Despite growing concerns over the long-term health effects of playing contact football, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) took a significant step toward global recognition on Tuesday, as Fox Sports senior NFL reporter Alex Marvez tweeted the IFAF has been given "provisional" recognition by the International Olympic Committee.
As Marvez points out, the move increases the chances that a form of American football, such as seven-on-seven, could one day be played at the Olympics; "Rugby sevens," in which teams play seven-on-seven rather than the usual 15 vs. 15, is set to be featured as a sport in the summer 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The IFAF's recognition by the IOC on Tuesday comes approximately six months after the Olympic Committee denied the Federation's request for recognition. NFL Vice President of International Operations Chris Parsons told Marvez this past May that being recognized by the IOC would help "generate incremental interest" for the sport:
"With IOC recognition, the expectation is that you would end up having more competitions. You would see more and more leagues and that would generate incremental interest … It wouldn’t open the floodgates per se but the argument would be a lot stronger as far as federations applying for local funding."
The NFL has continued its tradition this season with games in London, a step by the league to do its share in helping to further globalize the sport. Two weeks ago, the NFL announced its 2014 London dates, with three games scheduled to be played in England next year.
Formed in 1998 and with headquarters in France, the IFAF currently has 66 countries as its members. The Federation also serves as the governing body for the Women's World Cup and the Junior World Cup for players under the age of 19.