The NFL helps wave the flag to make flag football part of the Olympics.
The goal is the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Flag football is one of the fastest growing options for the sport, both in this country and in the world. There are currently 71 nations on five continents that are members of the International Federation of American Football, and the flag version will be among 30 sports on display at the World Games in July in Birmingham, Alabama – a key step in popularizing the game.
“It’s important, with the Olympics as the ultimate goal,” says IFAF President Pierre Trochet, “but we also have the task of growing and having a solid competition plan for the five, six, seven coming years on all continents.
“The Olympics are the biggest global stage for sport in the world. Flag football can be played by men and women and can also be mixed, it is easy to integrate and safe to play.
However, entering the Olympic register is not easy. Having the power and popularity of the NFL behind flag football could certainly make the IOC and Los Angeles Games organizers pay attention.
“The NFL flag is one of the fastest growing sports in America and around the world for boys and girls, men and women. Under the leadership of IFAF, we share a common interest in increasing opportunities for athletes to play football at all levels and support the work done by IFAF to help develop the sport globally,” said Damani Leech, director of NFL international operations. “We are thrilled with the debut of flag football at the World Games this summer and continue to support IFAF’s work to bring flag football to the Olympic stage, two global events that will inspire the next generation of athletes around the world.”
Adds Scott Hallenbeck, vice president of IFAF and CEO of USA Football, the sport’s governing body in that country:
“The idea that hopefully IFAF, LA 28 and the IOC could say that the Olympics is now a destination point would be a huge exclamation point and a call for the growth of the sport not only in this country but all over the world.”
Flag football features attributes that resonate with competitive formats in events such as the World Games and the Olympics, including gender balance, smaller rosters, short time frames between games and a low game cost.
Competition to be accepted for the Olympics could be tough, with baseball and softball set to return after sitting out in 2024 in Paris. Lacrosse and cricket are other team sports with interest in LA, and several individual sports are likely to apply.
“There will be different categories competing to compete at the Games in Los Angeles,” said IFAF Chief Executive Andy Fuller. “We will focus on our own way forward; going too far left or right won’t do us much good.
But this summer’s World Games could provide great value and a good indication of where flag football fits on a large multi-event stage. This event could be an eye opener for viewers and spectators who will not only see a game that is very appealing to young people, but one with participation potential for just about everyone.
“Somebody sitting in France and watching ‘football,’ that’s the NFL,” Hallenbeck said. “You see the type of game and the physical nature of the men in this, and that’s what you understand. All of a sudden we bring in this idea of flag football, and you see ‘I don’t have need to be 6-4, 300 lbs, 4.2” speedster, but I can be a regular human.
“And have the chance to represent my country at the Olympic Games? A huge opportunity. It appeals to most of the world.
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