Although far from the NFL, the ELF has already achieved a surprising feat in professional men’s sports – 25% of the 12 teams have female general managers. Although there was a record 12 female coaches in the 2021 NFL season, no head coach or general manager of all 32 teams was female.
In the ELF, Diana Hoge (Berlin Thunder), Patricia Klemm (Rhine Fire) and Claudia Nuener (Raiders Tirol) represent this change.
“Working in the sports industry these days is more like a job with a purpose. We’re not like doctors, but we can create stories, reach people and try to change lives,” said Hoge to DW. “If you can reach some young people who don’t have the easiest life and give them something, it’s worth doing that work.”
While fulfilling her childhood dream of working on a cruise ship, Hoge injured her right arm and thought she might never regain the use of her hand, but 20 years plus a host of jobs later, Hoge is a trailblazer in a job she loves.
“It’s sometimes frustrating in 2022 that it’s still such a big topic to have a woman in a position of power, but on the other hand, I’m proud to be a role model,” Hoge told DW. “To show that even as a single mom, with hard work, you can be successful wherever you want.”
The success of the ELF’s inaugural season last year – 35,000 people attended the league game in the western German city of Düsseldorf – came as little surprise.
The league reintroduced a professional American football tournament to the continent, with many teams retaining their old NFL Europe names (1991-2007) and connecting with decades-old fanbases. Also, the timing couldn’t have been better.
Interest in sport has been growing in Germany for a long time. Local heroes of recent years have helped, and last year the NFL cited the country as home to 19 million fans and with NFL viewership growing 20% annually since 2017.
The ELF builds on this interest. The new season begins on June 4 and the league has grown from eight to 12 teams from five different countries.
Goalposts to General Manager
One of the newcomers is a Raiders team led by Claudia Nuener, who was chief executive of the Innsbruck-based organization for four years and played a key role in transforming the Raiders into one of the new teams. of the ELF.
Working in a supportive and progressive workplace, where football (and other sports) are offered to all and equality is the norm, Nuener ignores regressive mentalities.
“It’s refreshing that there are two more female GMs, but that should be normal,” Nuener told DW. “There are often men and even sometimes women who are surprised or who think ‘football and are you a woman?’, but I answer ‘correct’ and then it’s their problem… I don’t have never felt empowered I don’t do a job because I’m a woman I just do the job the best I can.
Patricia Klemm first watched the Rhine Fire when NFL Europe still existed, and later played the game in Germany before former Fire coach and current co-owner Martin Wagner offered her the job. as general manager last year.
Patricia Klemm in action for Bochum Minors
Being able to mix his knowledge of the game with his degree in sports business management has given Klemm an edge, but bringing a team with a history in Europe back to its former glory poses its own challenges.
“Since 2007, when NFL Europe folded, every year the city was begging for the team to come back,” Klemm told DW. “I feel that pressure because I know the whole town is watching me.”
As the NFL leads the way on the field, it could definitely learn a thing or two from the ELF about the value and strength of a diverse workforce.
Edited by: Jonathan Harding