Flag football will be part of 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles

The International Olympic Committee accepted flag football to the Los Angeles 2028 competition schedule during its meeting in Mumbai, India. Earlier the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) was granted full membership by the IOC.

The Finnish American Football Association (SAJL), responsible for flag football competition activities in Finland, is preparing to launch its own LA28 project with the goal of securing a spot in the Olympic tournament.

Roope Noronen, the chairman of SAJL, is pleased that the long-term efforts of IFAF have been rewarded in the best possible way:

-The full membership granted to IFAF is the result of persistent work, with the first steps taken over 10 years ago. The efforts of IFAF and its member countries are now recognized, providing a solid foundation to continue developing flag football and American football.

The rise of the sport, mainly known from school physical education classes in Finland, to Olympic eligibility has come as a surprise to many. Noronen believes that the IOC’s decision will contribute to the growth of flag football in Finland as well.

-Access to the Olympics provides a new opportunity for flag football and challenges our member clubs to enhance their operations. The upcoming home games in Finland next year mark the first step in the Olympic project. After the games, it is essential to assess the current status and determine the necessary improvements.

Millions of eyes will be on Finland next summer

Mika Heinonen, the Executive Director of SAJL, believes that Olympic status will bring visibility to the flag football World Championships scheduled to take place in Finland in August 2024.

-Inclusion in the Olympic program is a significant milestone for flag football. The decision by the Finnish American Football Association to host the flag football World Championships in Finland from August 27 to 30, 2024, gains significant attention with the IOC’s decision. Flag football is already a major sport in the Americas, and the eyes of millions of fans will be on Finland and our World Championships next summer.

Finland is a European powerhouse in American football, having won the most European championships in both men’s and women’s tournaments. Regarding flag football, national team activities are still at a startup level. The best achievement for Finnish flag football national teams so far dates back to 2004 when the women’s team won silver at the World Championships.

Recent national team projects by SAJL have aimed for success in the 2024 home championships, but the focus is now set four years ahead.

-We will organize and allocate resources to our flag football activities so that the Olympic dreams of men’s and women’s national teams can materialize. The sport is experiencing strong growth globally, so competition for Olympic spots will be fierce. In terms of the number of enthusiasts, flag football is still a small sport in Finland, but our success in American football championships demonstrates the potential for success in flag football as well. In addition to new enthusiasts and contributors, we are now seeking partners for our project, says Heinonen of SAJL.

On Monday, the IOC’s annual meeting approved flag football, along with baseball/softball, cricket, lacrosse, and squash, as sports for the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Games.