Danish American Football Federation in feud with Triangle Razorbacks over international games

The Triangle Razorbacks, multi Danish title holders, have become embroiled in a feud with DAFF – Danish American Football Federation – over the right to play in international tournaments.

The heart of the matter it seems is IFAF International Federation of American Football – and its own internal strife, which, while awaiting a final ruling from CAS, has grown into a case of muddy waters. In September, CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, delivered a partial verdict in stating that Tommy Wiking did indeed officially resign as president of IFAF in April 2015 and thus invalidated all actions taken by him as president of IFAF since that time. CAS has still not ruled on who the actual president is and which of the two warring bodies commonly known as IFAF Paris and IFAF New York, is the official IFAF.

This has complicated the world of international competition in American football. Loyalties to one or the other side over the past two years are causing turmoil. With no clear body able to sanction tournaments, a free for all has ensued apparently. With federations unsure as to how to deal with it.

Which brings us to DAFF and the Triangle Razorbacks.

In 2017, the Razorbacks, as defending 2016 Danish champions, participated in the CEFL, Central European Football League which involves teams usually from Eastern Europe. However, last season teams from Austria, Denmark and Poland also joined clubs Serbia, Hungary, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ultimately, the Swarco Raiders from Austria defeated the Kragujevac Wild Boars to win the CEFL title.

This year, Triangle finished third in Denmark and when they received the invitation to play again in the CEFL, they were told by DAFF, that they could not since, DAFF said, not all the countries in the CEFL were IFAF countries.

Nicolai Blom, Head of Administration for DAFF,  stated in an email to the Razorbacks dated December 4, the following:

“As I mentioned after the NL / KL meeting in Middelfart, where [Copenhagen] Towers and SGD [Sollerod Gold Diggers] also participated in the conversation, we cannot, with the current international situation, approve that Danish teams participate in international matches/tournaments against non-IFAF members. This was last voted on at the board meeting in November, but nothing has actually changed in the past. If we allow a Danish team to participate in non-IFAF teams/non-IFAF matches, we will be excluded from IFAF – including national team tournaments and club tournaments.”

The Razorbacks after first withdrawing from the tournament on November 18, owing to the situation, then issued a press release on December 5:

The Danish football association DAFF has declined 7-times national champions Triangle Razorbacks participation in the 2018 CEFL tournament, despite granting the same participation in 2017.

Due to the ongoing dispute between IFAF and non-member countries, DAFF claims to face similar bans from IFAF New York, if they approve any team playing teams from non IFAF member countries. According to chief of the DAFF administration Nicolai Blom, the Danish National Teams will face bans from international championships and other teams from the Danish league will be banned from international tournaments.

The ban worries the Razorbacks organization. According to vice chairman Michael Panayotis: It seems like our team and young players are taken hostage in a political dispute. One year ago, we had the same problems, but our federation managed to let us play the CEFL. But now it seems we have gone 2 steps backwards in stead of going forward compared to last year. And thats a great shame, because international games have great value both for team motivation and commercially for our organization.

Our home games are growing in spectators, and this years game against the defending IFAF Champions League winners from 2016 Wroclaw Panthers beat the record attendance for the season. And the experiences we brought home from our away game against SWARCO Raiders really inspired both players and leaders in our organization.

Last year we pledged the idea of having a NEFL and CEFL tournament with both winners meeting for a grand European final, because this would have a great commercial value in the long term. Unfortunately it was not possible to find a suitable date for the final, and this year the cooperation seems impossible.

With the ban of CEFL, IFAF New York and DAFF only run the risk of having more teams turning to the so-called “dark side” of football Europe, creating more momentum for alternative tournaments, and forcing the big European teams to look towards the Tommy Viking organization.

We urge everybody to come to their senses, and start making progress in stead of scaring all potential sponsors and members away from one of the greatest sports on the planet. One of our players just signed with Indianapolis Colts, and NFL and American Football is more popular than ever in Europe. The time really calls for a big, international tournament with teams from all over Europe, to create more talent material for the NFL. And having an international tournament with two conferences: CEFL and NEFL is a good start, if only people start working together.

Nicolai Blom explained in a statement to AFI the difficulties they face until the IFAF situation is fully resolved:

“We understand and share the frustration expressed by the Triangle Razorbacks regarding the international split. We had hoped that the partial CAS ruling could have ended the split, but unfortunately everyone is waiting for the full ruling. It’s a shame that the split is hurting the sport we love. We are trying our very best every day to minimize the effect the split has on our players, coaches, clubs etc., so they won’t be a part in the political dispute.
If there is something we value, then it’s good tournaments both on national team level and club team level. Nothing will please us more than a united IFAF, where we can have good tournaments for both national teams and club teams run by one organization. The present situation with three organizations running international club tournaments is not optimal.

We have informed the CEFL and the Razorbacks that, if there was a spot for a Danish Team in the Tournament, it need to be approved by IFAF in case teams from non IFAF nations were participating. We extraordinary managed to make an agreement in 2017, where IFAF approved Razorbacks, as the Danish Champions, participated in CEFL. If we as an IFAF nation allow Danish teams to play teams from non IFAF nations without the permission from IFAF, we could risk being excluded for IFAF, which would include exclusion from national team and club tournaments. I clarified this in an email to Razorback’s vice president Michael Panayotis on December 4th, 2017.

The Razorbacks asked us mid-November to consider the dates of the CEFL, because they were to participate. Neither the Razorbacks or the CEFL has prior to this made any contact to us. Our rules say that a Danish team must have permission to play teams from other countries under all circumstances. I informed the Razorbacks and the CEFL, that we haven’t approved the participation of Triangle Razorbacks in the CEFL, and that we had some questions regarding the tournament. This led the vice president of the Razorbacks on the 18th of November 2017 to inform us, and the CEFL, that they would withdraw their participation from the tournament

After the Razorbacks withdrew from the tournament, I have asked the CEFL to coordinate with IFAF if there was an open spot in their tournament. I also suggested to both IFAF and CEFL that they joined the two tournaments making three groups with three teams, since both were struggling filling the spots.

We have also informed the CEFL that the team giving the rights to participate would be based on the results of the Danish tournament, just like last year, if it’s an official club team tournament. In 2016 Triangle Razorbacks was given the spot as Champions while the runners up Copenhagen Towers played in the NEFL. This meaning that our 2017 Champions Copenhagen Towers would be given the opportunity to choose between the CEFL and the NEFL. Secondly our runner up Soelleroed Gold Diggers would be given a spot. Triangle Razorbacks ended no. 3 this year, so they are at number 3 for a spot in an international tournament. I have asked both the CEFL and the Razorbacks about the status of the tournament – is it an official club team tournament or is it a set of practice game? Razorbacks think it is an invited exclusive tournament for them only with the same teams as last year. DAFF consider CEFL as an official tournament since there is a championship game Superfinal between the NEFL and the CEFL. The NEFL is IFAF’s official tournament for the National Champions.

On the 26th of November 2017, I had a talk with the president of the Copenhagen Towers, the president of the Soelleroed Gold Diggers and the vice president of the Triangle Razorbacks. The Gold Diggers informed us, that they weren’t interested in playing internationally in 2018. I told the three clubs that the full CAS ruling might loosen up the IFAF split. If the ruling supports IFAF it seems like the neutral European nations would commit to IFAF. If the nations behind the CEFL were all IFAF members, then both the NEFL and CEFL would basically be run by IFAF. This would make things much easier and could open up for a Danish team playing in the CEFL. As I understand the CEFL has decided not to wait for the full CAS ruling and have set the teams for this year’s tournament.

What is an IFAF member?

So it seems we are at an impasse – of sorts. In their defense, DAFF is being left without much support from IFAF as to which countries, or teams, exactly are considered IFAF members. If it means a member in good standing, what is that?

The question is, how do you distinguish an IFAF member from a non-IFAF member?

The answer to that question would solve many problems.

Meanwhile, team and league planning, including booking of fields, buses, flights and hotels, suffers as everyone awaits a verdict.

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