Fourth and Long: The Spread of American Football to France, 1945-1985
by Russ Crawford, Ohio Northern University
This presentation will examine the spread of American football to France following the World War II. The sport arrived in France, along with American NATO contingents, as a means of bringing a slice of the American Way to help homesick soldiers on American airbases. After a period of absence the sport returned as a cultural transplant brought in by an unusual French educator. The first teams in France were exclusively American, made up of servicemen stationed at bases such as Chateauroux, among others, and featured international competition between bases stretching from England to North Africa. These initial efforts had little effect on the native population and the sport virtually disappeared from France until the 1980s, when Laurent Plagelatte, a French physical education teacher, and self-described communist, brought the game back from a conference in Colorado. Despite the failure of ventures such as NFL Europe, American football enjoys a modest presence in France today, supported by a small, but enthusiastic cadre of players and fans.