IFAF Leadership Struggle: Who Is Running IFAF?

With a struggle atop the IFAF Presidium, the only loser is American football

On April 30th IFAF –  the International Federation of American Football – announced that President Tommy Wiking had resigned after being on a leave of absence for just under four and a half months.

In a bizarre turn of events, the very next day Wiking issued his own statement claiming that he hasn’t resigned and that the IFAF Congress would have to make a decision in July as to whether he could stay or go.

On Thursday, April 30th this IFAF Statement appeared on the www.ifaf.org.

ifaf article - first

The next day, Friday May 1st, the above article had been removed and in its place was a statement by Wiking who had managed to wrest control of the page from the rest of the IFAF executive.

Wiking rejects the resignation claim stating that a ‘coup d’etat’ was attempted by the minority leadership of the Executive Board.

ifaf article - second

Hours later, in another bizarre twist, both statements were removed from the ifaf.org site.

However, Wiking’s statement remains on the IFAF Facebook page as of the date of this writing.

IFAF Facebook

Who is at the helm?

This resignation, then withdrawal of resignation, is more than a little bit strange. It appears as if there is a struggle not only for power but also for posting rights on the IFAF website.

More importantly, has Wiking resigned? A ‘coup d’etat’? With the 2015 World Championships two months away, who is at the helm of American football’s international governing body?

All of this controversy was set in motion shortly after the cancellation of the tournament in Sweden, and subsequent leave of absence of Tommy Wiking.

There was an IFAF meeting during the international bowl week that took place in Arlington, Texas between January 29th – February 7th where decisions were made that set international American football on this course.

According to correspondence that has come to the attention of AFI, in early February Wiking was asked by the IFAF Executive Board to extend his leave of absence and confirm his intention to resign the Presidency.

Note: The IFAF Executive Board is made up of President Tommy Wiking, Senior Vice President Makato Kaneuji, Vice President Roope Noronen, Treasurer Scott Hallenbeck, and Secretary Elesa Zehndorfer (who resigned her post in February) plus representatives from every continent as well as athlete representatives.


Tommy Wiking, IFAF President

Three days later Wiking replied to the Executive Board, agreeing to their request and confirming his leave of absence extension until April 30th and his ‘intention to resign’ on that date.

Wiking did offer one recommendation to the Executive Board. He said that he, along with IFAF Vice President Roope Noronen and IFAF Treasurer Scott Hallenbeck, should attend the SportAccord Convention in Sochi, Russia from April 22-23. The SportAccord is the umbrella organization for all (Olympic and non-Olympic) international sports federations as well as organizers of multi-sports games and sport-related international associations.

Wiking stated that he intended to hand over the network of contacts he had built and developed during IFAF’s pursuit of International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognition, to Noronen and Hallenbeck. He would ‘assist with the introductions and transition’ of his relationships with the SportAccord leadership, ARISF (Association of Recognized IOC Sports Federations) and IOC, and explain his April 30th resignation in person.

Three days after Wiking’s reply, these points, with clarified effective dates, were then acknowledged by the Executive Board.

Effective dates were set for Wiking’s resignation as of April 30th. Wiking’s leave of absence is confirmed extended through April 30th. It was also confirmed that Wiking would not act for or on behalf of IFAF while on leave of absence, but he would attend the SportAccord Convention with two IFAF representatives, Noronen and Hallenbeck.

It was agreed by all that these details would not be published or shared. The ‘details regarding the transition’ are undefined and to be determined.

Change of Plans

One week ago, on April 30th, Wiking sent a letter to the Executive Board stating that ‘due to recent meetings and strong recommendations from top IOC officials’ that he was not resigning and ‘instead continuing as president of IFAF.’

Wiking states that he met with Marius Vizer, the SportAccord President, member of the Tokyo 2020 IOC Coordination Commission, and President of the International Judo Federation as well as Sheikh Al-Sabah, President of the Asian Olympic Committee, IOC member and President of the ANOC (Association of National Olympic Committees). Wiking states that IFAF has been in talks with Al-Sabah for inclusion of the federation in the Asian Games.

According to Wiking, both Vizer and Al-Sabah ‘were very clear and repeatedly gave the message’ that Wiking’s resignation would be unwise and harm IFAF’s IOC recognition approval, endanger IFAF’s participation at the Asian Games, and hinder any attempt by IFAF to be included in the Olympic Games.

Vizier has made his own headlines lately, particularly after launching an astonishing personal attack on IOC president Thomas Bach in his SportAccord opening address last week. These attacks stem from a recent spat with IOC members and the resignation of some key federations from SportAccord in protest.

Wiking claims that both Vizer and Sheikh Al-Sabah strongly suggested Wiking stay on until the end of his term and ensure recognition approval at the IOC session that will be held concurrently with the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic games. The implication was that without Wiking, IFAF could basically kiss their chances for IOC recognition goodbye.

IFAF has been aiming for recognition and participation in the Tokyo 2020 games. Chances for participation were admittedly slim, and any controversy surrounding the federation, its leadership, and the disastrous cancellation and move of its premier event surely would not be looked upon favorably by IOC members.

Wiking was re-elected as IFAF President in 2012 and his term was to last four years which means through 2016. Currently, the Presidency is not on the agenda for the IFAF Congress that will be held among the current members nations in Canton, Ohio on July 17th, the day before the World Championship final.

Delegates in attendance may submit a motion of no confidence in Mr. Wiking. As the supreme authority of IFAF, the IFAF Congress may bring to the docket a motion to remove and replace Wiking.

Wiking’s claim is that his early removal from office will mortally endanger the work IFAF has done towards international Olympic recognition. He says that a decade’s worth of work progress will be lost, and set the global American football community back, as a whole.

Note: Wiking chose not to stand for re-election as president of the Swedish American Football FederationSAFF – in recent elections that were held his place was taken by Minette Rogner.

Wiking states he will continue his leave of absence from the IFAF Presidency until the end of May.

The IFAF Executive Board will be releasing a statement addressing the situation shortly.

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.