Are blowouts becoming an issue in the European League of Football?

Most football fans would agree that the most entertaining types of games are the ones that come down to the wire.  Games that are decided on a last second field goal or a critical fourth down stop will have fans of the teams involved, as well as neutral fans, on the edge of their seats.  Unfortunately, these types of games have been few and far between in the European League of Football this season, depriving the upstart league of excitement.

After week 4 of the 2023 ELF season, there have been 31 games played.  Only six of these have been decided by one possession, or, in other words, eight points or fewer.  This means that on average, only roughly 1 in 5 games see elements of excitement and unpredictability late into the fourth quarter.  

In week 3, none of the eight games played were decided by one score, and just one of the eight games in week 4 was a one possession game (Stuttgart beat Tirol 6-3).  Of the other seven games that took place in week 4, the next-closest game was a 30-13 victory for Frankfurt over Paris, which is a three-possession difference.  While some games can be close for much of the contest before a team pulls away in the second half, other games have been essentially over only minutes into the first quarter, such as how the Hamburg Sea Devils jumped out to a lightning-fast 20-0 lead over the Berlin Thunder (a game that should have been close on paper).  The Rhein Fire and the Vienna Vikings, the league’s top two teams, have been absolutely destroying their opponents week after week, and it seems somewhat likely that these two will meet in the championship game.

These blowouts tend to leave only the players and fans over the victorious teams satisfied.  The league relies on its streaming service, Game Pass, for viewership and part of its revenue.  But for the average neutral fan watching a game on their computer, how long can they stay invested in a game that is decided so quickly?  If a fan misses the start of the game and tunes in for the second half only to see a margin of 20 or more points, how likely will they be to watch the rest of the game?   The average fan would logically be more likely to recommend the league and its streaming service to friends and family if they knew that a typical game would be competitive and exciting.  The league has grown substantially since its first year in 2021, but constant blowouts only serve to harness this upward growth.

As such, it would seem to be in the best interest of the league to find a way to reduce the number of blowouts that take place any given weekend.  That is why certain sports leagues like the NFL attempt to increase parity using methods such as a salary cap and an entry draft.  There is no official salary cap in the ELF, and it seems as if some teams are able to spend much more on their rosters than others although that may not necessarily be the case.  Still, the addition of an entry draft to the offseason for European and/or North American imports would almost definitely help increase parity, but this does not seem likely or feasible for now.

The league will have to get creative if they want to solve this problem.  Some have criticized the league’s rapid expansion as a source of gross disparity, but the league has always seen expansion as one of its main goals and is looking to add multiple teams in the next two years.  Another possibility could be granting weaker teams more American or European import slots, but this would certainly seem unfair to the league’s best teams who built strong rosters without that advantage.

So, when the 4-0 Rhein Fire host the 0-4 Helvetic Guards this weekend and when the 3-0 Vienna Vikings take on the 0-4 Fehervar Enthroners, do not expect these games to be particularly interesting in the second half.  There are some more promising games on the schedule, such as the Hamburg Sea Devils against the Paris Musketeers and the Munich Ravens against the Stuttgart Surge, but even these could easily be virtually decided before the fourth quarter. 

Hopefully, for the sake of the league and its fans, we will not see another weekend of blowouts for the rest of the regular season.

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.