June 5 could be a turning point for Austrian football: Vienna Vikings and Raiders Tyrol make their debut in the European League of Football (ELF) on this day and meet in Innsbruck. With this international commitment, the Vikings have high hopes, as club officials announced on Thursday in Vienna. New investors must help become the galleon figure for American football in Europe.
From June, the Vikings will compete in the ELF – which was held for the first time last year – with eleven other teams from five nations. ELF Commissioner Patrick Esume left no doubt at a press conference at the Generali Arena – Vienna’s ELF venue – that the club is a win for the league. For the German, the Viennese have been a football cornerstone of Europe for decades. “Vienna Vikings is a brand in Europe. The location here in Vienna in the middle of Europe is ideal, and now with the stadium it could not have been better,” says Esume.
A franchise model was created for the involvement in the European league. The Vikings received support from, among others, business lawyer Robin Lumsden, who joined as a co-owner and investor and wants to make the club a sporting and financial flagship project. “It’s a heart project, and I can combine many passions – the passion for sports, the passion for business investment, it’s my everyday life, and the passion for building bridges between the United States and Austria,” Lumsden explained.
The American lawyer will ensure that the Vikings become more professional, for start-up financing and for additional networks with potential sponsors and investors, especially in America. Participation in the ELF should be an advantage. “This European league is seen with friendly eyes in the United States, it is not a competitive league,” Lumsden said.
Young people must benefit
Viking President Karl Wurm has high hopes for the new co-owner. “Robin Lumsden’s connections are legendary,” says Wurm. Above all, the local talents must benefit. “The Vikings are one of the few opportunities for a 15-year-old boy to learn and play football at the highest level. Now with Robin Lumsden’s connections, especially in the United States, they really have a realistic opportunity to get into the NFL.” The Viking boss raised hopes that there could be more success stories like Bernhard Raimanns in the future.
The 24-year-old was the first Austrian to be selected in the NFL Draft in late April and can now prove himself at the Indianapolis Colts. Raimann was a graduate of the Viking Academy. “I still remember him saying goodbye and saying to me, ‘Mr. President, I’m going to America!’ And I said, ‘You have to see, either you stay there forever, or you’ll come back in six months.’ “I was not so mistaken. He’s supposed to be one of the best liners the NFL has ever seen,” Wurm said.
ELF live on PULSE 24
Meanwhile, ELF Commissioner Esume emphasized the media’s appreciation of European football through the ELF. In Austria, the TV channel Puls24 broadcasts all Vikings and Raiders matches live on TV and the Internet, including the league final on 25 September in Klagenfurt’s Wörthersee Stadium.
In addition, the ELF clubs would benefit from revenue sharing. “The league is pushing something back to the clubs. Of course, it is also important for us that the teams are financially stable,” said Esume, who wants to expand ELF further in the future.
Esume’s stated goal is also to be a training league to bring more European players into the NFL. “If at some point ten of our league goes to the NFL, then I’ve done a hell of a lot right,” the 48-year-old said, adding: “I’m in good spirits in four or five years. Football will be firmly established in Europe behind that football as number two. “