World's Football Still Appeals to XFL Executive

Billy Hicks helped launch the World League of American Football in Europe before serving as general manager of the Dallas Burn for its first four seasons. He left MLS last year to become vice president of administration for the XFL and lives with his wife, Paula, near the league office in Stamford, Conn.

SOCCER AMERICA: Can you describe your duties with the XFL?

BILLY HICKS: The way we've structured the league here, as you're aware, we own all the teams. It's really a pure form of single entity with a very simple ownership structure of one-half WWF-E and one-half NBC.

There is a president, Basil DeVito, and two vice presidents - myself and Mike Keller. Mike is in charge of football operations ... I end up with the business side reporting to me - legal, human resources, finance, administration and operations. The eight team general managers report to me as well.

SA: It sounds like a handful ...

BH: It's been a great year. Probably as much fun as you can have working around the clock. We're surrounded by great people and it's a very entertaining project, but as you can imagine, it's all work and a lot to accomplish in a short period of time.

SA: Can you talk about some of the similar challenges the XFL and MLS share?

BH: Whether it's football or soccer or lacrosse - a lot of the things are very similar in nature. You're creating a sports league from scratch. You've got to have the people to accomplish your mission. The greatest business plan in the world will fail if you don't have the people to fulfill it.

SA: Any ideas that MLS could borrow from the XFL?

BH: Seven referees on the field. (Laughs) In a lot of ways, we're similar, but in a lot of ways we're not. We are certainly more streamlined. We don't have investor-operators that create another level of bureaucracy, if you will. And then we launched [the XFL] with a great television package.

It's interesting though, because part of our package is prime-time network Saturday night - the intensive and almost vitriolic nature of the national media's focus on the fact that we're currently averaging below a 4 rating.

To put it in perspective, we rated a 2.6 last Saturday and I read an article in a Dallas paper that when the [NHL's] Stars won the Stanley Cup on a Saturday night, they rated a 2.3.

Obviously, if we rated a 2.5 anytime, anywhere in Major League Soccer, we would be somersaulting.

SA: Well, I know some people around MLS miss you and are asking about you ...

BH: I miss it. Believe it or not, I spent last Sunday, I think it was, watching Mexico-Brazil in Spanish. I was clicking around and ended up watching the entire game. I realized you can take me back to American football, but the world's football is still very appealing to me.

Interview by Soccer America associate editor Will Kuhns

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