American football could be in the Olympics as soon as 2024.
On Tuesday American football took a small, yet significant step towards become a part the Olympic Games when International Olympic Committee granted the sport’s governing body, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), provisional recognition for future inclusion.
Football, which is practiced by 64 countries on six different continents, could appear on the IOC’s voters’ ballots as early as 2017. If selected, the sport could debut in the 2024 Olympics.
“IFAF is proud to receive this recognition and join the Olympic family,” IFAF President Tommy Wiking said in a press release to the NFL. “The enduring ideals of sport that comprise the Olympic Charter reside in our game’s timeless values and in the spirit of the millions who love to play it.”
“We thank the IOC Executive Board and administration for its support throughout this process as well as our dedicated National and Continental committees,” Wilking continued. “It is especially gratifying to share this recognition with American football athletes of all ages across the world, past and present. They have made and continue to make this an exceptional sport that captures our imaginations and unites us through competition in mind, body and heart.”
The NFL has already taken steps to globalize American’s most-watched sport.
In 2007, it began playing games in London as part of it’s “International Series” to boost foreign interest. At the youth level, USA Football has fielded teams to compete in international World Championship tournaments for U-19, U-17 and U-15 age groups. Among athletes competing for USA Football’s national team was Giants running back David Wilson, who ran for 87 yards as Team USA routed Canada, 41-3, in the 2009 World Championship game.
Though football may not currently meet the international popularity standards the most Olympic sports require, IOC executives believe that, in 2024, the case could be different.
“The federation has long demonstrated strong youth appeal and is making great progress in developing their sport around the world,” IOC sports director Christophe Dubi said in a statement to FOX Sports. “We trust that this provisional recognition will generate momentum in the further universal development of their disciplines.”
But if football were to make it through to the Olympics, it would likely be a seven-man version of the game, following in the footsteps of seven-man rugby, which will make its first Olympic appearance since 1924 in the 2016 Games.
The announcement came just months after the IOC recommended the elimination of three sports from its program– baseball, wrestling and squash. Wrestling survived the cut but baseball and squash were eliminated.
If baseball, probably more popular on the global scene than football, didn’t make the cut, how could football?
Yahoo! Sports (UK) breaks it down:
“There seem to be far more deserving sports than American football that could be considered for inclusion in the Olympics (squash, anyone?). But there is one big reason why it would be silly to discount American football as a potential addition to the Games: money. In 2011, NBC paid the IOC an incredible $4.4 billion for the rights to show the summer and Olympic Games up until 2020. At the London 2012 Olympics, 204 countries took part but the US television rights alone constituted over half of the total television rights revenue raised by the IOC. This is before you even consider all the sponsorships deals that were made – many of them by US companies. So the influence of the US on the Olympics cannot be overstated – and when it comes to the United States one sport rules all and that sport is American football. In 2011, the NFL signed a TV deal with three US networks worth… wait for it …a staggering $27 billion.”
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