The King Bowl and the Organic Growth of American Football in the Netherlands

King Bowl 1

The King Bowl takes place in Utrecht, Netherlands from April 29th & 30th, 2017.


Someone I admire once said that American football in Europe is at a point in its development where “growth creates form and form limits growth.” The sport is most certainly in the midst of an exciting and sometimes turbulent point in its development.

The “growth” that is happening all across Europe is undeniable. There has been a recent surge in Poland and Serbia in particular, while many other countries have experienced notably positive growth, including Croatia, Bosnia, Malta, Israel, Finland, the Netherlands and Belgium. Belgium has even taken the critical step in its development of uniting the Flemish and French teams under one united league umbrella and the sport has never been so elevated there. The National team – the Barbarians – are hosting two games in 2017, including one against Russia.

It is also undeniable that there is much “form” coalescing and solidifying around this abundant growth. Every country has their own respective federations, associations, and assemblies which all coordinate not only between each other, their respective national and local governments, countless potential sponsors, and various other interests, but also with multiple IFAFs. Even setting aside the fact that these organizations are not all harmoniously on the same page, unsurprisingly, this much form has certainly impacted and at times slowed the growth of the sport.

The Growth of a Game has relationships with hundreds of teams in over 50 countries, and we say with confidence that The Netherlands is one country in particular where American football seems to be developing in a very healthy and productive manner.

Many Dutch clubs cooperate with schools to spread coed flag football so that all students have easy access to the sport from a very young age. Almost every club has a full cast of teams which can range from U7 coed flag to adult padded tackle.

As of late, the Amsterdam Crusaders, led by the tried and true veteran Winston Ronde, has been delivering haymakers in some of the biggest international tournaments around. The Crusaders are a true testament to how high Dutch teams can rise.

Another Dutch club, the Utrecht Dominators, has stepped forward in the Netherlands with distinction. The Dominators do extensive work within their local community of Utrecht.  Their collaborative efforts create opportunities for the lower income children in the community, as well as their families.

King Bowl 2The Dominators also break barriers in their advancement of the game in the Netherlands. Under the leadership of the club founder, Mr. Ilja Tersteeg, the Dominators are hosting an international 5v5 flag football tournament in Utrecht, Netherlands on the weekend of April 29th-30th.

Mr. Tersteeg shared his inspiration regarding the King Bowl: “It’s great to see the sport of American football – both tackle and flag – really taking off in Europe and across the globe. We want to do our part to promote the sport by offering teams of all levels a platform to compete against teams from all corners of Europe or even the rest of the world. We have so much fun traveling to and competing at other international tournaments that we thought it would only be fair to host one ourselves and give others the same opportunity. We’re paying it forward, so to speak.”

“We’re really excited about the global expansion of flag football. Whether it is pick-up games in the park, local leagues, or nationally organized leagues, it’s really exciting to see such growth and development of the game.”

By hosting The King Bowl Tournament, The Dominators organization is attempting to help raise the level of Dutch flag football while offering international teams a combination of fun, quality competition, and a nice cultural experience.

The yearly tournament is held in late April, right after the birthday of the sports-minded Dutch king, HRH King Willem Alexander.

Elaborating more, Mr. Tersteeg told us: “We love the inclusive nature of flag football and we strongly relate to the social and cultural dynamic of international tournaments. They always have a great open atmosphere where you can meet other flag football lovers from different places. We believe that international tournaments offer teams a great experience to go out and test their game against unfamiliar opponents who sometimes have a totally different style of play.”

The tournament is open to a maximum of 24 teams—both men’s and coed. The group aims to have a women’s competition this year if possible, if not for certain next year. The games will be played in a group format. Afterwards the teams will be divided into new groups based on their group ranking. In that new group they will play placement games.

Utrecht is conveniently located in the heart of the Netherlands. It is only 25 to 30 minutes from the Amsterdam Schiphol airport and is also home to the biggest train hub in the Netherlands. Mr. Tersteeg said: “Getting here is no problem, though you might have trouble leaving it behind!”

This tournament is a classic example of the positive direction that the organic growth of American football is taking in the Netherlands. This kind of positive international cooperation is exactly what American football needs to see more of and The Growth of a Game proudly supports the King Bowl and all the other efforts made by the Dominators.