Saturday October 28 marked a dramatic turning point in the history of American Football in Poland.
Two separate, monumental meetings were held. One was in Warsaw, where the Polish Federation of American Football (PLFA) held its congress. Until now, the PLFA has been the governing body of American football in Poland.
The other meeting was in Wroclaw, where more than 20 teams gathered, led by current PLFA Topliga Champions, the Wroclaw Panthers. The clubs met to discuss plans for the founding of a new independent league, the Ekstraklasa of American Football, as well as plans for the formation of a new Polish Federation and senior and U-19 national teams.
The genesis of the conflict
The meetings and the secession from the PLFA by the key clubs in Poland, is the latest chapter in conflict between the PLFA Commissioner Jedrzej Steszewski and top Polish teams, which has been growing for years . The main accusation leveled by the clubs was the lack of league and federation transparency. In other words, there was no system of checks and balances.
Despite contributing heavily to the PLFA’s budget by the annual membership fees, clubs had very little influence on the executive process. The other glaring issue was the poor communication between the coaching staffs of the Polish National Team and the clubs. Several questions about the public financing of the Polish National Team Program arose after the Polish Parliamentary Sports Committee hearing in October 2016.
The issue of the Polish National Team’s participation in the Wroclaw World Games was the key factor.
In September, several Panthers players had been selected for a friendly game against Switzerland. The Panthers issued a statement stating that their players would not participate due to injuries and rehabilitation. In response, the Federation suspended the Panthers. That decision escalated the conflict and as a result, other teams of the Topliga , including the Seahawks Gdynia, Lowlanders Bialystok, Tychy Falcons and the PLFA I Champion Warsaw Sharks have decided to leave the PLFA and work together on the alternative.
Warsaw hosts a historic assembly
Meanwhile in Warsaw, the Polish American Football Federation held its general assembly meeting. It was a historic moment as the first ever election took place. Przemysław Kazaniecki, former president of Husaria Szczecin has been selected as the new President along with a nine member board.
Also, the Secretary General of IFAF Paris, Zorica Hofman was present in Warsaw.
On Friday October 27, another important step was taken as the Warsaw-ed group applied to the Polish Ministry of Sports to become the officially recognized governing body.
Panthers lead the charge
In Wroclaw, the Panthers introduced the concept of the new league, the Ekstraklasa of American Football, an 18 team, three-division, independent organization.
The Panthers-led group plans to apply to the Ministry of Sports for recognition as American football’s governing body in Poland. Another interesting feature of the new project, is the one city one team rule, which is aimed at replicating the success of the Wroclaw Devils – Giants merger . The EFA group also intends to start a junior l and development 8 men football leagues . The initiative has the support from the municipal and regional administration as well as Tarczynski S.A., the Panthers Wroclaw strategic sponsor.
The kick-off weekend is scheduled on March 25-26 and the final will be hosted at the Olympic Stadium in mid July.
November 6th is the deadline for teams that are interested in playing in the 2018 season. According to Panthers president Michal Latos Panthers, the EFA’s main objective is the development of football in Poland .
The events of the past weekend will have profound consequences for the football community in Poland. Several teams across the country face a dilemma. Do they stay within the PLFA or join the EFA.
Another key issue will be the decision of the Polish Ministry of Sports as to which is the recognized governing body of American football in Poland.
As we await the latest developments one thing is clear. The upcoming offseason will unquestionably be the most interesting one in the history of the sport in Poland.
On October 30, the Warsaw-based Polish Federation of American Football-PZFA issued a statement on its Facebook page claiming that the newly formed Sports Federation the Polish Federation of American Football is the Polish member of IFAF .