European League of Football
Most recent season or competition:
2022 European League of Football season
ELF-Logo-WhiteOutline.svg
SportAmerican football
Founded4 November 2020; 2 years ago (2020-11-04)
Inaugural season2021
Owner(s)SEH Sports & Entertainment Holding, Patrick Esume
CEOŽeljko Karajica
CommissionerPatrick Esume
No. of teams12 (18 in 2023)
CountriesAustria
Germany
Poland
Spain
Turkey
Future (2023):
Czech Republic
France
Hungary
Italy
Switzerland
HeadquartersHamburg, Germany
ContinentEurope
Most recent
champion(s)
Vienna Vikings
(1st title)
Most titlesFrankfurt Galaxy
Vienna Vikings
(1 each)
TV partner(s)
Official websiteeuropeanleague.football

The European League of Football (ELF) is a professional[citation needed] American football league. The league (as of the 2022 season) consists of 12 teams located in Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria and Turkey (announced teams from the future are located in Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic and France) with plans to expand to 24 teams in 2025.[1] The new league was officially created in November 2020, and kicked off on 19 June 2021.[2]

History

The announcement of the league was met with skepticism from some Germans involved in the sport due to the failures of similar leagues in the past. The Chairman of the German Football League (GFL), 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, Commissioner Patrick Esume firmly believes that this league will succeed because "American football is experiencing a boom in Germany".[3]

The first two new franchises to reveal their identity have been Ingolstadt Praetorians and Hanover-based team German Knights 1367, in early December 2020.[4][5] 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.[6][7]

In March 2021, the league announced it has reached an agreement with the NFL, to be able to use the team names from the days of NFL Europe. On the same day, it was announced the franchises in Hamburg and Frankfurt will use the previous names of Hamburg Sea Devils and Frankfurt Galaxy.[8] The Sea Devils also introduced their new head coach, former special teams coach for multiple NFL teams, Ted Daisher.[9] It was then announced that the franchises in Ingolstadt and Hannover aren't ready to launch in 2021, so they were replaced with two new teams, in Leipzig and Cologne, and also that the franchises in Cologne, Berlin and Barcelona will use their names from NFL Europe.[10]

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.[11]

In July 2021, the league announced its inaugural All-Star Game, which will be 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.[12] Similar to the rules for rosters of individual teams, the all star team is limited to a maximum of four Americans of which only two can be on the field at any given time.

Goals

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

The ELF plays with modified NFL rules, except for the 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 "Coach's challenge"); however, this feature was introduced for the 2021 ELF Bowl as well as announced 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 teams 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.[13]

Officiating

Officiating in the ELF is comparable to the NFL. Head of officiation since the first season 2021 is former German Football League official Kurt Paulus. In this role, he is in charge of training and organizing the officiating crews for the individual game days. Furthermore, the head of officiating and its deputies are consulting the commissioner and Competition Committee for rule changes and new rules.[14]

Officiating crews consists of seven on-field-officials and are staying together for a season. During a game they are connected via intercom and communicating in English language. In the 2022 season the different referees are coming 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 in the ELF-offseason.[14]

Officials in the ELF don't wear numbers on their jerseys.

Salary

Rosters consist of a maximum of 50 players, plus another 10 on the practice squad. Because homegrown players are one of the main focus points of the league, there are limitations for the numbers of foreigners. Each roster can only have a maximum of four U.S., Canadian, Mexican or Japanese players ("A-players"), and a maximum of 10 other foreign players for the 2021 season,[2] which was then reduced to eight players for the 2022 season.[15][16] However, the Bosman ruling prevents discrimination against EU citizens in EU based sports teams and leagues. Brazilian players didn't count towards the import quota due to the league's partnership with Liga BFA in the 2021 season.[11]

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—being paid 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.[17] The second tier consists of additional four transitional players (international or homegrown) with 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 are getting health insurance and participate in state pension insurance. Further benefits such as housing, meals and other memberships during the season have to be negotiated individually.[18]

Teams

In the inaugural 2021 season the ELF had 8 teams (6 in Germany, 1 in Poland and 1 in Spain) split into 2 divisions: North (Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and Wrocław) and South (Barcelona, Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart).

The ELF currently (as of the upcoming 2022 season) has 12 teams, divided into 3 conferences. The league has 7 teams in Germany, 2 in Austria, and 1 team each from Poland, Spain and Turkey.[19] 2023 will see the addition of teams from Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic and France.

European League of Football is located in Europe
Location of ELF teams
  • Blue pog.svg
    Northern Conference
  • Green pog.svg
    Central Conference
  • Red pog.svg
    Southern Conference
  • Yellow pog.svg
    2023 Expansion

Current teams

Team City Stadium(s) Capacity Joined Head coach
Northern Conference
Berlin Thunder Germany Berlin Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark 19,708 2021 Germany Johnny Schmuck
Hamburg Sea Devils Germany Hamburg Stadion Hoheluft 11,000 2021 United States Charles "Yogi" Jones
Leipzig Kings Germany Leipzig Bruno-Plache-Stadion 12,321 2021 United States John Booker
Wrocław Panthers Poland Wrocław Wrocław Olympic Stadium 11,000 2021 Poland Jakub Samel
Central Conference
Frankfurt Galaxy Germany Frankfurt PSD Bank Arena 12,542 2021 Germany Thomas Kösling
Tirol Raiders Austria Innsbruck Tivoli Stadion Tirol 16,008 2022 United States Kevin Herron
Stuttgart Surge Germany Stuttgart Gazi-Stadion auf der Waldau 11,410 2021 United States Jordan Neuman
Vienna Vikings Austria Vienna Generali Arena Vienna 17,500 2022 United States Chris Calaycay
Southern Conference
Barcelona Dragons Spain Barcelona/Reus Estadi Municipal 4,700 2021 Mexico Gabriel "Black" Sánchez
Rhein Fire Germany Düsseldorf/Duisburg Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena 31,514 2022 United States Jim Tomsula
Istanbul Rams Turkey Istanbul Maltepe Hasan Polat Stadium 5,000 2022 United States Matt Lawson
Cologne Centurions Germany Cologne Südstadion 11,748 2021 United States Khalil Carter
Team City Stadium(s) Capacity Planned debut Head coach
Expansion
Hungarian Enthroners Hungary Székesfehérvár/Budapest TBD TBD 2023 United States Jaime Hill
Milano Seamen Italy Milan Velodromo Vigorelli 7,500 2023 Austria Stefan Pokorny
Helvetic Guards Switzerland Zürich Lidl Areda Wil[20] 6,000 2023 United States Norm Chow
Munich Ravens Germany Munich TBD TBD 2023 United States John Shoop
Prague Lions Czech Republic Prague TBD TBD 2023 United States Zach Harrod
Paris Football Team France Paris TBD TBD 2023 United States Marc Mattioli

Expansion plans

When established, the ELF stated they have plans to expand to at least 24 teams from 10 countries in the future. According to commissioner Patrick Esume, the league has attracted interest in Austria, Spain, France, and England. One specific team mentioned to be interested in joining the league was the London Warriors.[21] In April 2021, Frankfurt Galaxy GM Alexander Korosek revealed that, in addition to London, franchises in Istanbul, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Madrid are likely to be added within the next 2 years, while groups in Milan, Bucharest, Sofia and Brussels will be joining at later dates.[22]

2022 expansions

The first two expansion teams for the 2022 season were the pre-existing Vienna Vikings and Tyrolean Raiders, serial champions of the Austrian Football League, similar to how the Wroclaw Panthers were an existing team from another league (in that case the PLFA) prior to joining the ELF.

Due to the choice of Düsseldorf as host for the first Championship Game and the strong and enduring fan base of the old Rhein Fire of the NFL Europe, speculations abounded that an expansion to Düsseldorf would be announced at or around the Championship Game.[23] The league further fueled such speculation by alluding to the connection between Merkur Spiel-Arena and Rhein Fire in promotional material released days ahead of the 25 September official confirmation[24] that a new Rhein Fire team would indeed be joining the league.[25]

2023 expansions

The ELF has announced six teams that will be added in the 2023 season. Following the ending of the league's feud with FIDAF due to an agreement signed between the two, the Milano Seamen will leave the Italian Football League for the ELF in 2023. They were added to the league simultaneously with Helvetic Guards and Féhérvar Enthroners.[26] In August 2022, the league announced the addition of a Munich franchise.[27] According to President Karajica, the Munich team will be the league's final German team "for the time being." On September 8, 2022 the name of the Munich team was announced to be held Munich Ravens. On 23 September, the league added two extra teams for the 2023 season, with the Prague Lions and a new team in Paris.

Future expansions

In May 2022, there was speculation that the Amsterdam Admirals franchise could be revived as a Dutch addition to the league.[28] If the Admirals were to join the ELF, then the only teams that previously played in NFL Europe that would not be represented in the ELF would be the 2 British teams, the London Monarchs and Scottish Claymores.

Stadiums

Main article: List of European League of Football stadiums

Champions

Team Titles Runners-up Year(s) won Year(s) runner-up
Vienna Vikings 1 0 2022
Frankfurt Galaxy 1 0 2021
Hamburg Sea Devils 0 2 2021, 2022

Championship Games

Bold Winning team of the Championship Game
No. Year Team 1 Team 2 Venue City Attendance MVP Ref
I 2021 Hamburg Sea Devils 30 Frankfurt Galaxy 32 Merkur Spiel-Arena Germany Düsseldorf, Germany 22,000[29] United States Jakeb Sullivan (QB, Frankfurt Galaxy) [30]
II 2022 Hamburg Sea Devils 15 Vienna Vikings 27 Wörthersee Stadion Austria Klagenfurt, Austria 14,566[31] Finland Kimi Linnainmaa (WR, Vienna Vikings)

ELF All Star Game

Bold Winning team of the All Star Game
Year Home Away Venue City Attendance Ref
2021 ELF All Stars 26 US Federation All Stars 8 Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark Germany Berlin, Germany [32][33]

Broadcasting

Further information: List of European League of Football broadcasters

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] All games are also available worldwide, on the league's website, service provided by British company StreamAMG.[36]

References

  1. ^ "ELF Erweiterung 2023: Drei Franchises stehen fest". 14 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Neues Hamburger Footballteam spielt im Stadion Hoheluft" (in German). Hamburger Abendblatt. 17 February 2021. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  3. ^ "A nation divided: Germany's football leaders react to the European League of Football". American Football International. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "German Knights 1367 Niedersachsen sind das ELF Team in Hannover / Hildesheim" (in German). 10 December 2020. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Gladiators from Spain newest addition to the European League of Football". 11 January 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  7. ^ Barcelona Dragons [@Gladiators_ELF] (14 February 2021). "ADAM RITA is our new HEAD COACH!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "Ex-NFL-Trainer Ted Daisher wird Head Coach bei Hamburg Sea Devils". ran.de (in German). 12 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Shake-up to inaugural ELF line-up announced; 3 new franchises enter, 2 exit". americanfootballinternational.com. 22 March 2021. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  11. ^ a b "ELF announces partnership agreement with Brazilian American Football".
  12. ^ "European League of Football All-Star Game". 13 July 2021.
  13. ^ "ELF official tweet". Twitter. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Foot Bowl - Die Webshow #6 mit Malte Scholz und Kurt Paulus". YouTube (in German). Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  15. ^ "Instagram Post - Leipzig Kings". Leipzig Kings official Instagram. 22 December 2021. Archived from the original on 5 January 2022. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  16. ^ "This is the European League of Football!".
  17. ^ "European League Updates".
  18. ^ "Transparent #6". YouTube (in German). Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  19. ^ "European League of Football announced for June 2021 - SportsPro Media". www.sportspromedia.com. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  20. ^ "LIDL Arena Wil announced as Homefield". helveticguards.ch. 30 October 2022.
  21. ^ "European League of Football - Q&A". youtube.com. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  22. ^ "Ein altbekannter, traditionsreicher Name ist zurück: Frankfurt Galaxy". youtube.com (in German). Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  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. ^ "Investeringsmaatschappijen onderzoeken toetreding Amsterdam Admirals tot ELF". gridiron.nl (in Dutch). 15 May 2022.
  29. ^ "ELF Championship Game scoring summary" (PDF). europeanleague.football. ELF. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  30. ^ "European League of Football Championship Game". ticketmaster. ELF. Archived from the original on 30 April 2021. Retrieved 4 May 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. ^ "It's official! With our new partner @streamamg you will never miss a game again!". facebook.com. 4 May 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.