As sports analytics grow more advanced and wearable devices become more common, discussion continues to build around how much of those rights should belong to athletes versus management and third-party companies. The XFL is tackling this debate by allowing its players to own their performance and biomechanics data.
The spring football league, which plans to relaunch in February 2023, is doing this through a new season-long partnership with BreakAway Data, a sports analytics company.
The rebooting league looks to empower athletes with a different approach to player development by leveraging BreakAway’s various products, such as biomechanics assessments and management systems, which will capture in-game statistics, training and personal fitness data. XFL players will have full access to their performance-related data insights through BreakAway’s mobile app. They will retain and own the rights in perpetuity, regardless of contract status or even if they change leagues, while the XFL will also keep a copy in its in-house scouting database.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been in pro football for a long time,” XFL president and former Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon said. “It’s an innovative way for the athlete to get a 360-degree view of themselves and where they can improve.”
BreakAway, which launched in 2020 as a joint venture with Elysian Park Ventures, will activate its first league-wide partnership on Friday, when the XFL begins its player showcase across six different cities. The Los Angeles-based company aims to create a one-stop shop with its holistic data platform that’s most efficient for players, coaches and scouts.
“XFL players will be able to show up on their first day with [an NFL team, for example] and show how they train and what kind of athlete they are,” BreakAway co-founder Steve Gera said. “It creates an enormous and positive conversation between players and coaches when you get them to lean into it.”
While XFL players will be required to participate with the tech partner, BreakAway says it has no plans as of now to sell its collected data to other companies. For now, the league looks to monitor the data and find ways to elevate the on-field product through tech-infused player development.
“We’re going to continue to learn about what this data can provide to us but at the very beginning, this is just a performance gaining tool for us,” XFL senior vice president of enterprise technology Scott Harniman said.
After the 2020 XFL season was canceled because of COVID-19 and the league filed for bankruptcy, a consortium including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital bought the league for $15 million in August of that same year.
The XFL continues to sign partnership deals ahead of its third launch. It recently reached a multiyear distribution agreement with The Walt Disney Co. to broadcast games, and the XFL also announced a collaboration partnership with the NFL earlier this year.