The Alliance of American Football is providing the water cooler talk we desperately needed. Television ratings for the spring football league have been impressive, and attendance numbers show that at least 10,000 fans have made it to every game with five of 12 total games cracking the 20,000-fan plateau. The on-field product is slowly improving, and that’s brought some interesting claims about how The Alliance came to be in the first place.
According to Darren Rovell of The Action Network, Robert Vanech is suing Alliance CEO and co-founder Charlie Ebersol over claims that the league was actually his idea. Vanech alleges that a “handshake agreement with Ebersol” was ignored and much of the credit was unfairly given to the league’s co-founder, Bill Polian.
Vanech, the CFO and Head of Revenue at Trebel Music, is suing for a 50 percent ownership of the league he says he’s entitled to. In addition to that lawsuit, Rovell tweeted that the AAF had planned to pay $50 million to purchase assets from WWE and NBC, as well as use the XFL brand originally created by WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon.
In response to Vanech’s claim, The Alliance denied the entire thing and released the following statement:
“Mr. Vanech’s claim is without merit. There was never any agreement, oral or written, between Mr. Vanech and Mr. Ebersol relating to The Alliance. We remain focused solely on our historic, inaugural season when each weekend over 400 players get an opportunity to showcase their talents and fulfill their dreams of playing professional football.”
— The Alliance of American Football
The suit alleges that in February 2017, Vanech first brought the idea to Ebersol. That idea apparently included a football league that utilized a mobile app and real-time player response for its fans, both of which the AAF now has. According to the lawsuit, Ebersol later denied having a business relationship with Vanech, disputed their partnership in a text message exchange, then quit talking to Vanech altogether.
Let’s be honest, the timing of the lawsuit is fishy. Last week, Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon invested $250 million to become chairman of the entire league. Viewership numbers are higher than expected. The AAF is actively recruiting marquee players looking for another shot at professional football. It’s not like this thing suddenly sprung up out of the blue.
If this new football league was officially announced way back on March 20, 2018, why did it take Vanech all this time to stir up legal counsel and seek out a piece of the action? His claims bare an odd resemblance to the Winklevoss twins’ claiming Mark Zuckerberg didn’t really invent Facebook after it became a multi-billion dollar company.
The lawsuit sounds like a whole lot “he said, she said” middle school drama. In reality, The Alliance is in its infancy with a lot of hurdles still to overcome. It’s impossible to separate fact from fiction right now, especially when Vanech’s biggest legal argument is a handshake that apparently sealed the deal in his mind.
If Vanech really did come up with this idea and loses, maybe he’ll take his talents to the XFL prior to the league’s 2020 launch date? Maybe Vince McMahon, whose name has popped up twice in two weeks, has some kind of stake in this outcome, too?
Week 3 AAF Scores
Salt Lake Stallions 23, Arizona Hotshots 15
Orlando Apollos 21, Memphis Express 17
Birmingham Iron 28, Atlanta Legends 12
San Diego Fleet 31, San Antonio Commanders 11