Football – “American football” in the rest of the world – was born in the USA and, as its name suggests, is a traditional North American sport. So much so that it’s almost non-existent across the pond, any pond – association football (soccer, known as “football” in the rest of the world) dominates pretty much everywhere, from news outlets to sports betting, broadcasts and online streams. This doesn’t mean that there’s no American football in Europe. On the contrary: the sport not only has an international governing body but it also has a Super Bowl-style final.
IFAF Europe is a member of the International Federation of American Football that organizes two major competitions – the European Championship (for male national teams) and the European Junior Championship (for 16 to 19-year-olds). The Federation has 12 full members and almost a dozen associate and allied members.
The European Championship of American football is the highest-tier tournament in Europe that also serves as a qualifier for the IFAF World Cup. It is organized every four years (the next one is expected to happen in 2022). Finland holds the most titles (five of them), and France is the most recent champion.
Clubs and tournaments
The NFL is planning to establish a foothold in Europe with the creation of a franchise in London, UK. It will either be formed by expansion or by relocation. Outside this proposed London-based team, there are quite a few that are independent of the NFL, with some of the most established ones playing in Germany.
German Football League
The German Football League (GFL) was founded in 1979 with rules built around those applicable in the NCAA. The league has a total of 16 teams, divided by location (Northern and Southern divisions) and performance (first-tier and second-tier league).
The GFL season culminates in the German Bowl, the national championship final. So far, the German Bowl is at its 40th edition, with the last game played in 2019 (the 2020 game was suspended for obvious reasons). The Braunschweig-based New Yorker Lions has the most titles – 12 of them – under its belt.
Since 2014, the best clubs in Europe compete in the BIG6 European Football League (BIG6) (before that, it was the final of the European Football League – EFL). This is not a competition for national teams but clubs, much like the NFL. The six best teams in Europe (or better said, the four best, since the 2018 season) compete in a tournament that culminates in the Eurobowl, the trophy game of the BIG6.
Germany’s New Yorker Lions are the team with the most Eurobowl titles – 6 wins since the tournament began in 1986.
The European League of Football
The European League of Football (ELF) is a brand new, professional American football league in Europe, the first since the demise of NFL Europe in 2007. Right now, the league consists of just eight teams from Germany, Spain, and Poland, with plans to extend to 20 teams from all over Europe.
We are at the first ELF season – it started in June and will end in September, with a Championship Game held in Düsseldorf, Germany. Right now, there are six German teams, one Spanish team, and one Polish team competing for the title.
There’s an All-Star game planned for the week after the end of the season, with the best ELF players against the US Men’s National American Football team.