Poland’s new breakaway American Football Ekstraklasa league kicks off with 20 teams in March 2018

The new American Football Ekstraklasa – EFA – league, with a new logohas made it official and announced that 20 clubs from the Polish League of American Football, PLFA, have split to join the EFA.

The EFA issued a statement that according to the clubs involved, has been a long time coming. Twenty teams in 20 cities have joined to the league which will begin play on March 24, 2018 with the championship final to be held at Wroclaw’s Olympic Stadium. The PLFA has been reduced to 21 clubs.

Jakub Głogowski, General Manager of Wrocław Panthers (Polish Champion, 2016, 2017, runner ups 2014, 2015):

Since the beginning of working on this project we had one objective – to create a league, that would support the development of teams, and that will become an attractive product appealing to the fans and sponsors.

While the issue of a rift between the top clubs in Poland and the PLFA had apparently been simmering for many years, it finally came to a head in the weeks leading up to the game between Poland and Team Switzerland in mid September. The Panthers banned their players from playing for the national team and in retaliation the PLFA then suspended the Panthers.

According to the clubs, the reason was purely and simply for the safety and welfare of the players.

The Polish season finished in late June with the Panthers winning the title for the second year in a row. Then Poland hosted the 2017 World Games which included American football this year and Team Poland played two games, in late July. A number of Panthers players were hurt in that tournament according to the club and issues regarding the care and treatment of these players have apparently not been resolved.

Since then, the situation deteriorated to the extent that not only the top clubs in Poland split to form their own league but a total of 20 teams opted to leave the PLFA and play in the new EFA in 2018.

According to the official press statement:

This initiative came from the teams, in order to push forward the sports development and present an attractive “product”, which will attract more and more supporters to follow American Football in Poland. The project was initiated by five teams:  Panthers Wrocław, Seahawks Gdynia, Lowlanders Białystok, Tychy Falcons and Warsaw Sharks. Together they created a vision, followed by a clear action plan that was presented to other teams. And their reaction? One, big YES!

The Ekstraklasa league will consist of three divisions, which will compete for promotion, and relegation.

Maciej Cetnerowski, President of the Gdynia Seahawks  (Polish Champions, 2014, 2015, runner ups 2016, 2017):

For many years, many teams in Poland have disappeared, or have been forced to downgrade. We are certain, that such situations are to be avoided if the new league will be based on the factual needs and possibilities of the teams. Therefore the key decisions will be made by the League Council consisting of all teams’ representatives.

Of the seven teams that played in the Topliga in 2017, four have joined the EFA, the Wroclaw Panthers, Gdynia Seahawks, Tychy Falcons and Białystok Lowlanders. Two have stayed in the PLFA, the Warsaw Eagles and Husaria Szczecin. The top team in the first division, the Warsaw Sharks has also aligned with the EFA.

Piotr Morko, the President of Białystok Lowlanders:

“We have been waiting for this moment for a really long time, and we believe that together with all the teams we are going to create a new quality in our sport. The sport aspect, close cooperation with Referees Association or intense sponsor search .. that is a lot of work, and we are fully aware of this. However we created this project with the most experienced teams and individuals, so we are more than ready for the challenge.”

So far there has been no public reaction from the PLFA and the official league website makes no mention of the situation. All the logos of the teams forming the new league remain visible. However, in a story announcing the new president of the PLFA, Przemysław Kazaniecki, a graphic depicting 28 teams in the league omits logos of the clubs leading the charge to the EFA.

The next key issue will be the decision by the Polish Ministry of Sports as to which organization will be the recognized as the governing body of American football in Poland.

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