American Football Stopped Short of Olympic Endzone

The International Federation of American Football’s (IFAF) attempt to have American football become a part of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games has been stopped short of the goal line.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected a bid to add American football in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo when it narrowed it’s list down to eight new sports for possible inclusion.

Football was lumped among a group of 26 provisionally recognized sports, including many most of us have never heard of (wushu, orienteering, bowls, floorball, flying disc and korfball).

According to the committee, new sports to be added to the 2020 Olympics should be popular among young people and “add value to the Games by engaging the Japanese population and new audiences worldwide,” and their selection should be “open and fair.”

Both softball and baseball — which are combined in the nomination list — are hugely popular in Japan, where professional teams are avidly followed. The sports last featured at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Through a statement released on, IFAF’s managing director Andy Fuller said;

Whilst ultimately unsuccessful, the [IOC] process we have been through has a real value to IFAF. As we seek to define our future strategy it gives us a clear understanding of many of the steps we need to take should there be opportunities for Olympic inclusion in the future.

IOC - Tokyo 2020Although specific reasons have not been disclosed, many factors may have hurt American football’s Olympic dreams.

IFAF, American football international governing body, has had it’s own FIFA-esque controversy surrounding its long-time president Tommy Wiking.

Earlier this year IFAF’s premier event, the men’s World Championships, suffered a dangerous setback when it was cancelled in Stockholm and moved to Canton, Ohio.

Wiking, a Swede, was a board member of the local organizing committee when monies for the event mysteriously disappeared and reappeared. Allegedly, Wiking is also under investigation by the Swedish government for embezzlement charges that may or may not be related to the former World Championship.

As IOC recognition and acceptance has been the primary focus of Wiking, today’s decision might be the death knell of his reign atop IFAF.

On top of this many believe that American football hasn’t yet demonstrated strong enough interest from the global sporting community. However, the growth of the sport has been palpable in recent years.

Just this past weekend, over 9,000 fans were in the stands at France’s national championship in Paris and more than 5,000 attended Eurobowl XXIX in Germany. Also, the NFL is investing heavily in enhancing its popularity overseas with it’s NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium in London.

Today, American football is not an Olympic sport, but the future remains bright.

John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.