European League of Football


The European League of Football (ELF) is a semi-professional European league in American football.

Founded in November 2020, the league started its first season on June 19, 2021. It currently comprises 17 teams from nine nations. In the first three seasons, the champions were Frankfurt Galaxy (2021), Vienna Vikings (2022) and Rhein Fire (2023).

The 4th season began on May 25, 2024

History[edit | edit source]

The announcement of the league was met with skepticism from some Germans involved in the sport due to the failures of similar leagues in the past. The Chairman of the German Football League (GFL), Robert Huber, said, "...we have experience over the last forty years in running leagues in Germany and in Europe and we have a pretty good insight into what the teams are capable of". However, Commissioner Patrick Esume firmly believes that this league will succeed because "American football is experiencing a boom in Germany".

The first two new franchises to reveal their identity have been Ingolstadt Praetorians and Hanover-based team German Knights 1367, in early December 2020. They were followed by the Spanish team Gladiators Football, who also revealed they will play their games out of Costa Daurada, and will be coached by long-time CFL coach Adam Rita.

In March 2021, the league announced it has reached an agreement with the NFL, to be able to use the team names from the days of NFL Europe. On the same day, it was announced the franchises in Hamburg and Frankfurt will use the previous names of Hamburg Sea Devils and Frankfurt Galaxy. The Sea Devils also introduced their new head coach, former special teams coach for multiple NFL teams, Ted Daisher. It was then announced that the franchises in Ingolstadt and Hannover aren't ready to launch in 2021, so they were replaced with two new teams, in Leipzig and Cologne, and also that the franchises in Cologne, Berlin and Barcelona will use their names from NFL Europe.

In June 2021, the league announced a partnership agreement with the Brazilian Football Federation, Brasil Futebol Americano, that will see exchange opportunities for selected players, coaches and officials, as well as the possibility of organizing a match between the ELF and BFA champions in the future.

In July 2021, the league announced its inaugural All-Star Game, which will be held one week after the end of the season, on October 3 (German Unity Day), at Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark in Berlin. It will feature a selection of the best players from the ELF, playing against the United States men's national American football team. Similar to the rules for rosters of individual teams, the all star team is limited to a maximum of four Americans of which only two can be on the field at any given time.

The first indications of new teams for the second season were revealed at the beginning of September 2021. Between 12 and 16 teams were announced for the 2022 season. On September 12, the Vienna Vikings announced their interest in joining the ELF at a press conference. Austrian rivals Raiders Tirol also confirmed their entry into the league ahead of the first ELF final. On the same day, another new team, Rhein Fire, was unveiled, adopting the name of a former NFL Europe team. Istanbul Rams, which was presented on October 15, 2021, completed the field of twelve teams for the 2022 season.

In April 2022, the Milano Seamen announced their interest in joining the ELF. On May 13, new franchises from Milan, Zurich and Székesfehérvár were presented for the 2023 season. These were joined by Munich on August 3, 2022 and Paris and Prague shortly before the 2022 final. On December 16, 2022, the Istanbul Rams announced that they would not be competing in the ELF in the 2023 season. The 2023 season thus started with 17 teams from nine countries.

The Leipzig Kings announced on June 27, 2023 that they were in a difficult economic situation. On 10 July 2023, they announced their withdrawal from the current 2023 season, and the league confirmed the withdrawal of their license on 12 July 2023. In the run-up to the 2023 season, Madrid was announced as a further location from the 2024 season. On September 26, 2023, the franchise presented the name Madrid Bravos as well as the logo and colors. On October 2, 2023, the league confirmed the roster for the 2024 season with 17 teams.

Further expansion teams are planned for 2025, and a return to Leipzig is also possible.

Goals[edit | edit source]

The ELF has said it hopes to bring back the excitement around American football that existed in the era of NFL Europe. Unlike NFL Europe, whose team rosters consisted of mostly American players, there will be restrictions to the number of international players allowed on rosters. There will be a bigger focus given to homegrown players, with the goal to develop the best of these players into NFL prospects. One way they plan on doing this is by creating an "ELF Academy". While ELF franchises will not have "youth teams", CEO Zeljko Karajica says that the academy will "...give players the opportunity to make the next step", which would be the skills to succeed in the ELF and compete for a spot on an NFL team.

Rules[edit | edit source]

The ELF plays with modified NFL rules, except for the overtime, where it uses college football's rules. Unlike most European sports leagues (including European American football leagues) a game that is still tied at the end of regulation during the regular season goes to overtime. However, no overtime was actually played in the inaugural 2021 season as all games had a winner after regulation. During the regular season of the inaugural 2021 season, the ELF did not have instant replay or other forms of Replay review in gridiron football (such as "Coach's challenge"); however, this feature was introduced for the 2021 ELF Bowl as well as announced for the upcoming season.

On 30 November 2021, the official Twitter account of the European League of Football announced a new kickoff rule. [1] Only the requirement, that the ball must be kicked between the receiving team’s 20-yard line and endzone, is, at this time, not a part of the rule.

The main cited reason for the rule change is player safety.

Kickoff Rules[edit | edit source]

The ball is on the 30-yard line at kickoff. The blockers are on the return team's 30-yard line, and the coverage team is on the 35-yard line.

Three men on each side must be placed outside the hashmarks. Only the kicker and the kickoff returner may move until the kickoff. The blockers and cover players, in turn, may not move until the returner has caught the ball, or until the ball has been on the ground for at least three seconds.

If the ball goes out of bounds, the opponent gets the ball at the kicking team's 45-yard line. If the ball lands directly in the end zone, the result is a "major touchback" so the ball lands at the return team's 35. If the ball lands in the field and then rolls into the end zone, this would be a "normal" touchback and would go to the 15.

The rules of the Onside Kick are the same as those of the NFL.

Overtime[edit | edit source]

See: overtime

Format[edit | edit source]

The 2023 ELF season is the third season of the European League of Football, a professional American football league based in Europe. Seventeen teams from nine different countries will participate and will compete for the title at the Championship Game in the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena Duisburg, Germany on September 24, 2023

The teams are divided into three conferences of 5 or 6 teams. Each team plays 12 games during the regular season.

In 2023 the Playoffs have been increased to six teams. The three conference champions and the three best remaining teams will qualify. Conference Champions will be rankd #1 to #3, the remaining teams #4 to #6. The #1 and #2 seed will have a first-round-bye week. The matchups will be #3 vs #6 and #4 vs #5. The highest remaining seed will have homefield advantage.

In case ties inside and between the conferences have to be broken, the rules are: [2]

  • Number of wins
  • Head-to-head matchup *
  • Points difference in head-to-head matchups *
  • Points scored at away games of head-to-head matchups *
  • Total points difference
  • Total points scored
  • Point scored at away games
  • Coin toss performed by the Commissioner or a person (e.g., a prominent sportsmen) determined by the Commissioner

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • *Only applicable if matchups have taken place and with additional rules

Roster[edit | edit source]

Each squad consists of 65 players (60 in 2022) and a Practice Squad of up to twelve (ten in 2022) players who can be added to the squad in the event of injury. The game-day squad is capped at 46 players. Further changes are possible until week nine of the season, in early August. The number of so-called A players from countries with college football - USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan - is limited to four, two of whom may be on the field at any one time. The number of other international players is limited to six (2022: eight, 2021: ten). The rest of the squad consists of so-called home-grown players. A player is counted as a homegrown player if he started playing American football in the country where he currently plays.

Salary[edit | edit source]

A salary cap rule also applies. There are caps for three "pots" of players:

  • Pot 1 includes eight full professionals (including the four A players),
  • Pot 2 the second salary group with a maximum of four other players includes a part-time salary and accommodation.
  • Pot 3 the remaining team members receive a monthly amount of between 100 and 520 euros, based on the tax-free allowance of the respective country.

All players on all teams are paid in euros. In total, the salary cap comes to a total of about 150,000 euros per season. [3]

The sums stated are always net amounts.

All ELF players are also covered by health insurance.

Trades[edit | edit source]

If players are transferred from one team to another during the current season, they are automatically suspended for 3 games.

Players can be signed until after week 9. After that, quarterbacks may only be signed if the team's starting QB is injured. Terminations are possible throughout the year.

Player safety[edit | edit source]

The head of the medical commission is Hans Olaf Baack, a surgeon, trauma surgeon, orthopedist and emergency physician. He is responsible for coordination between coaches, players and team medical staff.

Annual main examinations for the licensing of players, the specification of the Concussion Protocol according to current events and the evaluation of helmets or the exclusion of certain models are on the agenda there.

The league has created a clear guideline for dealing with injuries and illnesses through the regulations and protocols in the licensing agreement, which franchises must clearly comply with when signing a contract.

Examples include the introduction of Head Injury Spotters - two per game on the sideline - to watch for head injuries only, and the Med Meeting, where medical teams meet before games to plan and adjust.

In addition, an annual English-language Sports Medicine Congress, covering current topics in sports medicine and trauma surgery for team physicians, is organized and conducted by the head of the Medical Committee during the European League of Football championship game. [4]

Teams[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]