European League of Football

The European League of Football (ELF) is a professional[1] American football league. The league (as of the 2023 season) consists of 17 teams located in Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and France, with plans to expand to 24 teams in 2024.[2] The new league was officially created in November 2020, and kicked off on 19 June 2021.[3]

European League of Football
Upcoming season or competition:
Current sports event 2024 European League of Football season
SportAmerican football
Founded4 November 2020; 3 years ago (2020-11-04)
First season2021
Owner(s)SEH Sports & Entertainment Holding, Patrick Esume
CEOŽeljko Karajica
CommissionerPatrick Esume
No. of teams17
CountriesAustria
Germany
Poland
Spain
Czech Republic
France
Hungary
Italy
Switzerland
HeadquartersHamburg, Germany
ContinentEurope
Most recent
champion(s)
Rhein Fire
(1st title)
Most titlesFrankfurt Galaxy
Vienna Vikings
Rhein Fire
(1 each)
TV partner(s)
Official websiteeuropeanleague.football

History edit

The European League of Football was announced November 4, 2020 by Patrick Esume, former American Football coach and TV commentator, and sports manager Zeljko Karajica. Since 2018, Esume had criticized the American Football Association of Germany (AFVD) for not using the fan potential in Germany, and tried to set up a professionalized structure for American football in Germany and Europe.

The announcement of the league was met with skepticism from AFVD and the German Football League (GFL). AFVD president Robert Huber, said, "...we have experience over the last forty years in running leagues in Germany and in Europe and we have a pretty good insight into what the teams are capable of". However, Esume firmly believes that this league will succeed because "American football is experiencing a boom in Germany".[4]

The first two new franchises to reveal their identity were the Ingolstadt Praetorians and Hanover-based team German Knights 1367, in early December 2020.[5][6] They were followed by the Spanish team Gladiators Football, who also revealed they will play their games out of Costa Daurada, and will be coached by long-time CFL coach Adam Rita.[7][8]

In March 2021, the league announced an agreement with the NFL to be able to use the names of former NFL Europe teams. On the same day, it was announced the franchises in Hamburg and Frankfurt would use the previous names of Hamburg Sea Devils and Frankfurt Galaxy.[9] The Sea Devils also introduced their new head coach, Ted Daisher, former special teams coach for multiple NFL teams.[10] It was then announced that the franchises in Ingolstadt and Hannover were not ready to launch in 2021; they were replaced with two new teams in Leipzig and Cologne. The franchises in Cologne, Berlin, and Barcelona would also take on the names from their NFL Europe counterparts.[11]

2021 season edit

On the June 19, 2021 at 6 p.m. the first kickoff of the ELF took place in Wroclaw. The host Panthers defeated the Cologne Centurions with 55–39. Frankfurt Galaxy won the South Division with only one defeat and defeated division rival Cologne Centurions in the semi-finals. The North Division won the Hamburg Sea Devils, who prevailed in the semi-finals against the division opponent Panthers Wrocław. On the 26th In September 2021, the first final of the ELF took place in front of 22,000 spectators in the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Düsseldorf. In a close game, Frankfurt Galaxy prevailed against Hamburg Sea Devils with 32–30. A week later, an all-star game took place between the ELF all-stars and a US selection.

In June 2021, the league announced a partnership agreement with the Brazilian Football Federation, Brasil Futebol Americano, that will see exchange opportunities for selected players, coaches and officials, as well as the possibility of organizing a match between the ELF and BFA champions in the future.[12]

In July 2021, the league announced its inaugural All-Star Game, which was held one week after the end of the season, on October 3 (German Unity Day), at Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark in Berlin. It will feature a selection of the best players from the ELF, playing against the United States men's national American football team.[13] Similar to the rules for rosters of individual teams, the all-star team was limited to a maximum of four Americans, only two of whom can be on the field at any given time.

2022 season edit

In September 2021, the first indications of new teams for the second season became known. 12 to 16 teams were announced for the 2022 season. On September 12, 2021, the Vienna Vikings from the Austrian Football League announced their interest in joining the ELF in a press conference. The Austrian rival Raiders Tirol also confirmed entry into the league the day before the first ELF final. On the same day, Rhein Fire from Düsseldorf was presented, taking over another name from the NFL Europe. On October 15, 2021 the league welcomed the Istanbul Rams, finalising the field of twelve teams for the 2022 season was completed.

In the 2022 season, the two Austrian expansion teams, Vienna Vikings and Raiders Tirol, were immediately among the strongest teams in the league. The Vikings won the Central Conference with 10 victories and 2 defeats, the Raiders Tirol qualified with 8–4 as the best conference second for the play-offs. Surprisingly the Barcelona Dragons won the Southern Conference with 8–4. Hamburg Sea Devils were the best team of the regular season and won the Northern Conference. After a 39–12 in the semi-final against the Dragons, the Vienna Vikings also won the Championship Game 2022 against the Sea Devils with 27–15.

2023 season edit

Three expansion teams for the 2023 season were already announced prior to the 2022 season: Milano Seamen from the Italian Football League, Hungarian team Fehérvár Enthroners from the Austrian Football League Division 1, and the newly founded Helvetic Guards. In addition, on August 3, 2022 Munich and in September 2022 Paris and Prague were introduced as new franchises. On December 16, 2022 the Istanbul Rams withdrew from the league. The 2023 season thus started with 17 teams from nine countries. During the regular season, Leipzig Kings had to withdraw on July 10, 2023.

On the first weekend of the 2023 season, Rhein Fire set a new attendance record for the regular season in the Germany derby against Frankfurt Galaxy with 12665 spectators. The record was broken in the second week by the Hamburg Sea Devils, who played a game for the first time in Volksparkstadion (capacity 57,000). 32,500 spectators came to the game against Rhein Fire. The regular season was dominated by Rhein Fire in the Western Conference and the Vienna Vikings in the Eastern Conference. Stuttgart Surge was able to secure the Central Conference under the new head coach Jordan Neuman. Frankfurt Galaxy, Panthers Wroclaw and, for the first time, Berlin Thunder, qualified for the playoffs. In the Wild Card Round, which was held for the first time, Frankfurt against Berlin and Stuttgart against Wroclaw used the home advantage. Rhein Fire also prevailed against Frankfurt Galaxy in the semi-finals in its own stadium. Opponent in the final was Stuttgart Surge, who were able to teach the Vienna Vikings the first home defeat in the ELF with the 40–33. Rhein Fire won the final.

2024 season edit

In the run-up to the 2023 season, Madrid was announced as expansion city. 17 teams will start in the 2024 season, with the championship game played in the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen on September 22, 2024.

Goals edit

The ELF has said it hopes to bring back the excitement around American football that existed in the era of NFL Europe. Unlike NFL Europe, whose team rosters consisted of mostly American players, there will be restrictions to the number of international players allowed on rosters. There will be a bigger focus given to homegrown players, with the goal to develop the best of these players into NFL prospects. One way they plan on doing this is by creating an "ELF Academy". While ELF franchises will not have "youth teams", CEO Zeljko Karajica says that the academy will "...give players the opportunity to make the next step", which would be the skills to succeed in the ELF and compete for a spot on an NFL team.

Rules edit

The ELF plays with modified NFL rules, except for overtime, where it uses college football's rules. Unlike most European sports leagues, (including European American football leagues) a game that is still tied at the end of regulation during the regular season goes to overtime. However, no overtime was actually played in the inaugural 2021 season as all games had a winner after regulation. During the regular season of the inaugural 2021 season, the ELF did not have instant replay or other forms of replay review in gridiron football (such as the coach's challenge); however, this feature was introduced for the 2021 ELF Bowl as well as for the upcoming season.

On 30 November 2021, the official Twitter account of the European League of Football announced a new kickoff rule. The new rule sees the kicking team's players, except the kicker, line up on its opponent's 35-yard line, while the receiving team's players, except the returner, line up on their own 30-yard line. Both teams are only allowed to move when the ball has either been touched by the returner or three seconds after the ball has touched the ground. This rule is nearly identical to the kickoff rule used by the 2020 iteration of the XFL. Only the requirement, that the ball must be kicked between the receiving team's 20-yard line and endzone, is, at this time, not a part of the rule. The main cited reason for the rule change is player safety.[14]

Officiating edit

Officiating in the ELF is comparable to the NFL. Head of officiation since the first season in 2021 is former German Football League official Kurt Paulus. In this role, he is in charge of training and organizing the officiating crews for individual game days. Furthermore, the head of officiating and its deputies are consulting the commissioner and Competition Committee for rule changes and new rules.[15]

Officiating crews consist of seven on-field officials who stay together for a season. During a game, they are connected via intercom and English-language on-field dialogue. In the 2022 season, the referees came from 16 different European countries. With the exception of the GFL and its governing body, referees officiating in the ELF are allowed to participate in national leagues during the ELF offseason.[15] Officials in the ELF do not wear numbers on their jerseys.

Salary edit

Rosters consist of a maximum of 53 players, plus another 12 on the practice squad as of 2023. Because homegrown players are one of the main focus points of the league, there are limitations on the number of foreigners. Each roster can only have a maximum of four U.S., Canadian, Mexican, or Japanese players (A-players), and a maximum of ten other foreign players for the 2021 season,[3] which was then reduced to eight players for the 2022 season and six players for the 2023 season.[16][17] However, the Bosman ruling prevents discrimination against EU citizens on EU-based sports teams and leagues. Brazilian players did not count towards the import quota due to the league's partnership with Liga BFA in the 2021 season.[12]

The league has a salary cap for all franchises which is divided into three salary groups for its players. Up to eight players—including the four A-import spots—are paid a full-time salary. For American import players, a franchise can pay a salary that can range from €600 (around $700) to €3,000 ($3,500) per month.[18] The second tier consists of additional four transitional players (international or homegrown) with a part-time salary. Every other member of the roster is in the homegrown salary group with marginal employment and a monthly income ranging from €100 to €450. All players under contract receive health insurance and participate in state pension insurance. Further benefits such as housing and meals during the season have to be negotiated individually.[19]

Teams edit

Locations of teams competing in the 2024 ELF season.
  •   Western Conference
  •   Central Conference
  •   Eastern Conference

The European League of Football has 17 teams in three conferences across 9 countries: 7 in Germany, 2 each in Austria, and Spain, and 1 each in Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Switzerland.[20] The ELF began with 8 teams in its inaugural season in 2021. This included the Wroclaw Panthers from the Polish American Football League, and seven new franchises: the Berlin Thunder, Cologne Centurions, Frankfurt Galaxy, Hamburg Sea Devils, Leipzig Kings and Stuttgart Surge in Germany, and Barcelona Dragons in Spain. The goal of the league is to expand to at least 24 teams from 10 countries in the future. As early as 2021, Austria, France, and England were identified as markets interested in expansion franchises, and the London Warriors in particular expressed an interest in joining the league.[21]

The Vienna Vikings and Raiders Tirol from the Austrian Football League, and the Istanbul Rams from the Turkish Gridiron Football First League joined in the 2022 season, though the Rams dropped out after the season's conclusion.[22] A reformed Rhein Fire inspired by the historical team from NFL Europe also joined during the 2022 season after much speculation and anticipation from fans throughout the previous season.[23][24][25] Though a feud with the Italian Football League initially precluded an Italian expansion franchise, an eventual agreement allowed the Milano Seamen to join in the 2023 season,[26] which also saw the Fehérvár Enthroners from the Hungarian Football League and Prague Lions from the Czech League of American Football join, along with three new franchises: the Helvetic Guards from Switzerland, Munich Ravens from Germany,[27] and Paris Musketeers from France. The Kings were suspended amid the 2023 season, while the Madrid Bravos will join in 2024.

Current teams edit

Team City Stadium(s) Capacity Joined Head coach
Western Conference
Cologne Centurions   Cologne/Aachen New Tivoli[A]
Südstadion
31.026
11,748
2021   Gregg Brandon
Frankfurt Galaxy   Frankfurt/Offenbach am Main PSD Bank Arena
Stadion am Bieberer Berg[B]
12,542
20,500
2021   Thomas Kösling
Hamburg Sea Devils   Hamburg/Bremen/Hanover Weserstadion[C]
Volksparkstadion[D]
Niedersachsenstadion[E]
Stadion Hoheluft[F]
42,100
57,000
49,200
11,000
2021   Matt Johnson
Paris Musketeers   Paris Stade Jean Bouin 20,000 2023   Marc Mattioli
Rhein Fire   Düsseldorf/Duisburg Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena 31,514 2022   Jim Tomsula
Madrid Bravos   Madrid TBD 2024   Rip Scherer
Central Conference
Barcelona Dragons   Barcelona/Terrassa Estadi Olímpic de Terrassa 11,500 2021   David Shelton
Helvetic Guards   Zürich/Wil Lidl Arena Wil 6,000 2023   Norm Chow
Milano Seamen   Milan Velodromo Vigorelli 7,500 2023   Jim Ward
Munich Ravens   Munich Sportpark Unterhaching
Max-Morlock-Stadion[G]
15,053
50,000
2023   Kendral Ellison
Raiders Tirol   Innsbruck Tivoli Stadion Tirol 16,008 2022   Jim Herrmann
Stuttgart Surge   Stuttgart Gazi-Stadion auf der Waldau 11,410 2021   Jordan Neuman
Eastern Conference
Berlin Thunder   Berlin Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark 19,708 2021   Johnny Schmuck
Fehérvár Enthroners   Székesfehérvár First Field 3,500 2023   Joseph Ashfield
Panthers Wrocław   Wrocław Wrocław Olympic Stadium
Stadion Wrocław[H]
11,000
45,105
2021   Dave Christensen
Prague Lions   Prague eFotbal Arena 5,037 2023   Dan Disch
Vienna Vikings   Vienna Generali Arena Vienna 17,500 2022   Chris Calaycay
  1. ^ Four home games in 2024
  2. ^ First home game of the 2024 season
  3. ^ First home game of the 2024 season
  4. ^ One home game in 2024
  5. ^ Two home games in 2024
  6. ^ One home game in 2024
  7. ^ One home game
  8. ^ First home game of the 2024 season

Former teams edit

Former teams in the European League of Football
Team City Joined Final season Fate
Istanbul Rams   Istanbul 2022 2022 On hiatus for 2023; will return to the Turkish league[22]
Leipzig Kings   Leipzig 2021 2023 The license to participate in the European League of Football was "withdrawn" amid the 2023 season after failing to meet the league financial obligations. The team will be on hiatus until new local owners will be found.[28]

Champions edit

Champions in the European League of Football
Team Titles Runners-up Year(s) won Year(s) runner-up
Rhein Fire 1 0 2023
Vienna Vikings 1 0 2022
Frankfurt Galaxy 1 0 2021
Hamburg Sea Devils 0 2 2021, 2022
Stuttgart Surge 0 1 2023

Championship Games edit

Key

Teams in bold are winning teams of the Championship Game

Overview of European League of Football Championship Games
No. Year Team 1 Team 2 Venue City Attendance MVP
I[29] 2021 Hamburg Sea Devils 30 Frankfurt Galaxy 32 Merkur Spiel-Arena   Düsseldorf, Germany 22,000[30]   Jakeb Sullivan (QB, Frankfurt Galaxy)
II 2022 Hamburg Sea Devils 15 Vienna Vikings 27 Wörthersee Stadion   Klagenfurt, Austria 14,566[31]   Kimi Linnainmaa (WR, Vienna Vikings)
III 2023 Rhein Fire 53 Stuttgart Surge 34 Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena   Duisburg, Germany 31,500   Jadrian Clark (QB, Rhein Fire)
IV 2024 Veltins-Arena   Gelsenkirchen, Germany

ELF All Star Game edit

Key

Teams in bold are winning teams of the All Star Game

Overview of European League of Football All-Star Games
Year Home Away Venue City Attendance
2021[32][33] ELF All Stars 26 US Federation All Stars 8 Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark   Berlin, Germany N/A

Broadcasting edit

For the inaugural season, the league signed a deal to have 13 games, including the playoffs and championship game, broadcast live in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on ProSieben Maxx, with all other games streamed live on ran.de and More Than Sports TV.[34][35] The number of games available on TV increased in 2023, with 30 games shown live on ProSieben channels, including the Championship Game on their primary channel.[36]

All games are also available worldwide, on the league's website, service originally provided by British company StreamAMG, and, from 2023, by Endeavor Streaming.[37][38]

References edit

  1. ^ "CFL or ELF, GFL? Top International players split on their pro football future". American Football International. 11 May 2022. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  2. ^ "ELF Erweiterung 2023: Drei Franchises stehen fest". 14 May 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Neues Hamburger Footballteam spielt im Stadion Hoheluft" (in German). Hamburger Abendblatt. 17 February 2021. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  4. ^ "A nation divided: Germany's football leaders react to the European League of Football". American Football International. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  5. ^ European League of Football [@elf_official] (3 December 2020). "New YouTube video live now! Check it out. Portrait of our first Franchise" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  6. ^ "German Knights 1367 Niedersachsen sind das ELF Team in Hannover / Hildesheim" (in German). 10 December 2020. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  7. ^ "Gladiators from Spain newest addition to the European League of Football". 11 January 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  8. ^ Barcelona Dragons [@Gladiators_ELF] (14 February 2021). "ADAM RITA is our new HEAD COACH!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  9. ^ "Football-Comeback des Jahres: Hamburg Sea Devils und Frankfurt Galaxy starten in der ELF". ran.de (in German). 9 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Ex-NFL-Trainer Ted Daisher wird Head Coach bei Hamburg Sea Devils". ran.de (in German). 12 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  11. ^ "Shake-up to inaugural ELF line-up announced; 3 new franchises enter, 2 exit". americanfootballinternational.com. 22 March 2021. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  12. ^ a b "ELF announces partnership agreement with Brazilian American Football".
  13. ^ "European League of Football All-Star Game". 13 July 2021.
  14. ^ "ELF official tweet". Twitter. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Foot Bowl – Die Webshow #6 mit Malte Scholz und Kurt Paulus". YouTube (in German). Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  16. ^ "Instagram Post – Leipzig Kings". Leipzig Kings official Instagram. 22 December 2021. Archived from the original on 5 January 2022. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  17. ^ "This is the European League of Football!".
  18. ^ "European League Updates". Archived from the original on 6 July 2021. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  19. ^ "Transparent #6". YouTube (in German). Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  20. ^ "European League of Football announces 2023 conferences". europeanleague.football. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  21. ^ "European League of Football – Q&A". youtube.com. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Istanbul Rams will not compete in the European League of Football in 2023". European League of Football. 15 December 2022.
  23. ^ "Hoffnung auf die Rückkehr von Rhein Fire" (in German). 14 May 2021.
  24. ^ "New Franchise Announced: Düsseldorf Rhein Fire". 25 September 2021.
  25. ^ "Dream-Stadium: The MERKUR SPIEL-ARENA And Its Rich History". 22 September 2021.
  26. ^ "Opinion: ELF expansion – the impact of the departure of the Milano Seamen from Italian Football League". 24 May 2022.
  27. ^ "Munich, Germany becomes latest city to join the European League of Football". 3 August 2022.
  28. ^ "Official statement of the European League of Football on the Leipzig Kings 2023". European League of Football.
  29. ^ "European League of Football Championship Game". ticketmaster. ELF. Archived from the original on 30 April 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  30. ^ "ELF Championship Game scoring summary" (PDF). europeanleague.football. ELF. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  31. ^ "Scoring Summary (Final) European League of Football Vienna Vikings vs Hamburg Sea Devils (Sep 25, 2022 at Klagenfurt)" (PDF). 25 September 2022.
  32. ^ "The European League of Football All-Stars win over the US Federation National Team".
  33. ^ Abbott, JC (5 October 2021). "ELF All-Stars down hodge-podge US Federation team in defensive affair". americanfootballinternational.com.
  34. ^ "European League of Football ab Juni 2021 live auf ProSieben MAXX und ran.de" (in German). ran.de. 7 February 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  35. ^ "European League of Football on More Than Sports TV". europeanleague.football. 10 June 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  36. ^ "Top moments of the ELF 2023 Season Kick-Off Press Conference". americanfootballinternational.com. 20 May 2023. Retrieved 22 May 2023.
  37. ^ "It's official! With our new partner @streamamg you will never miss a game again!". facebook.com. 4 May 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  38. ^ "European League of Football partners with Endeavor Streaming to power next-generation streaming service". europeanleague.football. 22 May 2023. Retrieved 22 May 2023.

External links edit