This is the first article in a series recounting the events that have led to the current International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Congress controversy and impasse.
In this installment we take a look back at the events that took place leading up to the cancellation of the 2015 IFAF World Championship in Sweden.
Back in December, Sweden’s top American football site, swedishfootballnetwork.se, put together a timeline of what is believed to have occurred over the life, and eventual demise, of the 2015 Stockholm IFAF World Championship.
What had been whispered and become a poorly kept secret the prior weeks, was made official on Friday, December 19th, 2014 when it was confirmed that the 2015 IFAF World Championship would not be held in Stockholm as planned.
The cancellation was triggered by two facts:
- There were insufficient sponsors for the 2015 Stockholm WCs. The SAFF board claimed they had no knowledge of lack of sponsorship until the fall of 2014 and had been kept in the dark regarding such matters.
- December 31st, 2014 was the last day SAFF could cancel the booking of Tele2 Arena in Stockholm without penalty.
This triggered anger, disappointment, and shock among American football lovers around the world. This is an attempt to get to the bottom of why events that would have been a huge boost for the sport went so horribly wrong.
SAFF Board Meeting Minutes
An important source of information describing the processes behind the 2015 World Championships is of course the minutes of the SAFF’s – Swedish American Football Federation – pertinent board meetings.
From this we can draw a picture of what we consider to be the background for the failure of the attempt to organize the 2015 World Championships.
In addition to the excerpts, we have included bullet points that add context to the timeline.
The timeline surrounding the 2015 World Championship (referenced as WC.)
- September 18th, 2010 – SAFF is at work on the application for the WC.
- December 3rd, 2010 – SAFF submits official application to host the 2015 WC.
- August 17th, 2011 – Michael Roos (SAFF Board member) reports contacting a company, American Football World Wide Ltd. (AFWW), to engage them so as not to expose SAFF to financial risk in the event that the WC is a loss. Contact with IFAF concerning a contract signing is mentioned on the same occasion.
- September 23rd, 2011 – The framework of the agreement with AFWW approved by the Board of SAFF.
- September 29th, 2012 – Markus Magnell hired as president of the WC’s AFWW organization.
- October to December 2012 – Markus Magnell now working 50% as CEO.
- December 8th, 2012 – Decision taken to move WC organizer responsibilities for Swedish finals 2013-15 from SAFF to AFWW.
This is a critical point because AFWW, or Amfium, effectively now controls the fate of the 2015 IFAF World Championship, without oversight from SAFF or, arguably more importantly, IFAF. It is worth noting that Tommy Wiking is at this point the President of both SAFF and IFAF.
- January 1st, 2013 – December 31st, 2013 – Markus Magnell will work 100% as CEO.
- In April 2013, Tommy Wiking announces that funds have not been delivered as agreed, to explain why Magnell has not received full compensation for his work. Magnell terminates his contract as CEO in September 2013 with three months notice.
- In the summer of 2013, Andreas Ekman begins to work with the WC.
- May 11th & 27th, 2014 – Tommy Wiking suggests that Mikael Gustafsson and Hans Ragnesjö review the contract with the ‘WC Company’ to see if there is a need for change.
- August 24th, 2014 – All tournament tickets for the 2015 WC are released.
- Wiking was arrested in September on suspicion of embezzlement from his employer (Coop) and was absent for the Swedish Superleague championship game. Wiking was still SAFF President, but on sick leave. Per Swedish law, you cannot be fired while on sick leave.
- Also in early September, Minette Rogner replaces Wiking as acting President. Rogner would later replace Wiking officially as President at the SAFF annual meeting on March 21st, 2015.
- The SAFF board has stated it was “during the summer of 2014” when they started asking questions about the WC.
- September 27th, 2014 – Michael Roos informs the other SAFF members how the work of the 2015 WC is progressing.
- It is known that a delegation representing the spiraling Amfium, once it was no longer under the control of SAFF, met in New York with representatives of the NFL in the fall of 2014 to solicit outside funding to solve the financial issues that were crippling its ability to host the games. The NFL chose not to offer financial assistance.
- November 4th, 2014 – Hans Ragnesjö suggests that Tommy Wiking, Minette Rogner and Hans Ragnesjö sign off jointly on all future payments from SAFF to ‘WC Company.’ (Reg No. 802013-4428).
- It was a decision by SAFF and it’s members to help fund 2015 WC, in exchange for not taking the risk as hosts, and to gain a share of any profit from the WC. SAFF gets funds from clubs, sponsors, fees, government. It is likely most of the money came from the member clubs.
- As early as spring 2014, there was speculation that the SAFF funds were the only money supporting the WC. This may be when Wiking tried to source alternative funds and was arrested.
- It is also alleged that without the knowledge of SAFF or IFAF, Tommy Wiking attempted to sell ownership of the 2015 IFAF World Championship to third parties in the United States and Hong Kong at the tail end of 2015 for the token sum of $1 US. Such a move would have left those potential buyers liable for all losses incurred by the event’s cancellation and ultimately with financial responsibility for staging the event.
- December 6th, 2014 – SAFF, in the form of Mikael Gustafsson, informs SAFF’s member associations at a meeting that the 2015 World Championships are at risk, and gives background as to why the situation is as it is.
- December 19th, 2014 – The World Championships in Stockholm are officially canceled/moved.
There is clearly a great deal to reflect upon.
The company ‘Amfium’ mentioned widely in the media is the same company that the SAFF board refers to as ‘WC Company’.
This company is never mentioned in any minutes from SAFF board meetings, but consistently refers to AFWW as its partner, presumably because SAFF transferred responsibility of the IFAF WC to Amfium.
As early as April 2013, Markus Magnell was unable to obtain his contractual remuneration for work as president of this company. This should have been a stark warning that something was not right in the financing of the 2015 IFAF World Championship.
Despite this, the minutes of the board meetings contain no information pertaining to the danger, which again suggests that they were unaware of the mounting crippling issues facing AFWW/Amfium.
The fact that tickets were released for the WC in August 2014 indicates that, at that time, it was still considered likely that the 2015 World Championship would take place as planned.
It is unclear if SAFF knew that Wiking was under investigation for embezzlement and fraud for stealing money from a non-profit anti monarchy movement for which he was the treasurer.
What is clear is that Tommy Wiking, who the breakaway IFAF group has hailed as its President while citing transparency and ethical standards, allegedly faces two charges relating to financial irregularities in his native Sweden and still held the position of SAFF President and IFAF President when the future of the WC was entrusted to AFWW/Amfium.
Look for more on this soon.