with 15.7 million viewers tuning in for the first game. Ratings dropped by 52 percent from the first week of the season to the second, and the numbers continued to decline as the season went on. When the league collapsed, NBC and McMahon’s company lost tens of millions of dollars.

The XFL is just the latest professional football start-up that has failed, joining the Alliance of American Football, which shut down in 2019 after playing a portion of one season.