Maple League eases import restrictions, tightens EU status rule
In the 2024 season, significant changes are coming to the rules regarding non-European Union (EU) players in the Maple League. The number of American players (referred to as ”Jenkkipelaajat”) will be increased, and the criteria for granting the so-called ”home Yankee” status will be modified.
A longstanding topic in Finnish American football discussions is the ”Jenkisääntö,” which defines the eligibility of non-EU players in the Maple League. The prevailing practice for several years has been to allow three American players in the game-day roster, with two of them permitted to be on the field simultaneously. In 2024, a change to this rule will be introduced, raising the limit of American players to five.
A team playing in the 2024 Maple League season can have a maximum of five non-EU players per match. However, only two of them are allowed to be on the field simultaneously during the game. Additionally, a third player is permitted on the field during offense if numbered 50-79 and plays on the offensive line. Playing on the offensive line also includes kick plays originating from the scrimmage line (e.g., punt, field goal, extra point).
The number of American players has been a regular topic of discussion in Maple League board meetings. The rule change is motivated by the observation of an increasing number of EU players being recruited to the Maple League and simultaneous intensification of competition in the European player markets. The nearly limitless pool of players in the United States allows teams to acquire top-level reinforcements with the same effort as producing mid-level players from Europe to fill rosters.
Tightening the ”home Yankee” practice
The head of the Maple League has had the authority to grant a player who is not a citizen of an EU member state the so-called ”EU status,” exempting them from being considered a non-EU player. Previously, this status could be obtained through long-term residence in Finland and becoming part of the Finnish social security system. Now, the rule is being tightened.
In the future, EU status can only be granted if the player’s arrival and stay in Finland are due to reasons unrelated to American football. Additionally, it is required that the player has not previously played in Finland or Europe for compensation. The player’s reason for coming to Finland to receive EU status must be family-related (e.g., marriage, cohabitation, parents moving to Finland) or refugee status.
If the player’s arrival in Finland is for work or study reasons, players in the Maple League will require a one-year waiting period from arriving in Finland before signing a contract or starting to play to be eligible for status.
Athletes who previously obtained EU status in Finland can maintain the same status they had in 2022 if they still meet the conditions of the previously applicable rules. EU statuses are valid until the end of the respective calendar year.
In case of a change in citizenship, the new citizenship is effective the day after it is acquired. The player’s status for each competition year is determined based on the situation on January 1st.