United States Armed Forces in Europe Leagues (AAA):
Among the earliest verifiable American Football Leagues or Associations in Europe are the American Expeditionary Force Football League of WWI which was played in France at the conclusion of the War. There was a European Theater of Operations Football Championship (WWII) in Northern Ireland in 1942, which spread to England and Wales in 1943-1944. Following WWII, the United States found itself almost immediately in a War with Communist Russia, and American Football Leagues were set up in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain & Greece (The United States Air Force in Europe – USAFE – Football League & United States ARmy EURope Football League – USAREUR) which ran right to the end of the Cold War. One USAREUR League, the Northern Italian League, became the genesis of a National League in Italy featuring Homegrown teams.
National Football League International & Development Leagues (Major & AAA):
After the US Air Force & Army Leagues, the National Football League set about promoting the NFL in Europe. In 1970 the film M*A*S*H saw the first mainstream exposure of American Football in Europe with its climactic Football game at the end. Immediately following this there were expressions of interest from Europeans about setting up a League, and what followed was the Intercontinental Football League, which was to feature 6 teams, including the Rome Gladiators, owned by Bruno Beneck, the director of the most popular TV Sports Show in Italy, who had successfully introduced Baseball 20 years earlier. The League never got off the ground due to the oil crisis and the spectre of Terrorism, but the IFL continued to promote the game, playing a game in 1972 in Paris featuring NFL players, as well as bringing College teams and Semi-Pro Teams from 1976-1978 to play a best-of-5 European Championship.
TV stations started showing American Football in the late-1970s and early 1980s and the first Leagues sprang up, including the Rome Gladiators in Bruno Beneck’s Italy. By 1986 the National Football League had begun to play Pre-Season games in London, Barcelona, Berlin and Dublin. The European audiences soon wanted more so the World League of American Football, featuring 3 European teams, 6 American and one Canadian, was started in 1991. It lasted two seasons before being shelved by the NFL due to the lack of interest from American fans in a Development League. The American Football League of Europe, which ran from 1994-1995 filled in the gap in Pro Football, with its mix of start-up teams and teams from the European National Leagues bolstered by American imports.
The World League returned in 1995 as a 6-team Europe-only League and was renamed the NFL Europe League in 1998. After initial success, attendances dwindled – the fans wanted an NFL franchise – so in 2007 the NFL folded the League and focused on promoting the NFL in Europe through the NFL International Series – starting with one NFL Regular Season game a year played in London, growing to 4-per-year by 2020, with the stated intention of putting a team in London permanently by 2022.
European Football Associations & the Eurobowl (AAA)
The first Eurobowl for European National Champions was played in 1986, governed by the European Football League. The organisation fell apart in 1992, following the expulsion of the United Kingdom, and was replaced by the European Federation of American Football which ran the Eurobowl until 2015 when the German Football League International took over running the sport for one year, being replaced in turn by the Europe Division of the International Federation of American Football, the World Governing Body.
European Football League (Level 1):
International Federation of American Football Europe | European Football League (Level 2):
Western Europe (AA):
There has been Regional Tournaments in Western Europe since the Four Nations Bowl (England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales) in the 1990s and then the Charleroi Trophy (Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland) in the early 2000s. This was replaced by the Atlantic Cup in 2009, which ran until 2017 when the Belgian & Dutch Champions made the step up to European Football League Level.
Four Nations Bowl (Level 3):
Charleroi Trophy (Level 3):
Atlantic Cup (Level 3):
Northern Europe (AA):
The Scandinavian Cup, played in the 1990s between the winners of the Swedish, Norwegian, Danish & Finnish Leagues, is the oldest of the Northern European Regional Tournaments. It has since been replaced by the Northern European Football League, featuring the British Champions too.
Scandinavian Cup (Level 3):
Northern European Football League (Level 3):
Central Europe (AA):
Central European Competitions have included the Challenge Cup (EFAF Era) and more recently the Central European Football League. These competitons have pitted the Champions of – at times – Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey – against each other in two levels as it currently stands.
Central European Football League Bowl (AA)
Central European Football League Cup (A+)
The earliest National Leagues in Europe were the ones in Italy (1977), Germany (1979) and Finland (1979) and have since grown to include just about every Country in Europe.
Belgium | (BAFL):
Flanders | (FAFL):
Finland | (SAJL):
Israel | (AFI):
Italy | (FIFA):
Italian Regional Leagues (Northern Italy)