EFAF to enter new decade of success

Category: EFAF - published 2010-03-03 by EFAF

A very successful decade for European American Football has just ended, and - even more important - prospects for the years ahead seem to be even more promising. German-native Sebastian Vollmer became the first non-kicking player drafted to the NFL after starting playing football in an European club institution. And not only did Vollmer make an impressive debut with the New England Patriots, but already there a lot of players in his footsteps. More Europeans than ever earned college scholarships in recent years, so a few more Vollmers could be seen in the near future. The top European-based youth programs after 30 years of distinctive developmental work finally can compete at least with the average U.S. high school in terms of building up talent pool.

Of course this is just one indication for the progress made (however one of great importance for young athletes) - but at least equally impressive are figures that show the development of the competitions within Europe. When the (then-new) EFAF (the European Federation) Board of Directors decided to focus action on expanding these competitions, there were 10 teams from only 6 nations competing for Eurobowl 2001. For the season just ahead 47 clubs from 23 nations will be involved. Not only the number of clubs is close to five times the one of 2001 but above all the goal to spread American Football and EFAF competitions around the whole continent has certainly been accomplished. This originates in the increasing number of young players starting football earlier than ever before thanks of the work done by national federations. This is also supported by the increasing EFAF development budget which for instance allows to hold clinics for the coaches in the new territories where football has spread.

The broad positioning across Europe is accompanied by progress at the top as well: When the next European champion for national teams (EC 2010) will be determined this summer, six nations will be able to compete in the final tournament for the first time. And the stage for crowning the champion will be more adequate than ever as Frankfurt's Commerzbank Arena, long-time home for Frankfurt Galaxy from the NFL Europe, continues its American Football tradition in a close partnership with EFAF.

Beyond that, the next highlight for European American Football is already in preparation: Austria will host IFAF's fourth World Cup for national teams in 2011, a fitting reward for this country's development in the last decade. Like no other nation the Austrians have embraced EFAF's offer to fuel local development by making use of the expanded variety of international competition. Six Eurobowl trophies won by Austrian teams, the advance into the elite six national teams for EC 2010 and the successful bid for hosting the World Cup have tremendously boosted the appreciation the sports of American Football receives within Austria. No other EFAF member federation is that close to challenge soccer as top discipline attention-wise in its country than the AFBÖ (the Austrian Federation).

Where there is light, there is shadow - especially when the task is such a magnificent as promoting a relatively new and cost-intensive sports on a continent widely addicted to soccer for more than a century. Whenever some national federations and with them EFAF and the sports of American Football as a whole blossom, elsewhere some problems seem to be too difficult to overcome.

EFAF may as it has recently been successfully proven assist national federations in case of problems where financial problems unfolded and have been resolved with the help of concessions or administrative assistance of the whole European American Football community. However, it is better to avoid those problems beforehand. Of course this is no easy task as most federations operate on comparatively small budget. So the blueprint for leading an American Football federation in Europe to success may not be derived out of financial resources which may (but possibly may not) be generated somewhere in the future. Even the well-funded NFL Europe failed with that approach.

A look at the federations in good standing as of now reveals that nearly all of them share one thing in common: Austria's collection of European titles and presence on national TV, Germany's attendance figures and admittance into the biggest stadiums of the country, Spain's logistic efforts to be back-to-back hosts of European Junior Championships, Switzerland's history of fielding teams in all competitions year after year, all these and a lot of other accomplishments are the result of hard work and continuous efforts. They were acquired step by step and this was made possible only because of a long-time continuity in the organizational ranks of these federations. Wherever such continuity has been disrupted, it most often took more than just a few months to get back on track - sometimes it was a matter of years, which were lost for American Football in the respective countries.

Ten years ago EFAF was in a similar state: The European Championships had to be postponed, Junior European Championships were operated by NFL Europe, depending on financial decisions outside of Europe on a year-to-year basis, while the top clubs of the continent preferred to play only nationally and turn a cold-shoulder to Europe. Step by step all these issues have been addressed, and EFAF by now is ready to enter a new decade of success for American Football in Europe.

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