EFAF is followed by IFAF Europe
Five club trophies in four weeks
The Atlantic Cup on June 26 and June 27 at Dublin, Ireland will open up the decisive month for the top American Football clubs throughout Europe. All five EFAF club tournaments will conclude with their final games between June 27 and July 17. On July 4, the Vienna Vikings will face the Berlin Adler in the Eurobowl final at Vienna, Austria, followed by the Eastern Cup on the second weekend of July at Minsk, Belarus, the EFAF Cup final on July 17 at Chur, Switzerland and the Challenge Cup final on the same weekend.
But first all eyes are set on Dublin, which is a new experience, as far as international American Football club tournaments are concerned. No more than one year has passed, since an Irish club made his international debut in an EFAF competition, now the Irish host the second Atlantic Cup tournament and have their hopes set on reigning Irish champion, the Vikings from the University of Limerick, to conquer the first international title for the country. In last year's inaugural tournament the Dublin Rebels fell just short in the final game against then-hosting West-Vlaanderen Tribes of Belgium, and quickly afterwards the Irish offered to host Atlantic Cup II.
So this year home field advantage may help the Limerick Vikings, but first they have to overcome Luxembourg's Dudelange Dragons in the semifinals, the only team returning from last year's Atlantic Cup competition. Belgium and the Netherlands, the two other nations currently involved in Atlantic Cup, are represented by the Lelystad Commanders and the Brussels Bulls this year. Both should be very capable to be a serious threat to the Irish title hopes in the final, Atlantic Cup I last year showed that the level of play in Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland roughly is the same - so an exciting and fierce competition lays ahead. And even if this is only the second time teams from these countries meet for a weekend tournament - already some sort of rivalry has emerged, who features the strongest teams in the Atlantic region.
Possibly excluding Great Britain - but on the other hand: This is just the key factor in the layout of EFAF's regional tournaments. The top British clubs are able to contend in European-wide competitions like EFL and EFAF Cup. Even if - of course - the ultimate goal for Irish clubs would be a victory against a British side - to reach this goal requires time of building up experience in international games. So EFAF's regional tournaments provide the suitable matchups for the countries involved, without sending teams into lopsided games or across the whole continent. Like the EFAF Cup has already prepared some clubs for the challenges of EFAF's top competition in the EFL, it is quite certain that clubs from the regional tournaments some day will be ready to go one step further and enter the EFAF Cup.
If they qualify for it, that is. Since the regional EFAF tournaments not only propel international competition, but as well may add an incentive to the competitions for the national championships, awarding the winners with the qualification for international games, EFAF club tournaments have effects for the development of the national competitions as well. Atlantic Cup, Eastern Cup and the Challenge Cup (for the Southeast region of Europe) are part of an ongoing long-term initiative of the European Federation of American Football to help establish American Football in more European countries. All these competitions have been installed following the positive effects that EFAF Cup has had within European American Football. While the 1986-established EFL, EFAF's flagship tournament for club sides with the Eurobowl final of the two best European clubs in the end, proved to be a welcomed challenge to clubs from the bigger European countries and their rivals from regions with a special tradition in American Football, many clubs from countries with a younger tradition of American Football stood only little chance of surviving its preliminary rounds. Since 2002 the EFAF Cup already fulfills the approach to match up teams in the competitions more suited to their level of play, the regional tournaments take this approach to its next logical level.
The Challenge Cup has yet another function, so other than Atlantic or Eastern Cup it is played on more than one weekend and in a 12-team-format. Across Southeast Europe there are many countries, in which only a one or two teams already are ready to play. So until real national championship seasons may be possible these clubs deserve reliable opportunities for competition. EFAF as the governing body for the American Football of Europe has recognised its responsibility in providing such opportunities. Currently the expansion of the Challenge Cup to six nations in only its second year or the recent induction of Croatia as member federation prove that transferring organizational know-how from the whole big American Football community of Europe may lead to results quickly and will help national federations to build up strong organizational structures from within themselves.