The National Football League, USA Football and International Federation of American Football have gone to extraordinary lengths over the past decade to promote American football on a global stage, and as a result, the game has never been more popular throughout the world.
This increased popularity is only helping American Football’s cause to eventually becoming an Olympic sport, and it is only one of the many reasons why the sport should be part of the Summer Games.
Sixty-four countries are associated with the IFAF, which is a strong indication of the substantial growth that the sport is witnessing worldwide. Every continent is represented, and more countries are expected to join in the coming years. Europe has the highest number of countries engaged in the IFAF with 33; Africa has the fewest with just one.
A vigorous effort is being made, however, by the NFL and its players to ensure that the sport of American Football can grow anywhere. Players are making trips to countries to teach the fundamentals of the game, and NFL games are now being broadcasted to a number of different countries.
The closest that American Football has come to being in the Olympics was in 1932 at the Los Angeles Games when it was used as a demonstration sport.
The IFAF is making all the right moves, however, to ensure that American football will someday be involved in the Olympic Games. The federation joined SportAccord, which is an international organization that attempts to unify sports federations.The federation was approved as a provisional member in 2003, and it then gained full membership in 2005.
When will American football be in the Olympics?
The leaders of the federation then bid for possible recognition by the International Olympic Committee earlier this year, which is the final step to becoming an Olympic sport; According to Albert Breer of NFL.com, a decision from the IOC is expected by the end of the year.
Some major steps have been made by the NFL to increase the game's popularity and world recognition.
The league now plays annual games at London's Wembley Stadium and The Rogers Centre in Toronto, and it has even played a game in Mexico City. The league is looking to expand on its international series because it realizes it has taken only a few small steps in a race that is, ultimately, a marathon.
Another issue that comes up is the lack of competition.
Also according to Breer, Canada, Mexico and Japan are on the second tier internationally, while Germany, Austria and France are not far behind. These countries, however, are nowhere near the level of American players, and it would certainly take a decade or two for the countries to stand a chance.
The Olympics faced a similar issue many years ago when basketball was admitted into the Games, but USA Football's executive director Scott Hallenbeck offered his two cents.
"In basketball, 50 or 60 years ago, we were killing people, and look at it today," said Hallenbeck. "Because everything's at hyper speed right now, I might suggest you could cut that 50-year window in half, or to a third of what it was. With how fast things move, we could be closer than you think."
In other words, we have to start somewhere, and just as in basketball, the world will catch up.
If the world can continue to embrace America's beloved game, we will see American football or at least a modified version in the Olympic Games in the future.