American Football in Germany
While the world prepares for Super Bowl LII, American Football in Germany is still an amateur sport, but with 35,000 registered players and a growing fan base, could the gridiron replace the crossbar?
Soccer may be the national game in Germany but since the first official German American Football club, the Frankfurt Lions, formed in 1977, the sport has spawned a national association (the AFVD), a full national league, a ladies’ league, several junior leagues and hosts of regional and local clubs.
And the German national team, which played its first games in 1981, have been European champions three times. The 2018 European Championship will be the 14th European Championship in American Football. This year’s tournament is also being held in Germany, with the host country aiming for back-to-back wins.
According to Growth of a Game, of Europe’s 50 countries, 41 have American football teams with an estimated 1,500 teams spread throughout these countries. Germany currently has over 200 men’s teams and 40 women’s teams, and that number is growing every year.
The appetite for American Football in Germany has grown to the extent that In August 2013, German television channel “Sport1” created a new channel solely for the broadcasting of American sports – Sport1 US. They have the rights to show seven games a week, including the playoffs, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. German TV channel “ProSieben” has also secured rights to show American college football in Germany.
The German Football League (GFL) is the elite league for American football in Germany, with clubs being able to achieve promotion and relegation. The GFL is divided into north and south conferences, across two divisions with 16 teams in each.
The German Bowl is the annual national championship game in the sport of American football in Germany, and is contested by the two best teams of the German Football League. German Bowl XL will be contested in Berlin in October 2018, and is expected to attract over 30,000 spectators.
Altogether, fifteen clubs have won the German Bowl, with the most-played fixture in the history of the game between the Braunschweig Lions (known as The New Yorker Lions since 2010) versus the Hamburg Blue Devils, having been played six times in total, the last in 2005. The New Yorker Lions have dominated the game in recent times winning 4 consecutive Bowls between 2013-2016 and were runners up to the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in 2017.
The Lions are the record winners of the German Bowl, with eleven successful Bowl appearances out of sixteen overall. Düsseldorf Panther and the Berlin Adler both have six titles to their name, but Berlin has the best win-loss record of all clubs at 75 percent.
Stateside, the NFL has benefited from German talent over the years, most notably in the form of Ernie Stautner from Cham in Bavaria, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969 following a hugely successful career playing as a defensive tackle with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The list of German players currently in the NFL (2017 season) are Moritz Böhringer (previously Minnesota Vikings, and the first European player to be selected in the NFL Draft without playing any college football), Kasim Edebali (Outside linebacker, New Orleans Saints) and Mark Nzeocha (Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers).
As the world prepares for Super Bowl 52, there’s still a lot of football to be played before Germany’s very own Super Bowl in October.
No matter the team; New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Dortmund Giants or Montabaur Fighting Farmers, rest assured that Germany will be watching every game.