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Fluctuating NFL broadcast ratings have spurred an increase in the number of independent football leagues around the United States. Brian Woods is the CEO of The Spring League, a semi-professional elite development league and scouting event for football talent, and the former commissioner of the FXFL.

In this interview with Karma Network’s Contributing Editor Michael Moran, Woods shares insights into the unique business models of independent leagues like The Spring League and the FXFL and details where he thinks newer leagues like the Alliance of American Football will encounter struggles.

Michael Moran: How does The Spring League’s business model compare to other leagues, such as the AAF or the XFL?

Brian Woods: I think the biggest thing for us is cost containment. We utilize a highly disciplined business model. We have something that’s sustainable. We have a highly disciplined budgetary strategy, to the point where other leagues, especially the AAF and XFL, have reached out to us and asked for guidance.

I’ve become somewhat of an authority because I’ve been involved with two startups, and for the most part the FXFL was quite successful. It’s just we were undercapitalized from the beginning and we had a lot of deals lined up for year two and one by one some of those deals fell through. We were partnering with minor league baseball clubs and playing in smaller venues, and I think some of those business principles carried over into my philosophy when we designed the business model for The Spring League.

We spend in the right areas, yet we still enjoy the traditional revenue streams. Now, maybe the rate of return might be a little slower or lower than the bigger leagues, but these bigger entities like AAF and XFL, they’re committed to spending hundreds of millions of dollars, and I’m not so sure there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I see the XFL trying to change some of the rules, which I think is unique and it’s a different approach. I see the Alliance of American Football trying to incorporate technology into what they’re doing, but I think everybody is doing that in some way, shape, or form these days.

But if they continue along the path where they’re utilizing NFL-like venues, and they’re paying players’ salaries, and they’re playing for multiple weeks, and they have teams scattered all over the country, and have team travel costs, and they’re in states where workers comp is not so friendly, I think that’s just the wrong direction and not a course that we would ever take.

I would say the biggest thing for me (is) what is it you’re doing different than the NFL to grab people’s attention? And maybe speeding the game up is not such a bad concept, and I think both those leagues have that in mind. I think that the product that the AAF or the XFL puts out there is still immediately going to be labeled a developmental product. It’s going to be looked upon as, these are the guys (who) can’t make NFL teams.

You’re not good enough for the NFL, so no one’s going to look at the product in similar fashion and therefore how are you going to make it when you’re playing an NFL-like venues?

The hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent on these efforts, I just feel like it’s a hard thing to keep up and running. When does it end? How quickly does the money run out? At the end of the day for us, it’s just about creating something sustainable and then finding unique ways to get a better product out there on the field.

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