Can you have American football without the USA?

In May, the international governing body of football kicked out the United States’ federation.

No, we’re not talking about FIFA and U.S. Soccer. That’s right — USA Football was kicked out of the American football federation.

Well, one of them. The international federation of American football is called IFAF (International Federation of American Football). But we now have two of them.

Here’s how it breaks down:

IFAF.org (The news site American Football International calls it “IFAF New York,” though it stills claims to be headquartered in France):

  • Insists USA Football is still recognized.
  • Claims recognition by the USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee).
  • Has partnerships with the NFL, NCAA and national association of high schools.
  • Recently organized a Women’s World Championship, which the USA won 41-16 over Canada.
  • Claims 71 countries.
  • Will have a Congress in Canada this summer.
  • Has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, though who knows when the case will be heard. Not soon.

IFAF.info (AFI calls it “IFAF Paris”):

  • Withdrew recognition of USA Football due to “multiple, continuous and ongoing violations of the IFAF Anti-Doping Code.” They claim USA Football did not respond to multiple warnings.
  • Recognized United States Federation of American Football (USFAF) as a provisional member in time to put a team (barely) together for the World Games.
  • Is itself recognized by the International World Games Association and, by extension if not by outright decree, the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  • Organized the World Games competition, where it was technically an “invitational sport” and not part of the main program, in which France beat Germany for gold. The hastily assembled U.S. team lost to Germany, then beat Poland for bronze on two TD passes from Dustin Hawke-Willingham, a former Arkansas and NCAA Division II QB who has played several years in Europe, to Tyrell Blanks and Mario Brown.
  • Claims 103 members.
  • Announced a distribution deal with the Olympic Channel.
  • Is organizing a Beach Flag Football World Championships, which is a little disconcerting to us Robert Edwards fans.
  • Will hold a General Meeting in September in Paris.

AFI has some background:

  • A lot of people would’ve been in a lot of trouble if a U.S. team had not materialized at the World Games.
  • The organization split in 2015, with two factions in the same hotel holding separate elections, each claiming legitimacy.
  • The two factions made no discernible effort to reconcile, and the British and Finnish federations stated quite clearly in early 2016 that they did not recognize the Paris group.
  • In September, the Paris and New York groups held their own meetings and elected their own officers. (There’s an American in each.)

USA Football doesn’t do much in terms of press releases, at least not on its site. I also couldn’t find any comment on Twitter.

But the IOC will sort it all out in September.

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One thought on “Can you have American football without the USA?

  1. Just a couple of points:

    First, there is only IFAF which is domiciliated near Paris as an incorporated association under French law. What is disputed is who the rightful formal leadership of said association is. From a legal perspective it should be straigtforward to ask and, in case of a dispute, to challenge the formal leadership at the district court in Paris. As such a challenge is potentially very costly and could take up a long time through the instances with an uncertain outcome it seems a legal challenge at the district court has not been raised by the “IFAF NY” leadership group. Its also important to bear in mind that the French federation FFFA is a prominent member of the “IFAF Paris” leadership group, which makes challenging IFAF leadership at a Paris district court a tough case to begin with.

    Second, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) appears to recognize the “IFAF Paris” leadership group and the suspensions of IFAF federations by the “IFAF Paris” leadership group seem to be based on alleged violations of WADA protocols. What makes this super tricky is that the respective National Anti Doping Agencies (also National Olympic Committees) appear to be continuing to work with these federations without any (visible) repercussions from the suspensions handed out by the “IFAF Paris” leadership – including participation in “IFAF NY” leadership approved international competitions.

    Finally, your last sentence hinting at IOC to sort it out in September is kind of intriguing for everyone that currently suffers from the prolonged schisma among IFAF nations. At this point I no longer care who wins the dispute at the end but for the split to end before the next round of World Championships in 2018. A situation like this year would be absolutely disastrous.

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