IFAF Congress Fallout Ripples Around the Globe

The power struggles within the governing body for American football internationally – the International Federation of American Football – have exploded into an all out war, as confusion erupted when two separate Congresses seem to have been held in Canton last weekend during the IFAF World Championship. An attempted coup d’etat staged last Friday, against the backdrop of the organization’s premier event, was the latest of the troubles that could well mark the demise of IFAF.

With Tommy Wiking and Robert Huber at the forefront, a large number of member countries walked out of the IFAF Congress room before the start of the meeting, balking at the fact the former (or current depending on who you talk to) President – Wiking – was not reserved a seat at the head table.

This breakout group, consisting of 22 delegates from an unconfirmed number of nations, (the number of countries represented has been disputed) then held their own Congress in which they voted unanimously to oust Vice President Roope Noronen and Treasurer Scott Hallenbeck and elect  Wiking as President and Huber as Vice President. This Congress also elected Makato Kaneuji as Senior Vice President, which seems unusual given the fact that he was sitting at the head table of the meeting of which they had departed. A full recounting of these events was published last Saturday.

Since then claims and counter claims have been flying back and forth. Statements have appeared on the Irish and German federation sites supporting the claims of Wiking and Huber, while IFAF itself has continued to conduct business as usual. Meetings have been held ostensibly to bring the parties back together but to no avail. There has been no further communication between the groups since Sunday and the rhetoric continues to fly.

Original IFAF Congress (top) Wiking-Huber Congress (bottom)

Original IFAF Congress (top) Wiking-Huber Congress (bottom)

Among these statements, are claims made by Huber, who as President of the German federation (AFVD), questions the acceptance of USA Football as the representative of the United States in IFAF. It is the contention of the AFVD that USA Football as an organization is a revenue-generating company not a national federation, and should not be part of IFAF.

Huber has also submitted testimony by an French auditor who has questioned the authority under which IFAF’s 2014 financial statements have been reviewed.

Cillian Smith, of the Irish American Football Association (IAFA), issued a recounting of the events and stated in part as follows; describing the original IFAF Congress meeting as IFAF Austin:

“What happened on the day is that the IFAF-Austin group refused to allow the meeting to proceed in line with IFAF Statutes and the official Agenda circulated in advance…  The meeting room was booked in the name of USA Football, not IFAF. It was very clear that Scott Hallenbeck was not going to cooperate and as his organisation controlled the room booking, the Congress had no option but to switch to an alternative venue within the Congress hotel.”

Smith continues addressing the roll and tally of nations they were in attendance at the original IFAF Congress and the Congress that was convened by the walk-out group, stating that the walk-out group was the majority of the nations in attendance and had enough members to have a quorum, the minimum number of members to make the proceedings valid.

All of this raises a number of questions which to date have not been answered.

If the walk-out group had a majority as they claim (all the numbers given here are in dispute), why then would they leave the meeting before it had even started? With a majority, the walk-out group could have had their way in Congress.

It has also been made known to AFI, that the legal woes of Tommy Wiking in Sweden were not communicated to the many of the delegates at any point in time. Wiking is currently under investigation for two possible counts of embezzlement of funds in Sweden. Had the delegates who left the meeting known of the circumstance of their President, would they have voted as they did?

Furthermore, why did IFAF not inform delegates prior to the Congress of the possible conflicts that could arise? The claim that Wiking had resigned is difficult to support since no actual letter of resignation was received. He had promised to resign via email correspondence, but ultimately changed his mind. IFAF, in their haste, accepted his resignation when in fact there was no official written resignation submitted.

Many coaches, athletes, and fans have reached out to share their insights and opinions on this matter. Notably, there has been talk at the club and federation level in many countries to withhold payment from IFAF until there is a full accounting and report on all the events that has transpired thus far.

American Football International is attempting to unravel this mess and explain these circumstance to our readers. Over the next two weeks we will be releasing a series of articles recounting the events from the cancellation of the IFAF World Championships through the present day and attempting to provide answers for the questions asked above.

At this time it seems that a rift between the countries in Europe has grown to engulf the rest of the world. These two sides have to find a way to come back together.

However, until common ground can be found, IFAF as we know it may not continue to exist and these warring bodies may bring about the demise of the only international governing body for American football and set the development and growth of the game back many years.

John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.