The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) announced today that the Spanish city of Palma will serve as host for the 2021 version of the IFAF Flag Football World Championships from October 6-10. This comes several months after the 2020 IFAF Flag Football World Championships, which were supposed to be held in Denmark, were cancelled because of COVID-19. This is not a surprising move by IFAF since the Spanish Federation of American Football (FEFA) expressed immense interest in picking up the hosting duties since the cancellation of last year’s World Championships.
Perhaps the biggest part of this announcement is the fact that these World Championships will serve as the qualifier for the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. According to IFAF, the top seven men's and women's teams will book a trip to the World Games in July of 2022. Because of COVID-19, there will be no qualifications for this event, instead IFAF will announce a field of teams in early 2021. However, expect Austria, Israel, Denmark, France, Japan, Mexico, and Panama to be very competitive.
Throughout the world there are many versions of flag football. According to the current IFAF rulebook, the version that will be played at the World Championship is the 5 on 5 Non-Contact version, which to many in the American Football community is the least entertaining version of not just flag football, but American Football. It will be interesting to see if these rules are adjusted at the next IFAF General Meeting. Perhaps the Birmingham Organizing Committee will step in and insist on an 8 on 8, or 7 on 7, more exciting version of flag football.
With this announcement, not only do we see IFAF continuing to offer olive branches to those nations who were on the IFAF-Paris side of the IFAF schism of 2015; but also, their dedication towards flag football over the traditional tackle version of American Football. IFAF sees flag football as their entry into the Olympic Games, and thus have thrown most of their resources into the flag bucket. Shorter, safer, and gender equal sports seem to be the rage with the IOC, as seen with the additions of Rugby 7's and 3x3 Basketball. Could Flag Football be next? It's an opportunity that IFAF will not pass on. But first, let's see what Palma will offer next fall.