IFAF World Championships: Deadline Day January 16

All the countries who have qualified to play in the 2015 IFAF World Championships have been given until January 16 to preliminarily confirm that they will participate in the new tournament being held in Canton, Ohio in  July and organized by USA Football, according to the French Federation of American Football (FFFA) website. An IFAF executive confirmed that date but also implied that it is not necessarily the final January date for confirmation.

So far the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico have apparently committed and it is most likely that Australia will also decide that they will play, but many national teams are sitting on the fence, including three major European powers, Germany, Austria and France. Should they ultimately decline it would cause serious damage to IFAF and the future of the world championships.

This year’s World Championships was planned to include a total of 12 countries, up from eight in 2011 when it was held in Austria.

The USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Australia, Germany, Austria, FranceSweden, Morocco, and Panama/Brazil had all qualified to take part. With only five teams now apparently saying they are definitely in, what will happen? Sweden was dropped because they only had qualified as hosts, leaving six teams left to make a decision.

The reasons cited by the other countries are related to the additional costs arising as a result of the cancellation of the original Stockholm World Championships. This late change in scheduling can also wreak havoc on the logistics of supporting a squad of 45 players plus coaches and training/equipment staff. The German, Austrian, and French federations most assuredly had not budgeted for these additional costs and are now scrambling for a solution.

According to IFAF, the World Championships will go ahead as long  as 4-6 teams confirm their participation. Naturally, the number of countries playing in the tournament will affect the length and format of the event.

The costs of traveling to the USA instead of Sweden would be more advantageous for at least four of the teams  – USA, Canada, Mexico and Panama/Brazil. But according to the French federation website, and the AFVD (German federation) website an additional $38,000 per team will be required from the each national federations organizers for accommodation, facilities and ground transportation.  This does not include the additional airfare for participating countries.

Airfare would jump considerably for the European countries, and undoubtedly Morocco as well,  from an estimated $24,000 to about $70,000 which is a substantial hit for players and federations to take. There are a number of other factors which must be considered including arrangement of practice facilities for each team, although Ohio has plenty of fields and facilities, there are still the logistics to take into account at this late stage.

For the French federation, participation in the 2015 World Championships is considered crucial to their interest in hosting the 2017 European championships. There have been signs they plan to participate, particularly with new national team Head Coach Patrick Esume releasing his coaching staff roster. Germany, on the other hand, in its most recent communication on its website from January 2, in addition to its financial concerns, also voices concern about the choice of Canton, Ohio with only 80,000 residents, as the venue for the flagship tournament for international football

Speculation is rife as to who will be in and how the tournament will look. Should Germany pull out, what would the repercussions be for them and for American football in Europe. There is no question that the political landscape of American football, particularly in Europe, has taken a turn. It remains to be seen how hard a turn and how it will affect the growth of the game.

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.