|Current season, competition or edition:|
2023 European League of Football season
|Founded||4 November 2020|
|Owner(s)||SEH Sports & Entertainment Holding, Patrick Esume|
|No. of teams||17|
|Most titles||Frankfurt Galaxy|
The European League of Football (ELF) is a professional American football league. The league (as of the 2023 season) consists of 17 teams located in Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic and France, with plans to expand to 24 teams in 2025. The new league was officially created in November 2020, and kicked off on 19 June 2021.
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".
The first two new franchises to reveal their identity were the Ingolstadt Praetorians and Hanover-based team German Knights 1367, in early December 2020. 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.
In March 2021, the league announced it has reached 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. The Sea Devils also introduced their new head coach, Ted Daisher, former special teams coach for multiple NFL teams. 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.
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.
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. Similar to the rules for rosters of individual teams, the all-star team is limited to a maximum of four Americans, only two of whom can be on the field at any given time.
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.
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.
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.
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. Officials in the ELF do not wear numbers on their jerseys.
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, which was then reduced to eight players for the 2022 season and six players for the 2023 season. 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.
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. 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.
The European League of Football has 17 teams in three conferences across 9 countries: 8 in Germany, 2 in Austria, and 1 each in Czechia, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland. 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.
The Vienna Vikings and Raiders Tirol from the Austrian Football League, and the Istanbul Rams from the Turkish Football League joined in the 2022 season, though the Rams dropped out after the season's conclusion. 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. Though a feud with the Italian Football League initially precluded an Italian expansion franchise, an agreement was eventually made that allowed the Milano Seamen to join the ELF in the 2023 season, which will also see 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, and Paris Musketeers from France.
|Cologne Centurions||Cologne||Südstadion||11,748||2021||Christos Lambropoulos|
|Frankfurt Galaxy||Frankfurt||PSD Bank Arena||12,542||2021||Thomas Kösling|
|Hamburg Sea Devils||Hamburg||Stadion Hoheluft||11,000||2021||Charles "Yogi" Jones|
|Paris Musketeers||Paris||Stade Jean Bouin||20,000||2023||Marc Mattioli|
|Rhein Fire||Düsseldorf/Duisburg||Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena||31,514||2022||Jim Tomsula|
|Barcelona Dragons||Barcelona/Terrassa||Estadi Olímpic de Terrassa||11,500||2021||Gabriel "Black" Sánchez|
|Helvetic Guards||Zürich||Lidl Areda Wil||6,000||2023||Norm Chow|
|Milano Seamen||Milan||Velodromo Vigorelli||7,500||2023||Stefan Pokorny|
|Munich Ravens||Munich||Sportpark Unterhaching||15,053||2023||John Shoop|
|Tirol Raiders||Innsbruck||Tivoli Stadion Tirol||16,008||2022||Kevin Herron|
|Stuttgart Surge||Stuttgart||Gazi-Stadion auf der Waldau||11,410||2021||Jordan Neuman|
|Berlin Thunder||Berlin||Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark||19,708||2021||Johnny Schmuck|
|Fehérvár Enthroners||Székesfehérvár||First Field||3,500||2023||Jaime Hill|
|Leipzig Kings||Leipzig||Bruno-Plache-Stadion||12,321||2021||John Booker|
|Wrocław Panthers||Wrocław||Wrocław Olympic Stadium||11,000||2021||Dave Christensen|
|Prague Lions||Prague||eFotbal Arena||5,037||2023||Zach Harrod|
|Vienna Vikings||Vienna||Generali Arena Vienna||17,500||2022||Chris Calaycay|
|Madrid ELF Team||Madrid||TBD||2024||TBD|
|Istanbul Rams||Istanbul||2022||2022||On hiatus for 2023; will return to the Turkish league|
|Team||Titles||Runners-up||Year(s) won||Year(s) runner-up|
|Hamburg Sea Devils||0||2||–||2021, 2022|
|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||Düsseldorf, Germany||22,000||Jakeb Sullivan (QB, Frankfurt Galaxy)|||
|II||2022||Hamburg Sea Devils||15||Vienna Vikings||27||Wörthersee Stadion||Klagenfurt, Austria||14,566||Kimi Linnainmaa (WR, Vienna Vikings)|
|Bold||Winning team of the All Star Game|
|2021||ELF All Stars||26||US Federation All Stars||8||Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark||Berlin, Germany|||
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. 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.
All games are also available worldwide, on the league's website, service originally provided by British company StreamAMG, and, from 2023, by Endeavor Streaming.