Frenchman Pierre Trochet lighting the Olympic flame for Flag football

By Pirate Irwin

The lessons that a 20-year-old Pierre Trochet learned when a business he started up “crashed” served him well, as within two decades he succeeded in securing Flag football a coveted spot at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

The President of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) — who at 37 is now the youngest head of an Olympic sport federation — told AFP the inclusion in the 2028 Games means the sport has “finished the whole teenager stuff and is now at the university stage”.

Flag football is the non-contact form of gridiron, played by teams of five players.

Trochet, an urbane Frenchman, says he and his team are looking at new opportunities which should open up now they have the brand of being an Olympic sport — a “game changer” in terms of attracting sponsors and finance.

Trochet, who was elected unopposed in 2021, says constantly looking at new ways to develop is made easier due to the federation not being weighed down by history, as it is just 25 years old.

“It is now time for us to look at new opportunities,” he told AFP on Friday on the eve of his 74-member federation’s congress in Paris.

“We have finished the whole teenager stuff, we are Google in the garage trying to set up a start-up for sports. It is university time.”

The former offensive lineman — he had spells with the Amiens Spartans in France and then the Austrian franchise Danube Dragons — knows only too well the pitfalls of going too fast, too soon.

“I was 20 years old and despite my father’s advice I decided to go into tech and not business school,” he said. “I had a tiny company in Burgundy to create a hotspot in every room of a hotel. It was working quite good and I thought ‘hey I am a successful guy, let’s go!’ (But) the company crashes!

“I dealt with everything and people said ‘well that is the cost of your business school’. It was definitely the cost as I had to pay for the losses! But the learning process was very useful as I learned how to manage both business and personal relationships.

“In recent years I have been learning from Roger Goodell (NFL Commissioner) and Brett Gosper (Head of NFL in Europe and United Kingdom).”

– ‘Spring chicken’ –

Trochet — who has drawn on Gosper’s prior experience when as World Rugby CEO he implemented the successful entree of Rugby Sevens into the Olympics — says the successful Olympic bid is invaluable.

One of the results is that the National Football League (NFL) now have a seat on the IFAF board.

“It unlocks a deep motivation from everyone who wants to replicate at a national level what we are doing, building regular competitions growing participation (at the moment there are an estimated 20 million players, male and female, in 100 countries).

“If you light a fire people will feed off it naturally.

“This is what is so enjoyable at the moment, there is a good cycle, a good rhythm.

“It is important not to let any wind blow it out, we have to keep feeding it somehow.”

Trochet’s enthusiasm may seem odd in a sport that has yet to produce a French player to be a role model in the NFL like Tony Parker was in the NBA.

However, as he explains, the city he grew up in, Chateauroux, in central France, was steeped in American culture after World War II.

“It hosted a US Air Force base,” he said. “Chateauroux in the 1950s was immersed in American culture with chewing gum, rock and roll and hamburgers.

“My father Jean-Pierre and my grandfather, Pierre… grew up in this environment.

“American footballers were the gladiators of the modern era.”

His father got the bug so badly he became president of the Chateauroux club and Trochet Junior recalls signing up aged just six.

Thus did his American Football journey begin. “It was worth attaching myself to my father’s leg and staring up at those giants,” he said.

This journey has allowed him to also fulfil his father’s dream of attending an NFL game — the New York Giants’ win over the Green Bay Packers in London last year.

That could be topped come 2028.

“Maybe I will bring him to LA, he will be seventy-something but that is a spring chicken!”