IFAF Paris expels USA Football from American football

The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) faction led by Tommy Wiking, known as IFAF Paris, has decided to ‘withdraw recognition’ of USA Football, the national governing body of American football in the United States. This is the latest political move in the battle for control of international American football since the international federation was split during the 2015 World Championships in Canton, Ohio.

IFAF Paris, through a statement released on their website, claims that USA Football has ‘multiple, continuous and ongoing violations of the IFAF Anti-Doping Code.’

The statement continues outlining how USA Football ‘repeatedly refused to follow the anti-doping rules and that they have received multiple extended deadlines on which they didn’t reply, or refused to comply’ and IFAF Paris ‘had no other choice but to expel USA Football and terminate their IFAF membership.’

According to the statement, USA Football is no longer a member of IFAF (Paris) and therefore does not hold any of the rights that belongs to an IFAF member.

Last September, IFAF Paris suspended six nations for violating IFAF anti-doping rules. The United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Denmark and Finland were all suspended for refusing to submit information related to athletes for the selection of a Registered Testing Pool (RTP).

‘IFAFgate’ Escalates

All this seems reasonable and in order, unless one knows that USA Football has not recognized IFAF Paris leadership, competition control systems, or sketchy statute changes made during the time since the 2015 split. USA Football, along with most of the world’s leading American football nations (among them Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Denmark and many more including the United Kingdom) are members of the IFAF New York faction, who have elected their own leadership structure and are hosting the IFAF Women’s World Championships in Langley, Canada this summer.

IFAF New York has filed a case with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), an international quasi-judicial body established to settle disputes related to sport through arbitration, to hear it’s case on the legitimacy of IFAF Paris. Currently, the CAS is waiting for deadlines to pass before a hearing date is set. As of a March 3rd ‘List of Hearings’ on the CAS website, a date for the tribunal’s hearing has not been set.

It doesn’t quite make sense how the eponymous governing body for American football, with full backing from the globe’s most valuable and influential sports league (NFL) can have their recognition revoked from an international governing body.

Founded in 2002, USA Football is an independent non-profit organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana. As the designated U.S. representative to IFAF, USA Football has assembled the U.S. national teams for international competitions conducted by the IFAF. Except for its national team program, USA Football does not operate leagues or individual teams.

USA Football has a close relationship with the National Football League (NFL). In fact, the organization was founded through an endowment by the NFL and the National Football League Players Association. The NFL is logistically and financially supporting USA Football and IFAF New York’s CAS case.

2017 World Games Implications

This timing of this announcement is not a coincidence.

American football is going to be one of four invitational sports in the 2017 World Games which will take place in Wrocław, Poland, from July 20th to 30th. The World Games, first held in 1981, are an international multi-sport event, meant for sports, or disciplines or events within a sport, that are not contested in the Olympic Games. The World Games are organized and governed by the International World Games Association (IWGA), recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Pending the IFAF New York CAS decision, the IWGA and the IOC recognize Tommy Wiking’s IFAF Paris as international football governing body.

IFAF Paris and the Polish American football federation, the Polski Związek Futbolu Amerykańskiego (PZFA) have stated that four nations will compete in the 2017 World Games this summer. The hosts, Poland, will be joined by the national teams of two IFAF Paris nations, France and Germany. The United States was to round out the field, but with the games fast approaching, no team from USA Football would join the IFAF Paris organized competition.

Enter the U.S. Federation of American Football.

The U.S. Federation of American Football (USFAF) began as the USA Eagles in 2002, an organization that gave post-collegiate playing opportunities for American football athletes. The organization formed travel teams under the U.S. banner but branded as the ‘USA Eagles’. The organization has sent over 500 athletes and coaches to 14 countries playing in more than 35 games in Europe and Mexico. The USFAF has no affiliation with USA Football or the NFL.

Orginally formed in 2009 as a vehicle for their travel team model, the USFAF was restructured in March 2017 in to obtain non-profit status and continue its work as a recognized 501(c)(3) organization. The move meets IFAF Paris’s new membership criteria which were passed in September 2016.

According to their website and Facebook page, the USFAF has been accepting applications for a United States National Team and will release a preliminary 75-man roster for the 2017 World Games on May 15th.

Now, with the revocation of USA Football membership status, the path for USFAF to be recognized as the U.S.’s governing body is clear and the 2017 World Games gets an American national team for their IOC recognized event.

This year, the USFAF is planning on sending representative teams to Poland as well as the first ever Beach Flag Football World Championships in Costa Rica, another IFAF Paris organized event.

AFI has reached out to USFAF multiple time over the past few weeks and received no reply to requests for comment about it’s role with IFAF Paris and the World Games.

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.