Football's journey toward becoming a worldwide phenomenon has been dealt a crushing blow.
According to a report from Fox Sports' Alex Marvez, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) denied the International Federation of American Football's (IFAF) application to be recognized by the governing body on Tuesday.
The IFAF released a statement to Marvez via a spokesperson:
American football’s burgeoning international athlete participation and appeal continues to propel the game on an exciting upward path. IFAF and the world’s American football family have great reason to remain inspired and energized by our ongoing dialogue with IOC leadership.
While being recognized by the IOC puts American football nowhere near becoming an Olympic sport—we're a long way from that—this decision is viewed as frustrating for those pushing the game's globalization.
The NFL especially has long viewed globalization as a massive untapped resource. By expanding worldwide, American football could both create new revenue streams for professional sports leagues while adding an additional pipeline for talent—much in the same way the Dream Team worked for the NBA.
NFL Vice President of International Chris Parsons told Marvez the IOC recognition could "open the floodgates" toward making the NFL a globally beloved sport:
With IOC recognition, the expectation is that you would end up having more competitions. You would see more and more leagues and that would generate incremental interest … It wouldn’t open the floodgates per se but the argument would be a lot stronger as far as federations applying for local funding.
Though the NFL and IFAF are not directly tied together, their efforts are one in the same. By hosting regular-season games in London and other countries, the NFL has made it clear that its brand was pushing hard toward international expansion—even if that never means bringing a team full-time overseas.
The IFAF's effort, if successful, could have made the first major headway in making football an Olympic sport somewhere along the line. Recognition by the IOC would have made it easier for the 64 countries with men's and women's teams to generate revenue from organizations that help fund Olympic athletics.
Without procuring that recognition, the globalization of American football is essentially placed at a standstill. The two sides will meet again in 45 days to see how the IFAF can make its application more acceptable.
The IOC has not released an official statement on its decision at this time.
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