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FOOTBALL

Austria leads Big Six US football in Europe

The top American-style football clubs in Europe are getting together in 2015 to fight for the European grid-iron championship in July, with Austria taking a leading position.

Austria leads Big Six US football in Europe
Photo: Vienna Vikings

American football dates back to 1986 in Europe, with explosive growth in Germany, Austria and France.

This year, six major teams from the three countries will be slugging it out, to find the European champion, and to earn the coveted Eurobowl trophy.

The event has been won by Austrian clubs eight times, and in 2015 two Austrian clubs will be hotly contesting the trophy – the Vienna Vikings and the Swarco Tirol Raiders.

They will be facing last year's champions, the Berlin Adlers, who took down the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions by 20-17 in a close-fought battle.  Also from Germany are the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, and from France the Paris-based Flash de La Courneuve.

Two groups of three teams each will play in a round-robin format before the winners contest the final in Eurobowl XXIX.  The final schedule is yet to be announced, but should finish in July.

A traditional Austrian power, the Swarco Tirol Raiders from Innsbruck captured the Eurobowl title in 2008, 2009, and 2011.

Looking ahead to 2015 the Raiders have a big void to fill in their backfield as they have lost star Austrian national team RB Andreas Hofbauer to the German Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in the offseason.

However, the signing of American QB Sean Shelton, most recently of the Elancourt Templiersand 2014 Finnish and IFAF Europe Champions Helsinki Roosters, guarantees a strong signal-caller and passer in the offensive backfield.

Founded in 1983, the Vienna Vikings are regulars to Eurobowl competition having won the title five times (2004–2007 and 2013), as well being the runner-up four times (2003, 2008, 2010 and 2012).

The Vikings will sign no imports for 2015. This will be the first time in 25 years they will play without imports. HC Chris Calaycay will replace retired Austrian national team QB Chris Gross with 20-year old Alexander Thury. The Vikings have also lost their top WR, Laurhino Walch, to the Frankfurt Galaxy, but have a talented and experienced WR group to fill the gap.

On defense the Vikings will be led by Austrian league MVP OLB Simon Blach and a strong DL group that has four national team caliber players. The DB group also boasts two national team starters.

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FOOTBALL

Austria investigates football chief for alleged corruption

Austrian prosecutors said Wednesday they are investigating the national football federation head over a payment made at the time of the disgraced Sepp Blatter's re-election as Fifa president in 2015.

Austria investigates football chief for alleged corruption
In this 2009 image Austrian football federation president Leo Windtner (L) takes part in the presentation of Austria's then new national team football coach Dietmar "Didi" Constantini. Photo: AFP

“We are investigating because of the suspicion of breach of trust and corruption,” the public prosecution office for economic and corruption affairs (WKStA) said.

The $100,000 (€84,000) transfer was made by Fifa, the world governing body, to a project supporting young footballers in Africa at the beginning of 2015.

The patron of this project was none other than the wife of the head of the Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB), Leo Windtner.

According to two Austrian websites, Addendum and 90minuten.at, the funds were approved just after Windtner had said in an interview that he supported Blatter serving another term.

The money was initially wired to the ÖFB, which returned it to Fifa, saying it was not involved in the African project. Fifa then transferred it directly to the project's account.

Windtner, 67, said on Wednesday that he would make a statement to prosecutors in the coming days and that he was “relaxed” about the probe.

“I didn't give Blatter any promise or undertaking,” Windtner said. “Everything was transparent and every cent accounted for. I have nothing to reproach myself for.”

He conceded that the money was at first wrongly transferred to the ÖFB and not to the African project, “but that was no fault of mine”.

In the end, the ÖFB supported Blatter's rival for the Fifa presidency, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

Blatter won re-election but amid swirling corruption allegations the Swiss was later banned from soccer for making an improper payment to then-Uefa chief Michel Platini.