IFAF Europe, Austrian Football Executive Gregor Murth speaks out against positions of Paris IFAF Congress

Dr. Gregor Murth, vice president of the American Football Bund Österreich (AFBÖ) and former vice chairman of IFAF Europe, has weighed in on the recent events in IFAF and IFAF Europe, and what he has to say is a clear departure from the views of many of the nations aligned with the Tommy Wiking led IFAF which had its congress in Paris last Saturday.

Austria is one of the top nations in American football in Europe. The country’s federation is highly respected for its organization and the success of its teams both on a club level and internationally. Four of Austria’s club teams – the Swarco Raiders, Vienna Vikings, Danube Dragons and Graz Giants – are considered to be among the elite teams in Europe.

Austria’s national team has become a contender for the European championship title for many years and lost in 2014 in dramatic fashion to Germany.

Given this background, the recent events in IFAF arising from the Paris Congress led by Tommy Wiking and the formation of a new IFAF Europe based on seemingly questionable voting tactics, has obviously given the Austrian federation and Murth reason to question developments.

Murth is a highly respected member of the football community, not only in Austria and Europe, but around the world. He started with the Vienna Vikings in 1989 at the first youth team of the club. Two years later he took over as club treasurer and has been a permanent part of the club’s board ever since. He played for the Vikings for 15 years and in 2001 was honored as Defensive MVP of the team. Following his playing career he coached the defensive line for Vienna. He is vice president of the American Football Bund Österreich (AFBÖ) and was vice president of IFAF Europe pending his resignation due to extreme statute changes.

His views of the recent events in IFAF and IFAF Europe were presented in a statement issued two days ago:

To whom it may concern,

I am writing this to clarify my personal position on the matters below. As I have a stake in these matters as member of the board of the Austrian Football Federation (AFBÖ) it is sent out by AFBÖ.

As I am sure that a lot of speculation surrounds my non-acceptance of the position as treasurer of IFAF Europe, I want to clarify the reasons behind my decision.

1. I think that a restart of a European federation should not start on the terms of just one of the groups fighting for the leadership in Europe. It was my idea to gather everyone for a European meeting and to vote there for new statutes and a new board. Every decision would have a majority and in the end there would be a compromise acceptable to anyone. But now the statutes are already finalized by the Paris Congress, making this inacceptable for other nations, especially the ones gathering in NY. Any side claiming to speak for a majority should not be shy to have a vote on their proposals. There was no rush to finalize this in one step but doing it wasted the whole effort.

2. The number of federations without leagues has increased a lot lately. The reason behind might have different motives but I do not think that federations without championships should have the same vote as countries participating in EC/WC or Club team competitions. Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Iceland, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are neat places but I have not heard too much about football being played there. Don’t get me wrong, fostering development there is a noble thing that should definitely be done. But if they have no teams some of them may only be set up to create majorities. So for maximum transparency I think federations should be recognized in their country and represent at least two teams playing in some kind of league. Otherwise there will always be mixed emotions after elections/decisions.

3. Kicking out 6 respected federations is very serious. The newly found requirements for anti-doping tests are surprising anyway. When we (AFBÖ) asked for details we did not receive any. Aside from Anti-Doping there are other laws that we have to follow, as personal rights are heavily protected in Austria/Europe. Without more details on the process it is impossible to say if we are able to follow.

4. Not only that federations can be kicked out of the new federation quite easily but in my eyes the new statutes shift the balance of power too much into the direction of the IFAF board. Especially in times when trust is not our biggest asset, I think this a mistake. The trust of all members needs to be earned and not imposed by a board.

5. I think Goran Nisavic did a decent job, trying to hold everything together. Replacing him with someone who is clearly attributable to one side cannot create trust. It just shows what this all is about. Enrique is a great guy but he will have an uphill battle trying to prove that he is not just serving one side. Reading the last mails he circulated are not able to reduce my concerns on this.

Any of the points above alone would probably not disturb me too much. But with all these points together I think the outcome will be too unbalanced to be able to quickly unite Europe and probably the world again.

The hope for regaining a united world federation now depend either on some CAS verdict or a new majority of countries not willing to follow the path of confrontation. Both are unpredictable and highly uncertain.

I will proceed to work with federations on international level but as it stands right now I think that I am not able to identify enough with this „new“ IFAF Europe to be one of its highest officials today.

Thanks

Gregor Murth
Former Vice President IFAF Europe

Whether Gregor Murth’s words will be heeded remains to be seen. The ultimate goal is to reunite the international football community, starting with Europe.

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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