Austria Opts Out of Big6

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the Big6 tournament will not feature teams from Austria.

The tournament, which normally features the top teams from Germany and Austria along with teams from Switzerland (2014) and France (2015, 2016), apparently will be without Austrian representation. Both the Swarco Raiders and Vienna Vikings, ranked among the top teams in Europe every year, have passed on the tournament for 2017.

For now, the Big6 will feature the defending and two time champion Braunschweig New Yorker Lions along with the Frankfurt Universe and Berlin Rebels, all from Germany, Italy’s Milano Seamen and the Amsterdam Crusaders from Holland. The Swedish champions, the Carlstad Crusaders have been accepted but they are awaiting a decision from the Swedish federation as to whether they will be permitted to participate.

But there is no team, it seems, from Austria.

According to Vienna Vikings club manager Lukas Leitner, the Vikings, who have long supported this tournament and believe in a structure that brings the finest teams in Europe together, will not compete in the Big6 in 2017. One of the reasons he said was that he feels that participating teams should at least have had to appear in their own country’s national final to be considered.

And Vienna was not in 2016.

There is more to this decision however.

He called into question the organization of the tournament.

“Last year we played in Marseille against Aix-en-Provence Argonautes. We put a lot of effort into that game. Actually, we used our bye-week in the AFL to play it. We spent more than 30000€ to travel to Marseille. And one week later we got an email that Aix is not able to play in Braunschweig and that they wanted to drop out of the tournament altogether. Only through big efforts from the tournament management and teams did they stay in the tournament and travel with a small group of players (couldn’t call it a team) to Braunschweig. It was hard to see how unprofessional some teams work on that level. And that is one reason we decided not to participate this year and take a look which way the league develops.”

The import rule for the Big6 was also a key factor in Vienna’s decision to pass on the tournament in 2017 according to Leitner:

“It is time to finally get a dual passport or import rule in the BIG6, which is accepted without reservation for all European clubs.

Swarco Raiders wanted change in import rule

Gerwin Wichmann, general manager of the Swarco Raiders also felt that the import rules for the Big6 were a problem. German teams are allowed five imports on the roster. The Raiders asked that the number of imports for the tournament be restricted to three “Class A” imports. In other words, American, Japanese, Canadian or Mexican players. Or players with at least two years of college playing experience.

“We felt it was an important point as we would have to recruit at least two to three more players simply to play two or three games. This is difficult not just for our budget but also for the team in terms of timing and team chemistry.”

The German teams did not want the import rule changed so Swarco declined to participate in 2017.  In Austrian league play, teams who finished 1-4 this year are only allowed two “Class A” imports on the game day roster and on the field. The teams which finished in spots 5-8 are allowed three on the roster and two on the field at a time.

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.