World of Sport

American football ‘could be in Olympics as soon as 2024′

It may seem like an absolutely crazy idea but American football could be an Olympic sport as early as 2024.

On Tuesday the International Olympic Committee gave the sport provisional recognition, the first step any sport must take in order to be considered for the Games.

As Fox Sports reports:

A vote on American football becoming a full-fledged Olympic sport could take place as early as 2017, according to the USA Football youth development program. If approved, football would join the Summer Olympic sports line-up for the 2024 Games at a site not yet determined.

IOC acknowledgement is significant in helping the growth of American football globally. IFAF already has 64 member countries from six continents playing three types of men’s and women’s football – tackle, flag and beach.

IOC recognition opens the door for IFAF funding from national sports ministries that already help financially subsidize athletes in Olympic sports. Competitions can now be held at international events like the Commonwealth and Pan-American games. Plus, other countries that currently aren’t IFAF members also may now consider fielding teams.

There seem to be far more deserving sports than American football that could be considered for inclusion in the Olympics (squash, anyone?).

But there is one big reason why it would be silly to discount American football as a potential addition to the Games: money.

In 2011, NBC paid the IOC an incredible $4.4 billion (£2.68bn) for the rights to show the summer and Olympic Games up until 2020.

At the London 2012 Olympics, 204 countries took part but the US television rights alone constituted over half of the total television rights revenue raised by the IOC.

This is before you even consider all the sponsorships deals that were made – many of them by US companies.

So the influence of the US on the Olympics cannot be overstated - and when it comes to the United States one sport rules all and that sport is American football.

In 2011, the NFL signed a TV deal with three US networks worth… wait for it …a staggering $27 billion (£16.46bn).

To put that into context, baseball signed a similar deal in 2012 and could *only* raise $12 billion - despite the fact that MLB teams play 162 games in a regular season to just 16 in the NFL.

Even when it comes to paying for rights for college American football games you are talking about multi-billion dollar TV deals if you want to show the best teams.

With sums like these getting bandied about, the biggest question of all - i.e. who on earth would America play? - starts to seem like a minor hitch that can be sorted out later.

It seems to be completely against the ethos of the Olympics to allow a sport like American football into the Games, but the introduction of golf and rugby sevens for 2016 shows the IOC is willing to throw tradition out the window for more marketable sports.

Indeed, a seven-a-side version of American football – played by men and women – is already being earmarked as a potential version that could be played in the Olympics.

It still looks like a long shot, and no doubt the sport will have to increase in popularity globally before it is realistically considered, but to dismiss the idea out of hand would be naive.

And that's true of all sports. If Gaelic Football, Shinty, Aussie Rules or Cheese Rolling brought in the $$$ - you can bet they'd be considered too.