Germany, Austria Stay Home

A couple of bombshells were released today by Europe’s top two American football federations.

Citing financial difficulties as a result of the cancellation of the World Championships in Stockholm and the relocation of the IFAF‘s premier event to Canton, Ohio, the two top qualifying American football nations in EuropeGermany and Austria – have decided to pull out of the 2015 IFAF World Championships.

According the the head coach of the Austrian national team, Jakob Dieplinger, the reason is simple:

Jakob Dieplinger

Team Austria Head Coach Jakob Dieplinger

“We rely on government funding and sponsors and in this short space of time we cannot find a way to raise enough funds to to finance our participation. This is a huge disappointment for the team as anyone can imagine, and no country wanted to compete in the event more than Austria, but it seems impossible.”

Since IFAF officially cancelled the Stockholm World Championships on December 19 and announced that USA Football would hold the event in Canton, teams have been scrambling to determine if it was feasible for them to participate.

John Leijten is head coach of Team Australia and also coaches the Dresden Monarchs of the German Football League:

Australia, Germany coach John Leijten

John Leijten – Team Australia Head Coach

“It is disappointing to hear that the top two European teams won’t be at the World Championships. At the last WC’s Australia had games against these countries that we where looking to improve on. It will be interesting to see if Germany and Austria will be replaced by two other European countries.”

 Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems

The problem, as the federations of Germany, Austria and France all point out, is that the $38,000 in additional participation costs plus the incremental airfare for teams traveling with 60 people, make the $120,000 price tag for teams in Europe prohibitive.

Despite this France has decided to remain in. The French are bidding to host the 2016 Junior World Championships and it would behest them to participate this summer.

In a statement on their website, the American Football Verband Deutschland – AFVD – was disappointed that IFAF has asserted the tournament take place in 2015. The Germans had recommended that the World Championships be postponed until 2016 or 2017 to make it easier to organize and allow time for financing to be arranged.

The European champion Germans state that pulling out of the tournament is not what they wanted to happen, but according to the statement, the event will go ahead regardless of a ‘dilution of quality’.

In the statement, Germany also questions USA Football’s choice of location, Canton, Ohio, a small to mid-size market with only 80,000 residents. They appear to dispute Canton’s ability to facilitate the participating nations, as apparently no fields, facilities, or accommodations have been booked .

Regarding the Stockholm games, they state a financial penalty should be levied on the the original host country (Sweden) as it is stated very clearly in the IFAF bylaws, for canceling an event. This fine would help defray the additional costs which other countries now have to shoulder.

Ultimately, Germany sums up its stance this way:

The International Federation of American Football has had three full years to organize the World Championships properly.  This is an obligation they have not met. Now they want to place the burden on the backs of the participants. At some point, a national association must then ensure the protection of the integrity of their own competitions and place the priorities of their own national leagues higher than an impractical vision of a World Championship which may, or may not be held, somewhere. ”

Another important factor is that the German government will only aid in financing non-Olympic sports if they hold a world championship event involving at least 20 teams. Qualification games do not count into this total. This statute obviously leaves American football out of the equation.

New & Old Questions

So, where does IFAF go from here? There is still a long road ahead for USA Football and IFAF to pull this off.

How many nations will be in Canton this summer? It looks like we won’t know the answer to that question until early February.

What does this mean for Austria and Germany? The questioning from Germany about this decision makes it obvious that there is an enormous rift in the politics of American football in Europe.

And can American football’s founding nation – the USA – find a way to bridge the gap and bring the world together again?

The world will be watching!

Comment below to let us know your thoughts!

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.