Will American Football Ever Become An Olympic Sport?

by Connor Christopher

American football has been around since 1869, a mere four years after the end of the American Civil War and is even older than the invention of the telephone. The popularity of the sport cannot be ignored as it is played in over 80 countries and is by far the most popular game in the United States. Many people have questioned why the well-established and super-popular sport has yet to be included as an Olympic sport. The International Federation of American Football has been campaigning to make American football a part of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and have been rejected in their application. This has caused shock to many, particularly due to the fact that cheerleading is now being highly predicted to become a new addition to the list of Olympic sports.

So, just why is American Football such an unlikely candidate for the Olympics? Olympic sports such as hockey and basketball were invented after American Football which means that the age of the game is not a factor that contributes to the decision to make the sport part of the famous games. Similarly sports such as boxing and rugby will both be featured in the Olympic Games, highlighting that despite these sports being considered to be more ‘brutal’, they are still able to participate in the games. Many people are now speculating that the fact American Football carries the word ‘American’ in the tile may be source of the issue. Attaching a culture to a sporting title may create a preconceived stereotype that will become associated with the sport.

There are an increasing number of sports that are also fighting for their chance to be played at the Olympics and this is creating a challenge for the games as it will become tougher to host the games as the Olympics may become too big to host in one place. The International Olympic Committee has removed sports from their list of those that qualify to be part of the Olympic games- baseball and softball were among the sports that were dropped from the list.

Despite the current hurdles American Football has to face before being able to carry the added title of being an ‘Olympic sport’, fans and the IFAF are optimistic about the sport and its future. American football is rising in popularity when it comes to sports betting, which can suggest that it would bring benefits to the economy should it ever become an Olympic sport, which may be an incentive in later years. Many American Football fans also believe the sport is on the verge of world recognition and greatness and believe with a little further push, it could become more popular overseas. This may be the biggest factor to swing the Olympic committees vote in their favour of being a part of the games. The discussion of which sports could make it onto the highly prized and competitive list that allows them to play at the Olympic Games continues…


Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

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