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An Introduction To The ELF - Europe's New Professional American Football League

An Introduction To The ELF - Europe's New Professional American Football League
Friday, 19 February 2021 By Ansgar Faßbender, Dwayne Bach

Recently, a stir was caused by a press release[1] announcing plans to launch the European League of Football (ELF). From June 2021 onwards, a professional American football league in Europe will commence its first season, with eight teams from Germany, Spain and Poland. Over the long term, the league intends to expand to 24 teams from at least ten European countries.[2] As such, talks are currently being held with several other potential franchises, including the current British champion, the London Warriors.[3] One of the league’s ambitions is to serve as a stepping stone for European players who aim to play in the NFL. Could this be a new start for professional American football in Europe?

A professional American football league has in fact already existed in Europe in the form of the NFL Europe, which ran from 1991 to 2007.[4] As the name suggests, it was organised by the NFL itself. Clubs from cities all over Europe competed in this league, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Edinburgh and London. In its last season, it had an average of 20,000 spectators attending per match.[5] However, the league was ultimately dissolved because the NFL changed their international strategy.[6]

Subsequently, the ELF wants to profit from the growing popularity of American football in Europe, specifically in Germany. They intend to fill this void and ultimately also aim at creating a league in which the best young European players can develop before potentially heading to the NFL.

This article reviews:

  • The ELF’s operational structure:
    • Teams and leagues;
    • Player transfer system;
    • Franchise model;
    • Ownership;
    • Broadcasting model; and
  • Risks the ELF could face as a new ‘rival’ sports league.

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About the Author

Ansgar Fabender

Ansgar Faßbender

Ansgar Faßbender, LL.M. currently works as a trainee lawyer for Bird & Bird in the Media, Entertainment and Sport practice group in Düsseldorf, Germany. He supports the practice group primarily in advising various associations, clubs and agents on relevant legal matters. He also assists arbitrator Prof. Dr. Martin Schimke, LL.M. in proceedings at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. Ansgar regularly speaks at sports conferences focusing on the law governing football intermediaries. 

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Dwayne Bach

Dwayne Bach

Dwayne Bach is a doctoral candidate at the chair of civil and intellectual property law of Prof. Dr. Jan Busche in Düsseldorf. His work focuses on the limitations in copyright and competition law for publishers in esports. In addition, he has published several articles on different sports law issues.

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