The New Era of American Football in Europe – World in Sport
May 22, 2023 8:58 am
The European League of (American) Football enters its third season with 17 teams in 9 countries.
In 2005 the NFL decided to end NFL Europe, during 15 seasons American football was played in Europe at the highest level. ABC and Sky Sports were the main television coverage of the league around the world. The league had 9 teams in 4 countries, five of them located in Germany where the sports interest has been growing for the last 30 years and nowadays we have two NFL matches being played in Germany.
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Back in 2020, Patrick Esume a German NFL analyst created what we know as ELF(European League of Football). The league started with 8 teams in 3 countries: Belin Thunder, Hamburg Sea Devils, Leipzig Kings, Stuttgart Surge, Cologne Centurions and Frankfurt Galaxy in Germany, Barcelona Dragons in Spain and Wroclaw Panthers in Poland. The first year of the League was a success with over 1500 people attending each match and 22.000 people attending the final between the Sea Devils against the Galaxy. 14 players were invited to attend the NFL International Combine in London and two of them were selected at the IPPP(International Player Pathway Program), 7 players were signed or drafted to the CFL and 5 players made it to the USFL.
The second season didn’t let down, four more teams joined the league: Rhein Fire, Istambul Rams, Tirol Raiders and Vienna Vikings. This last team ended up winning the championship in Klagenfurt in front of almost 15.000 people. The average league attendance also improved by 77.5% in comparison with 2020. 13 players were invited to the International Combine in London, 5 signed with CFL teams, 2 with USFL teams and one went to the XFL.
On June 3rd the 2023 ELF season takes part with 17 teams all over Europe, with six new additions (Istambul Rams are not playing this season): Paris, Milano, Fehervar, Munich, Prague and Zurich(Helvetic). 3 conferences Eastern(6 teams), Central (6) and Western(5). Each team with 12 matches and two bye weeks the regular season will end the first week of September. The leaders of each conference and the best second will qualify for the playoffs and the final will be held at Duisburg’s SV stadium with a capacity for more than 30.000 people with over half the tickets already sold.
At the pre-season party, commissioner Patrick Esume announced the 18th team for the 2024 season, Madrid. The Spanish capital and sixth biggest city in Europe will have its own ELF team. With still loads of information to announce, Madrid has a lot of American football talent with two teams of the capital leading the Spanish American football league. Madrid will join Barcelona in the league and the matchup is going to be really beautiful as the football and basketball match are already. Not only Madrid was the main news of the party, but an ELF fantasy game app was also shown. Last but not least a Panini Sticker collection was also announced but we still need the release date for both.
There is hope that more new teams will join the league and there are rumours of cities such as London or Amsterdam, even a team in Finland or Sweden two of the most important American Football countries in Europe. The new season has a lot of hype with the Vienna Vikings defending the title and with Rhein Fire and the Paris Musketeers as projected winners, but the ball never lies and the start of the league is just around the corner.