The attempt to further globalize American football has suffered a blow.
FOX Sports has learned that the International Federation of American Football’s initial application for recognition by the International Olympic Committee was declined.
IOC officials will meet with IFAF representatives within the next 45 days to discuss how the group can strengthen its application for future consideration.
“American football’s burgeoning international athlete participation and appeal continues to propel the game on an exciting upward path,” an IFAF spokesman told FOX Sports in a statement. “IFAF and the world’s American football family have great reason to remain inspired and energized by our ongoing dialogue with IOC leadership.”
IOC approval would have provided a significant boost in promoting the game and procuring additional funding from countries with sports ministries that financially support athletes in Olympic sports. There are currently 64 countries on six continents that are sanctioned IFAF members for men’s and women’s teams.
Carl Peterson, who is chairman of the USA Football youth governing body, said the lack of IOC recognition is the biggest obstacle in growing the sport globally.
“Most of the other (Olympic) sports are getting international exposure,” Peterson recently told FOX Sports. “Organizations like IFAF in Europe are doing a good job developing teams in their countries.
“Football is becoming a world sport. It’s just going to take longer than the NBA as well as the NHL.”
The NFL has made inroads internationally. There were 10 foreign-born players chosen in the 2013 draft. That includes five selections in the first two rounds: Detroit defensive end Ziggy Ansah (Ghana), Cincinnati defensive end Margus Hunt (Estonia), Indianapolis outside linebacker Bjoern Werner (Germany), Oakland tackle Menelik Watson (England) and Carolina defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (Tonga).
The NFL is trying to further its reach internationally by supporting USA Football and IFAF youth initiatives as well as holding regular-season games in London for the first time in 2013. The Buffalo Bills also now play one regular-season game annually in Toronto.
NFL Vice President of International Chris Parsons told FOX Sports that IOC recognition “would help significantly” toward increasing growth. Parsons said the NFL helps fund some IFAF programs that “encourage participation” in the sport.
“You would see more and more leagues and that would generate incremental interest. … It wouldn’t open the floodgates per se but the argument would be a lot stronger as far as federations applying for local funding.”
Football was played as a demonstration Olympic sport during the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Even football’s most ardent supporters acknowledge the chances of the sport ever being played at the Olympics in the traditional 11-on-11 format is extremely slim for a variety of reasons. However, a seven-on-seven version of the game a la what has happened with rugby would have a better chance at gaining approval.