The World Games 2022 Birmingham partners with NFL on addition of flag football

The World Games 2022 Birmingham partners with NFL on addition of flag football
Flag Football @TWG2022 Presented by the NFL will feature eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams from around the world at Legion Field as part of the Birmingham World Games 2022. (contributed)

Football is coming to Legion Field as part of the World Games 2022, thanks to the National Football League.

World Games 2022 Birmingham officials announced today a deal with the NFL, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) and the International World Games Association (IWGA) that will bring flag football to the lineup of events at the 2022 World Games in Alabama.

“We could not be more thrilled that the NFL is recognizing World Games 2022 Birmingham and what it’s going to mean to our community, our country and the world,” said Nick Sellers, CEO of the World Games 2022 Birmingham.

As a Premier Partner of the World Games 2022, the NFL will be the presenting sponsor of flag football and will promote The Games across its international platforms over the next two years.

Flag football added to The World Games 2022 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Being a part of the sports program in the World Games 2022 formalizes flag football as an international sport, which promotes the values and benefits of the game to fans around the world,” said Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of Football Operations. “Flag football affords men and women, boys and girls, of all ages, body type and athletic skill the opportunity to enjoy the values, fun and competitive environment that only football offers.”

Flag Football @TWG2022 Presented by the NFL will feature eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams from around the world. As the current reigning world champions, the United States men’s and women’s teams both pre-qualify for The World Games 2022. The remaining teams will be selected through the IFAF qualifying process.

“We are excited for flag football to join the official lineup of the World Games in 2022, a competitive stage for football players from around the globe to showcase their skills,” said Damani Leech, NFL chief operating officer of International. “The NFL is committed to opportunities for athletes from around the world to participate in all levels of football and has been supportive of IFAF’s work to bring flag football to the World Games, a great step forward in their long-term Olympic pursuits. We will be closely following the qualifying events, which determine the top men’s and women’s flag football teams to compete in Birmingham.”

It was the IFAF’s desire to get flag football into the Olympics that led to the sport joining the World Games.

Sellers said UAB football coach Bill Clark introduced him to Izell Reese, a former UAB and NFL player who now is executive director of NFL Flag. With the IWGA being an organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee, getting the sport into the World Games can lead to getting into the Olympics.

In its first appearance as a sport of the World Games, Flag Football @TWG2022 Presented by the NFL joins wheelchair rugby, lacrosse and duathlon as the fourth invitational sport for the World Games 2022.

“We are delighted to confirm the official collaboration with the IWGA and the Birmingham Organizing Committee for the World Games 2022, where we will see flag football on a global multisport stage for the very first time,” said IFAF President Richard MacLean. “The great thing about flag football is that it appeals to every level in the sport. This dynamic and exciting sport is as accessible to children as it is to adults at a grassroots level and we hope that the elite players taking part at the World Games will be a catalyst for global growth, inspiring a new generation of football participants and talent around the world.”

In addition to the official sports selected by the IWGA, Birmingham, as host city, has the opportunity to select up to five invitational sports to include in its sports program.

If you’re talking Alabama, a version of football just makes sense.

“Football is a staple of Southern sports and will be a welcome addition to the 2022 World Games lineup,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “Noncontact sports like flag football are a great way to open up competition to all skill levels. That type of accessibility and inclusion is what the World Games is all about, providing incredible experiences and lasting memories for participants and spectators to enjoy. Birmingham can’t wait for the world to join us in 2022.”

And if you’re talking football in Birmingham, Legion Field is the place.

“There’s no better place to showcase the World Games 2022 flag football experience than at Legion Field, ‘The Football Capital of the South,’” said Birmingham City Council President William Parker. “This partnership with the NFL is just the beginning of a long-term relationship that the city plans to develop with the league.”

Sellers said it’s hard to overstate what the NFL’s stamp of approval does for Birmingham and the World Games 2022.

“The NFL’s partnership sends a signal to every company in the world that associating their brand with this special event is important for the world to see,” he said.

It also made it easy for the IWGA to approve flag football in the World Games.

“American football was an invitational sport back at the World Games 2005 and 2017,” said Joachim Gossow, CEO of the IWGA. “Being a great sport deeply rooted in Birmingham, Alabama, the Birmingham Organizing Committee was enthusiastic to host flag football, a dynamic noncontact discipline of American football, at The World Games 2022. When the IFAF and the NFL jointly backed the application to participate in order to promote further and showcase flag football in the United States and worldwide, the IWGA Board followed BOC’s request to add flag football to the sports program in 2022.”

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The World Games 2022 Birmingham will take place July 7-17, 2022, and will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact. Some 3,600 athletes from more than 100 countries are expected to participate in what now numbers 33 sports taking place at more than two dozen venues in central Alabama.

The Birmingham event will be the 40th anniversary of the World Games and the first time it has been in the U.S. since the inaugural games in Los Angeles in 1981. The games were originally slated to take place in the summer of 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Olympics from 2020 to 2021, causing the World Games to be delayed until 2022.

The World Games 2022 will be the first major international sporting event on U.S. soil since the pandemic and Sellers can envision the desire to reunite as being a driving force in a successful event.

“We’ve got to believe that we’re going to be past this pandemic, it’s going to be in the rearview mirror and the world is going to want to reconnect in a special way by 2022,” Sellers said. “This will be the first big chance for an international sporting event in America and it’s going to be right here in our hometown, right here in our home state of Alabama. I think it’s going to play an important role in the reconnection we all want to have to take place.”

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