On the 29th of March, 2023, it was announced that the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) has been proposed by the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be approved by the IOC session for full IOC recognition in accordance with the Olympic Charter. This decision for full recognition will be made by the IOC membership during the meeting of the 140th IOC Session in Mumbai (India) from 15th to 17th October, 2023.
From the look of things, it seems that this proposal will be approved, as all the necessary requirements have been fulfilled by the Federation and this proposal met no objection from the member Federations of all the International Federations Umbrella Associations.
So far, IFAF has been operating on the provisional recognition status given to them by the IOC EB in 2013 and in a chat with Afroballers, Pierre Trochet (President of the IFAF) mentioned that:
As a provisionally recognized federation, IFAF has greatly benefitted from valuable engagement with the IOC Sport Department – and other stakeholders in the Olympic movement – as we have worked to develop our structures, statutes and operations in line with best International Federation practice.
The provisional status already granted IFAF access to specific IOC funding, development programs, meetings, seminars and other resources, as well as the opportunity to have our competitions and athletes featured in Olympic Channel programming. For example, the IFAF 2021 Flag Football World Championships in Israel were broadcast on Olympics.com. It has also enabled us to submit a proposal for the inclusion of flag football as an additional sport at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028, subject to full recognition being granted in October.
With a full recognition potentially coming in October, the Federation is keen on exploring the structures within the Olympic movement to further accelerate the growth of the game worldwide.
Full IOC recognition will open up opportunities for greater integration and engagement with Olympic structures at national and continental levels. This carries the potential to significantly accelerate growth across all formats of the game. It will also ensure we are in a position to propose our sport for inclusion in future Olympic Games. Most immediately, should flag football be proposed as an additional sport by the LA28 Organising Committee, it will ensure the sport is eligible to be added to the programme in 2028.” He says.
A recognition like this also affects the growth of the sport in Africa, as Africa has 17 member associations under it, however the continent is the only affiliated continent yet to have its own regional championship for world championship games. On this, Pierre Trochet says:
The biggest and most immediate impact will be seen in the event that flag football is added to the LA28 programme. In many countries, this will be key to the national federation gaining access to specific funding and performance development frameworks dedicated to Olympic sports.
It will also put the sport and our athletes in the spotlight, further enhancing our appeal to broadcasters and commercial partners. In addition, it will accelerate the development of continental competition structures – a process already underway. For example, for the first time, African countries will have the opportunity to participate in regional competition in flag football in 2023.
It is also pertinent to say that a full recognition like this, perfectly coincides with the effort of the National Football League (NFL). On June 21 2022, the NFL organized its first official event in Ghana, which saw the NFL highlight the contributions of its African players, introduce the sport to the next generation of fans and look to activate in other African countries in the future.
This full recognition presents an opportunity for the IFAF to deepen their already strong partnership with the NFL, for further growth initiatives in Africa. On this Pierre Trochet says:
“More generally, full IOC recognition will consolidate a long-term commitment to strengthening the place of American football in the Olympic Movement. This is the focus of the partnership between IFAF and the National Football League (NFL), which shares our commitment and has identified Africa as a priority development region. Most recently we have seen this partnership in action in Kenya, where our national federation, the Kenya Federation of American Football (KFAF), helped run an NFL FLAG activation in collaboration with the League.
In addition to the above, it was recently announced that the NFL in partnership with the Uprise Academy – a developmental academy founded by Osi Umenyiora- will be establishing its first NFL Flag Football League in Nigeria. Flag football is a sport that is widely played in Nigeria with well established leagues like the Shitsuke Flag Football League and the Abuja Flag Football League.
This full recognition will also spark a huge interest in the game in Africa, as the major play will be to see how the continent will be adequately represented in the LA28 games, if added as a sport. If granted a full recognition status, there is a high probability that it will be added in the LA28 games, as American Football, in the form of Flag Football, is a popular sport in the United States of America, where the LA28 games will be taking place. It is therefore imperative that affiliated federations in Africa have the necessary framework to take full advantage of the opportunities that comes as a result of this full recognition and also, instill confidence to stakeholders that might be interested in the development of the sport in Africa. On this, Pierre Trochet says:
We plan to provide guidance to all our member federations on how to leverage opportunities that may arise from the IOC Session in October. It would be premature to do so in advance of the IOC Members’ vote.
We are optimistic of a successful outcome but highly respectful of the process and authority of the IOC Session.