The International Olympic Committee officially granted provisional recognition to the International Federation of American Football. This does not mean football will be an Olympic sport—but it's a necessary first step.
"On behalf of the IOC, we are delighted to welcome the IFAF into the Olympic Family. The federation has long demonstrated strong youth appeal and are making great progress in developing their sport around the world. We trust that this provisional recognition will generate momentum in the further universal development of their disciplines." says Christophe Dubi, IOC Sports Director.
Founded in 1998, headquartered in France, and counting among its members 66 nations on six continents, the IFAF is the international governing body of tackle football, flag football, and beach football, all for both men and women. It's best-known event is the quadrennial World Cup, where the most successful non-American teams have been Japan, Mexico, Canada, and Germany.
(The USA wasn't allowed in the first two editions of the World Cup. For the most recent two, the American team played under very severe roster restrictions—players had to be out of college, but never played for any professional or semi-pro team. The USA won both times, but got taken to double overtime in 2007. The 2011 team, led by former University of Colorado QB Cody Hawkins, blew through the competition.)
The IFAF has long sought IOC recognition, but its original application was turned down in May before being re-submitted successfully.
So what does IOC recognition mean, beyond being an incredibly preliminary step toward becoming an Olympic sport? In short, funding. Many countries pump money into sports through a government ministry, and many of those ministries only support sports that are internationally recognized.
"With IOC recognition, the expectation is that you would end up having more competitions," NFL Vice President of International Chris Parsons told Fox Sports. "You would see more and more leagues and that would generate incremental interest … It wouldn't open the floodgates per se but the argument would be a lot stronger as far as federations applying for local funding.
American football still has a long way to go before it's in the Olympics. Not enough nations are competitive enough, and a single one dominates it to a comical extent. But the IFAF's endgame is a 7-on-7 version of the sport that would somewhat level the playing field, much like rugby sevens, which will make its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro.