Shake-up to inaugural ELF line-up announced; 3 new franchises enter, 2 exit

With less than three months before a planned kick-off date of June 20, the nascent European League of Football (ELF) has been shaken up.

On Monday, three brand-new ELF teams were announced via a press release from the league office. This news, combined with the sudden exit of two franchises that planned to participate in the league’s inaugural season, solidifies the eight team 2021 season line-up.

Two of the three new franchises will be re-instituted teams of the former NFL Europe, the Berlin Thunder and the Cologne Centurions. These teams follow suit with the Hamburg Sea Devils and Frankfurt Galaxy, announced in early March, as the shadow of NFL Europe legacy continues to influence the new league.

“After we were able to reach an agreement with the National Football League and reach an agreement on the use of the team names, the way was paved for Thunder. We are proud to have Berlin as the location of our league from the very beginning,” says Zeljko Karajica, CEO of the European League of Football as well as managing partner of SEH Sports & Entertainment Holding.

The third new addition will be a wholly original team, the Leipzig Kings.

For league commissioner Patrick Esume, the Thunder and Centurions bring back memories of his own time in NFL Europe. “When I was on the line with the Sea Devils, we had some thrilling duels. Berlin and Cologne are cities with a long-lasting football history and, of course, with target groups of fans who have waited 14 years for this moment – and additionally I also see a great potential with Leipzig as a new franchise location.”

The participation of the Centurions and the Kings also fulfills two goals from the new league’s administration: “It is no secret that we had Cologne and Leipzig on our list right at the beginning of the planning. We have worked intensively on this over the past weeks, held trusting talks and are very happy to be able to present the Centurions and the Kings in the European League of Football,” says Karajica.

Gone before taking a snap

On the flip side, teams Hannover and Ingolstadt will not be taking part in 2021 season.

Paired with the release about the new teams, the league office stated that the German Knights 1367 Niedersachen and the Ingolstadt Praetorians will not be part of the opening iteration of the new league as originally planned. Cologne Centurions and the Leipzig Kings will move into the 2021 line-up instead.

A statement from the German Knights 1367 Niedersachsen (Hannover) reads, “SEH Sport BeteiligungsGmbH, Hamburg, and American Sport Sale and Management GmbH, Hildesheim, are discontinuing their negotiations on the conclusion of a (bilateral) franchise agreement for a professional American football league in Europe. This means that the European League of Football starting in June 2021 will take place without the German Knights franchise from Hanover. Both companies express their appreciation and regret the failure of the negotiations. No further statements will be made on the reasons.”

A similar statement from the Ingolstadt Praetorians reads: “The European League of Football season starting in June 2021 will take place without the Ingolstadt Praetorians. SEH Sport Beteiligungs-GmbH, Hamburg, and IN-Herofactory Sportainment GmbH, Ingolstadt, were unable to reach an agreement for the planned playing season. This means that the negotiations on the participation of a team from Ingolstadt have failed. Both parties regret this, but would like to clearly emphasize that the Ingolstadt location is important for American football and the European League of Football and that talks for the 2022 season will be resumed at a later date.”

Line-up fixed

The line-up of the new league with eight teams from three nations is now fixed.

The addition of franchises in Berlin, the Rhine-Ruhr (Germany’s most dense and populous region) and Saxony to the recently revived NFL Europe fan favorites Hamburg Sea Devils and Frankfurt Galaxy make for a strong line-up. These five teams are joined by the Stuttgart Scorpions, the Wrocław Panthers (Poland) and the Barcelona Gladiators (Spain).

Esume is already looking forward to the start of the first season in the European League of Football in June. “The expectation is huge. With Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Stuttgart, Leipzig, Barcelona and Wroclaw, we have a very attractive field of participants. I expect all teams to play at a high level and expect exciting duels at eye level,” the Commissioner looks ahead. Football fans in the stadiums, but also at home in front of their screens, will be able to see this for themselves.

With Pro Sieben MAXX, the European League of Football has a strong TV partner at its side: 13 games will be broadcasted live, including of course the Bowl on 26 September, when the first champion will be determined. Further games and highlights can be seen in the stream at

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.