We recently spoke with the commissioner of the new European League of Football, Patrick Esume. As the League kick-offs on 19th of July 2021, we have spoken with Esume about rule differences from NFL and about the plans for the future of the league.
Burçin Erdemir: Dear NFLTR followers.,I am Buçin Erdemir and today we are going to do an unusual interview. We are here with Patrick Esume. Who is Patrick Esume? He was born and grew up in Hamburg. In 1992 he started playing as a defensive end and won two times German Bowl and three times Euro Bowl. After finishing his playing career in 2000 he worked as an assistant coach with Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.
Back as a head coach in Europe he became French Champion with La Courneuve Flash. Then again in Germany he won German Bowl and European Football League with Kiel Baltic Hurricanes. After being named Head Coach of French National Team he also won the European Championship.
Since 2015 works as an Expert in German Television during the NFL Games. Right now, he is with us as the commissioner of the new European League of Football.
BE: Hello Mr. Commissioner, Welcome to NFLTR…
Patrick Esume: Hello, that was interesting to hear in Turkish, what I did, where I was (after the Turkish intro) Cleveland, Oakland I heard it all.
BE: I wasn’t able to possibly introduce you, you did so many things. And so many successful things. If I try to tell people everything you did, we will be here tonight, and we will still be talking after three hours. First of all, congratulations. You are the commissioner of the European League of Football. It’s a new league and tell me one thing! how much do you sleep or are you sleeping at all?
Patrick Esume: I can tell you that, I don’t sleep enough. I do sleep but definitely not enough.
BE: I have so many questions about the new league but let’s start with you first. I think it’s not wrong tell to people you are the face of American football in Germany and Europe. And you are known as the coach in Germany. Tell me one thing for our audience. You have coached in USA and you coached in Europe. Is there a difference with the relationship to players from a coach’s perspective? Or is it like the same mindset?
Patrick Esume: No, the mindset of the Players in the US specially in the pro Football, in the NFL is obviously different because there is a lot of money involved. But if you break it down to the fundamentals of two man getting along with each other, it’s the same thing. Wherever you are, the relationship that you have with a football player as a coach in Europe is actually pretty much the same as in US. Again, obviously the biggest difference is the money involved and that puts sometimes little extra pepper into the whole thing.
BE: I can understand that. I think it was yesterday I saw on your twitter you started training with the referees. Is that correct?
Patrick Esume: Yes, absolutely That was already second referee clinic. We had 2 weeks a go the very first one in Hamburg with about 30 referees from Germany, Poland and from various European countries. Because obviously the challenge our officials going to face is that they are used to NCAA rules and now here is the league that is going to play by the NFL rules.
BE: That is exactly about my next question. You are right now building a new league from zero. It is a hard thing and I admire what you doing but can you tell us are there any rule changes (differences) between NFL and ELF?
Patrick Esume: Yes, yes there are. Generally speaking we are playing by the NFL rules. But I never liked the overtime rules in the NFL. Because I think they are simply not fair. If you have 2 very balanced offences and they are moving the ball up and down the field you know in the NFL if you win the coin toss in the overtime, the changes to you win to win the game are much higher. So, the coin toss is very important in the NFL for the overtime. But I don’t want to the coin toss to decide who is going to win the game. I want it to be a fair chance for both teams so that’s one difference. We have the college rules when it comes to overtime. And the other difference is obviously the instant replay. For instant replay you do need a lot of technical things, a lot of cameras a lot of communication which cost ultimately a lot of money that we don’t have so that’s going to be another difference as far as NFL and European League of Football, there is no replay.
BE: If the league gets bigger, I am sure there will be more cameras more attention to it this might change but the overtime rule I have to say congratulations on that. That’s the one thing I hate in the NFL. It’s like you said it’s a coin toss and its 50/50. That’s huge and that’s really good I already liked that.
Patrick Esume: If you look back not the last playoffs but one prior to it. I think it was Brady or was it even Brees.. I don’t remember. When Brady was facing Pat Mahomes AFC Championship game and when its overtime and both offences were rolling so whoever wins the coin toss actually going to win the game. Tom Brady won the coin toss and advance to the Super Bowl and Pat Mahomes never got on the field. That’s why I am saying this is not fair. I took the freedom to say as a commissioner in the league that I want to start I want fair overtime rules.
BE: I applaud that. We also saw some confusions with the players. I don’t remember who that was, but I think it was Indianapolis Colts a player wanted to kick the ball instead of receive in the overtime. At least these things aren’t going to happen in your league and I am glad hear that. There are egiht teams right now (in your league).
Patrick Esume: Yes, correct.
BE: I see some old familiar names like Frankfurt Galaxy, Hamburg Sea Devils. I understand that big NFL have allowed you to bring back these franchises?
Patrick Esume: They allowed us to use the names. Which obviously was very important to us to connect with a fan base that was so big in the mid-2000s all the way up to 2007. They were not visible, but they were still there. We wanted to make sure that we reconnect with the fans. Where were so many of them and also bring back some of the good memories Hamburg Sea Devils and Frankfurt Galaxy. I coached for both teams. These names mean a lot to their communities. The names Galaxy means a lot to the people in Frankfurt. So we wanted to bring that back we managed to get a cooperation with the NFL in that regard. And that was very important for us.
BE: A lot of people have still emotional feelings to these franchises. It was a good idea to bring them back and many people will remember them as were playing in the NFL EUROPE. And that’s another thing I would like to ask you. It’s not NFL Europe… hopefully it’s not because NFL Europe at the end… had a sad ending at least.
Patrick Esume: I remember I was part of the sad ending..
BE: You are different from NFL Europe but how? How is your approach? I mean NFL Europe at one point was like test place for NFL for rule changes among all other things. But right now, you are doing not NFL Europe something completely different. Is that correct?
Patrick Esume: Yes, it is different. NFL Europe was actually ran out of New York. The Teams belonged to the League not to themselves. Our Franchisees, they are their own boss, they are their own companies. Yes, they have a Franchise agreement with us as a League, but we don’t own them. They are their own boss which is really a big difference because it’s tough if you sit in New York or London and you determine the business in Frankfurt or in Hamburg. You need somebody from the respective area that knows the area, knows the people to run the business. That’s one big difference. And obviously the owner structure is going to allow you to bring in more partnerships, sponsors. That wasn’t the case in NFL Europe. And the biggest difference is obviously the structure of the roster. Because in NFL Europe as you remember it was basically American Football league on European ground. It was all American players and just a few so called national players. And every year you had a new team.
If there was a team from Istanbul you know one year you have a good team, you liked the players, they leave and next year you had a whole new set. This was though to be emotionally attached to a team when you had different faces every year. That’s where we are different because we said that might sound bad, but we don’t care so much about the American players we care about the home-grown players where the franchises are located. For example, we on the Hamburg team we want the core of team to be cast out of Hamburg. Yes, we can have 4 American players on a roster and Europe is wide open so there will be some Europeans. But the core team or face of the franchise we want in Hamburg to be somebody from Hamburg. If we ever come to Turkey, Istanbul we want a Turkish player to be the face of the franchise not an American one because they are interchangeable. Turkish player in Turkey is not interchangeable.
BE: I think this is a huge difference. I mean for the people for the audience they are more connected to the franchises.
Patrick Esume: Correct.
BE: I also saw some well-known Names from NFL like Kasim Edebali. He will play in your league for Hamburg Sea Devils. I still have to ask you is there a path from European League of Football to NFL?
Patrick Esume: As far as the players?
BE: Yes, for the players. Is there a collaboration or you say this is our league we are going to play here? If they want (to leave) after one season or after their contract, how is this structured?
Patrick Esume: No there is no path or anything going on between the NFL and us. We do have cooperation with the NFL regards to the names and down the road there are going to be more fields we going to work together with the NFL. But we are totally independent from the NFL. The NFL is a great league. It is the best sport league on the planet in my opinion, it is the strongest most powerful and it is the wealthiest one. But we are totally independent. And players like Kasim Edebali (former NFL DE) , Chris Ezeala (former Ravens FB) or a guy like Jakob Johnson (Current FB, Patriots) who is involved in Stuttgart franchise, they are involved because they just like many European football players and coaches were waiting for a league that provides a bigger stage for the game. That’s why they said ‘’oh I like this league, I like the idea I’m coming’’ And Kasim Edebali is perfect fit because he is from Hamburg learned his first football here. He was around when I was a NFL Europe coach. He was a small young kid. I know him for a long time
BE: He is not small anymore!
Patrick Esume: No, no he is really big. When I talked to him about it he immediately said ‘’coach, if that league starts I’m coming back home’’ same with Chris Ezeala. There will be more names going to be announced soon.
BE: You don’t want to be the backyard of the NFL. You want to be your league. Its also a very good strategy to attract the players. Like you can play here and be part of the community. In Hamburg, Edebali as you said he is from Hamburg, he was there so its also good for the community and for the audience the people will love it obviously.
Patrick Esume: Yes, because they can relate. It’s tough.., let’s take Poland for example and you have only American superstars. Yeah, I know we are going to have 4 American players, but you want the polish player to score a touchdown, quarterback sack. So now you can get him in front of a camera, talk to them on TV and he is the star. He speaks the language, he is one of them. You see him downtown, when you buy you groceries you see him, and you can talk to him. ‘’hey nice touchdown I saw it on TV’’, ‘’oh yeah thank you’’. With an American guy you need to translate, and the connection gets lost. It is the same in Germany it is the same in Spain ant it is the same wherever we go. That’s why the focus is on home grown player.
BE: That’s great to hear. I have to ask you one thing though. How about the local leagues? Like German Football League, do you have any relationship with them or do you like them do they like you?
Patrick Esume: One thing I can tell is they do not like us. Yes, we talked to them. But still they don’t like us. But that’s the nature of the beast. You know If you are the biggest dog in the backyard for 30 years all of sudden there is a new one. You don’t like him. Because he is going to take some of your food. And then it is really up to who is the better dog who is the bigger dog. And that’s what competition is really. And obviously they don’t like it but we are not coming in to be detrimental to the domestic league. In every city, in every country where we are, we want work together with the federation.
We want to work together with the local amateur teams. Because we understand as a league that we benefit from the club system, where the kids learn to play they get better and they end up in European League of Football. That’s why we, for example first year in Hamburg, together with the Hamburg federation we came together, we found an agreement locally. But nationwide it’s though. They have some different agendas. But in Hamburg we going to have a big camp where we going to use our media reach TV, social media and get kids to learn football in a camp for three days. 200 300 kids to learn play we bring our coaches we use our social media to make it really big. We might even sponsor to pay for the whole thing. And then we get kids into the club system. We want 200 300 kids every year through camps that we push to the local teams and the clubs because midterm 2-3-4-5 years from then we are get back from them because those are the kids we put in the camp and ended up in the club system. But that’s what we want to do. We want to help the local team. But again, like always not everybody likes the new person on the block.
BE: Sure, you can’t make everyone happy. I know the games will be broadcasted in Germany. On Sundays it’s before the NFL Games is that correct?
Patrick Esume: That is correct, but they also are going to be broadcasted in Poland and Spain in free TV.
BE: Now I have to ask you one important question for our Turkish audience.
Patrick Esume: Hold on hold on. Don’t ask. The answer is yes…
BE: They can watch the games. Where?
Patrick Esume: They can watch the games. I expected a different question but still the answer is yes. They can watch the games because we are going to have OTT platform something like the NFL Game Pass. Everybody knows the Game Pass. We are going to have European League of Football Game Pass ready once the season start. So Turkish fans they can watch every game.
BE: What was the question you were expecting?
Patrick Esume: Whether we want to have a team in Turkey.
BE: That will be a question, but we will come to that in a very short time. On social media you have a really active Instagram page. There will highlights on you YouTube channel, right?
Patrick Esume: Absolutely. The Highlights will be on our social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, twitter obviously YouTube. But more than that. The TV station ProSiebenSat1 (German TV Broadcaster), all the highlights are going to be on their sports channel. Then we have a Game Pass and we work with some big nationwide newspapers that obviously have online platform. Can’t say the name yet because it’s not finalized. Hopefully we going to be on there online. So, highlights are going to be all over the place.
BE: You already mentioned Spain and Germany and Poland you already said you are open to a Turkish team. How many team are there going to be? Right now where are 8 what’s your plans? What’s in the future?
Patrick Esume: In the final stage we want to have 24 Teams in more than 10 or 12 countries. We are going to expand next year. Probably 6 teams. We are going to expand 4 team if there are more candidates might even go up to 6 team but not more than 6 team. 14 Teams next year and then go up to 20 and then to 24.
BE: So, you are open to a Turkish team? From Turkey?
Patrick Esume: Oh yeah!
BE: Do you know any Turkish Teams? Koç Rams? for example ITU Hornets? It’s more like a university sport in Turkey but there are also clubs. The there is a league which unfortunately canceled last year because of the pandemic. That’s understandable. You are open for a Turkish team which will be a part of your divisions? And the divisions.. tell us more about that is the system like NFL?
Patrick Esume: As of now we have north and south. But once it gets to certain size you have to north, south, east, and west. Next year we still going to be north and south. 2 years after next year we are going to go to 4 divisions with respectively 6 teams. The Turkish team would be in the eastern conference probably.. or may be in the southern I don’t know yet. Yes, absolutely Turkey and specially Istanbul is for me a market that is a must!
BE: That’s very nice to hear. I have to say thank you very much for this interview Patrick. Hopefully we can talk again about a Turkish team if there is a Turkish team in you league then we would like to talk to you again. If it’s ok.
Patrick Esume: Absolutely. I will come to Turkey I will come to Istanbul and because I was already contacted. I love Turkey. My best friend is Turkish. I have a lot of Turkish friends. Been to Turkey many many times. Love the country, love the people. Istanbul is a very big energetic world city. Hamburg is a big city, but Istanbul is a giant. Obviously, Istanbul has to have a team, that is not playing in yellow and blue and not black and red. You got the stay away from these colors. I envision the team in Istanbul to be like Team Turkey in the European League of Football. As you know Turkish community is so big in Germany. You speak German. Where did you learn?
BE: I grew up in Germany. I was born in Germany grew up in Germany.
Patrick Esume: So, you are German! What town Berlin?
BE: Berlin yes, born and raised in Berlin…
Patrick Esume: So, you know how big the Turkish community is. If a team from Istanbul like team Turkey is coming to Berlin..
BE: That won’t be an away game. That would be a home game.
Patrick Esume: No that’s what I am saying. It will be home game. There would be 5-6-7000 Turkish people in the stands and its going to bring a lot of energy to our league. That’s why to me Turkey is a must.
BE: That’s great hear. Thank you very much Patrick Esume. Good Luck and have some sleep (mate(!!??)…
PE: No time no time. I can sleep when the season is over…