Less than 8 months before opening kick-off, disaster has struck the 2015 Stockholm IFAF World Championships
The first clue was that hotel bookings were cancelled due to non-payment. Then the main host stadium, Tele2 Arena, could not confirm it was booked.
Then word began to spread.
IFAF (International Federation of American Football) acting point of contact Roope Nornonen has now confirmed the rumors.
The international American football’s premier event, the 2015 IFAF World Championships, will not be held in Stockholm.
“We became aware of the situation in Sweden a couple of weeks ago and after examining all the facts and conferring with the Swedish federation made the decision yesterday to cancel the event in Sweden. We will look at whether we can move the event to another host country or postpone the world championships for a year or two.”
According to Martin Söderberg, spokesperson for SAFF – the host Swedish American Football Federation – the money is not there for them to organize a tournament of this magnitude:
“This is a sad day for American football in Sweden. We really wanted this to work. We invested SEK 2.7 million ($350,000) with a company called Amfium over the course of the past three years and/or we paid invoices presented to us by that company. We do not know how much money is left in the company. Their task was to raise funds for the world championships and handle all the arrangements. We have been asking for an accounting for at least a year now.”
In a bizarre twist, the current president of Amfium is Tommy Wiking, who up until yesterday was head of IFAF and also SAFF. Amfium was contracted by SAFF to handle all the arrangements for the World championships. Wiking has taken a leave of absence and is unavailable for comment.
“It is unfortunate that this has happened, and even more unfortunate that the gravity of the situation only came to our attention a couple of weeks ago. In the case of events of the magnitude of a world championship tournament, there is always the chance that funding can fall through or not be raised. That is part of the business. Our main task right now is, as I mentioned earlier, to fix the current situation and once that decision has been made to examine what has happened, to prevent it from happening again.”
Amid Controversy, IFAF President Takes Leave
It has also been announced that Wiking has taken a leave of absence from both IFAF and SAFF until the end of January 2015 due to health reasons. IFAF Senior Vice President Mac Kaneuji will act as head of the federation in the interim.
Wiking’s leave may or may not have been brought on by his arrest by Swedish authorities in late August on suspicion of embezzlement. He was held in custody for two weeks and then released while the Swedish crown prosecutor puts together a case against him. That process could take anywhere from a few months to up to a year if it materializes all. According to sources, the case is totally unrelated to the world championships and based on a misunderstanding. At this time, Wiking cannot comment on the case as the investigation is ongoing.
He does say however, that the money SAFF has invested into Amfium has been well invested.
According to SAFF, they have been trying to get some kind of paperwork from Amfium, or at least a written confirmation that plans and arrangements were underway, for the past year. They are still awaiting a copy of the 2013 financial year ends from Amfium.
The story is muddied by the fact that in 2011 SAFF, who owned the shell company Amfium, sold it to a couple of unknown investors, arranged by Wiking. The company had been used to help arrange events such as the Swedish championship games. But according to Söderberg, at this time no one on the current board knows who the buyers were.
Future of the IFAF World Championships?
Eleven of the 12 participating nations and their federations have already qualified and have been preparing for next summer’s championships.
Where does this debacle leave the hundreds of athletes, coaches, and administrators?
As Nornonen mentions, there are two options moving forward. Another host country coming in to save the 2015 World Championships or a complete postponement the World Championships for a year or two.
The fallout from this embarrassing turn of events will surely hurt the reputation of American football within Sweden, and also give Sweden a black eye within the international American football community.
Hopefully this will be short lived and they can continue on a path that was beginning to give American football a very good reputation in Sweden, throughout Europe and around the world.