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28.01.2010 EFAF

Close race for Eurobowl 2010 to be expected

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(c) EFAF

It is wintertime in Europe, and the eyes of the football world at this time of the year are set on the USA. But of course preparations for the upcoming 2010 season of European American Football are underway already. While Spain and France, traditionally the first two EFAF member federations to start their season, just opened up the run for their national titles, in most all of the other countries teams are gathering for their practices by now. For 16 of them the season will be highlighted by their participation in the European Football League, the most prestigious EFAF competition leading up to the Eurobowl final game on the first weekend of July.

Defending champion Tyrolean Raiders from Austria, La Courneuve Flash, Tirol's runner-ups from France, and the 2009 German champion Berlin Adler, bound to make it to the quarterfinals this time after failing to survive the preliminary round falling to La Courneuve at Paris last year, are some of the favorites amongst the field. Not to mention Austrian champion Vienna Vikings, who upset EFL semi-finalists Tirol and Graz in the Austrian play-offs and is committed to revive its tradition of success in Eurobowls.

However, Berlin Adler and Vienna Vikings have to make their way through the preliminary rounds, before they may get a shot at one of the four semi-finalists of last year, with Porvoo Butchers from Finland as the fourth team of the quartet besides Tirol, Graz and La Courneuve. The scheduling formula for the European Football League, in effect for some years now, takes into account that all of the elite teams, it is designed for, have to combine play in their national leagues with the European contest. In early years of the history of the Eurobowl competition (which dates back to 1986) not all the teams qualified to take part were able or willing to take both challenges, so these early Eurobowls sometimes could not fulfill the claim to be the champions league of European American Football.

In response to this the tournament was restructured and the aim to give it a stable playing format was finally reached after a lot of experiments in the 90s, which failed in one way or another. As of 2010 the EFL/Eurobowl competition is undoubtedly the top competition in European American Football and its winner the undisputed European club champion. Again 12 teams will form four preliminary groups, playing one home and one away game each, the winner of each three-team-group getting the chance to face one of last year's semi-finalists. The four top teams of last year not only automatically advance to the quarterfinals, they also hold the home field advantage in these games. A reward for their success in last year's competition and a demanding challenge for the group winners.

The solid and reliable playing format found for EFL on the other hand had to be accompanied by alternatives for clubs on the verge of making it into the Top 16 of Europe. While in former days varying numbers of clubs were admitted from year to year - with all the pitfalls like changing scheduling formulas from year to year or a lot of lopsided games neither benificiary for the participiants nor the spectators - EFAF by now provides a variety of competitions. After EFAF Cup has been a true success story and fulfilling its aim to act as appropiate competition for champions from countries with a smaller American Football community and/or heritage or non-champions from the bigger countries, EFAF quickly invented a third kind of competitions, designed for teams from federations just developing the game of American Football in their countries. EFAF's Atlantic Cup, Challenge Cup and - starting this year - the new Eastern Cup are designed as regional tournaments.

The Prague Panthers, successor of the Berlin Adler as EFAF Cup winner, now give a further example of how well this overall design of the EFAF club competitions is working. After years of gathering experience within EFAF Cup - and finally winning the trophy - the Panthers now enter into the EFL competition. And quite similarily the Beograd Blue Dragons need to be mentioned. It marks the first time that a team from Serbia competes for the Eurobowl trophy, and the Blue Dragons will make use of their experiences from EFAF Cup play to stem this task. So even the „first-timers“ in Europe's elite competition already are used to all procedures required for international play and are able to enhance the competition right away.

European Federation of American Football