The Polish League of American Football (Polska Liga Futbolu Amerykańskiego) passed a new import restriction rule which drastically cuts down on the number of import players allowed in Poland.
Under the new import rule, each team in Poland’s Topliga, the top division of American football in that country, can now have two imports, or non-Polish players, on the gameday roster and only one on the field at a time. This is a 50% cut in the import ratio from last year. In 2016, each team was allowed four imports on the roster and two on the field at a time.
By contrast, Germany allows six “A” imports, or North American, Japanese and Mexican players, on gameday rosters and two on the field at a time. EU players, or non-German European players are allowed to play as Germans.
In other divisions in Poland, only one import will be allowed on the gameday roster and one on the field at a time.
By import is meant, non-Polish player. In other words, EU players, players from other European nations, are given the same status as North American players.
The reason for the change according to sources, is to achieve parity. The weaker funded teams could not keep pace with the richer three or four teams at the top. And the divide was growing. So all the teams voted for the change.
Also, the development of Polish players was a major concern.
Kuba Glogowski is the club president of the reigning Polish champion Wroclaw Panthers. His team has benefited from the use of import players over the years and has been one of the top three teams in Poland for some time. Nevertheless, he sees the advantages of cutting back on the number of import players:
“The skill level of Polish American football players in Poland is still growing and the new import rule can make another good impact. Looking at our national team we can see that we are really limited when it comes to qbs and rbs and the new import rule will for sure help this trend to change. Our success in 2016 champions league shows that Poland has players that can compete on European level. Now it is time to push them further. We hope that the import rule will make the teams invest in coaching staffs which will be great for the league in our country.
The international situation also suggests that this trend will have a big impact. With the leagues lowering the number of imports all over the continent and the Austrian teams backing out of the BiG6 [major European tournament] due to import rule reasons I hope one day Europe will just have one unified import rule.”
Although this move would seem to create a more equal playing field, it was not met with complete agreement. Grumblings have been heard from players and coaches. They say that import players help develop their Polish teammates on the practice field as well the playing field.
How does this affect the import players who have spent years playing in Poland? Well it looks like they will be looking for jobs in other countries now.
Jabari Harris, former quarterback (2015, 2016) for the Primacol Białystok Lowlanders:
“I believe that the new import rule in Poland is indeed a setback to the league and players overall. My past 2 years, I was able to play in Poland during the rise of the sport and its popularity throughout Europe. In my seasons there, I had the honor of playing with and against great players who had even been dominant in higher leagues as German, Austria, Finland and more.
While I was there, the level of professionalism and player talent increased dramatically. The level of play will drop with 1 import on the field. I don’t understand the logic behind this new rule.”
Whether this is indeed a new trend in Europe and possibly the world remains to be seen. The rules are slightly different in other parts of the world.
In Japan, teams in the X League are allowed four imports on the roster and two on the field at a time. In the Canadian Football League the import rule is completely different. CFL teams have a 46 man roster with a minimum of 21 Canadians (nationals), maximum of 20 imports (internationals) and three quarterbacks of any nationality.
For now though, Poland is opting, it seems, for internal player and coach development. And as Austria has proven, this too can have its benefits.