International Floorball Federation: growing a sport globally

August 31 2023

Floorball is a variation of floor hockey featuring five players and a goalkeeper in each team. Since its origins that go back to the 1950s and the inception of the International Floorball Federation (IFF) in 1986, the sport has grown to boast almost 5,000 clubs, 350,000 licensed players and three million recreational players globally. The role of the IFF is to help grow and develop the sport, globally. The IFF is also in place to support clubs, other federations and promote environmental sustainability.

International Floorball Federation: growing a sport globally

When discussing sustainability, of course the environmental aspects of this journey are a priority, but for a more niche sport, its long-term success is also important. 

The role of the IFF is to support the growth of the sport internationally, and to attract new players, teams, sponsors and more. 

“The development of the sport is divided into two main streams, the first and strongest one run by the member federations or the floorball groups in different countries or regions,” John Liljelund, Secretary General of the IFF, explained to Global Sustainable Sport. 

“The second is the one run by the IFF, where we try to provide assistance to our member federations in the field of organisational development through seminars and clinics and having a license system for participation in our major events, like the IFF World Floorball Championships. 

“Then we have built a set of regulations, guidelines and policies that the member federations can use for their own activities and the development of them. The most concrete work is done in the field of coaching education, referee and referee observer education, where IFF runs workshops and larger seminars on different levels for the national federations.”

“The IFF is dedicated to working towards inclusion and to offering more opportunities to participate in floorball." John Liljelund, Secretary General of the IFF

Part of IFF’s efforts include raising awareness of floorball to entice new players, and this is done through securing broadcasting rights for the sport’s major events.

“The key factor in this work is the need to bring the message down to the field of play and to promote and raise the awareness of the sport among potential future floorballers,” said Liljelund.

“IFF’s role here is to secure the broadcasting of our events on TV, where the latest World Floorball Championships has had over 20 international takers and secured broad media services. IFF also tries to introduce the sport to new markets and include the sport into different multi-sport games to have the chance of showcasing the sport there, e.g. World Games (now a medal sport) and South-East Asian Games.”

Widening the Appeal

The IFF believes that growth will initially come from grassroots level work, and will aim to target a younger audience. The federation has created material for its members to support the integration of floorball into the school curriculum, and in some well-established floorball countries, there are also floorball initiatives in place at daycare and kindergarten.

“A big part of IFF communication also takes place via the preferred channels of young people, such as TikTok and Instagram,” said Liljelund. “The aim is to be where the young fans are and meet their needs of media consumption.”

The IFF holds the rights for the World Floorball Championships, which are hosted annually. The U19 event takes place in early May, with the adult event happening in early December. Women and men play in alternate years, with the women playing every odd year and the men every even year.

For both the U19s and adults, the IFF further organises qualification tournaments. Then, alongside federations in Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, the IFF organises the club championship tournament, the Champions Cup.

Integrating Environmental and Sporting Sustainability

“Sustainability is included in IFF’s work on all levels: economy, environment and social,” explained Liljelund.

“The early steps were directed more towards the social side as equality and acceptance have been engraved in the IFF values early on. Through the years, measures have increased and since preparations for the new strategy in early 2019, the IFF has adopted a more holistic approach to the topic. Sustainability has been included in the 2021-32 strategy.”

The IFF works to provide targeted projects to address the specific needs of individual member associations, and also tests new versions of the game at selected international events to make the sport more attractive and cheaper.

Over the last 15 years or so, the IFF has run a development programme to support floorball in countries in their early stages. This programme incorporates seminars to educate on organisation, coaching and refereeing.

There is also an equipment support programme in place with help from an IFF football equipment partner. In 2018, the IFF created a recycling programme called ‘Stick with it’, which collects used floorball material at major IFF events. This is then either donated to the equipment support programme, or disposed of responsibly; plastic parts are recycled and other materials are used for energy production.

To work on its environmental sustainability efforts, the IFF has set out to understand the effects of its events on the environment, and to reduce these and compensate for the rest. The federation will also support its members with their own sustainability schemes, and educate the floorball community on contributing to the fight against climate change. The IFF has created and shared best practices to organise sustainable events and intend for its own events to be carbon neutral by 2028.

Liljelund said: “The IFF has been carrying out environmental sustainability projects in the past, a big success being the ECO-Compass label for the Women’s World Floorball Championships 2015 in Tampere, Finland.”                                                                                                                                                                                                         

“Sustainability is included in IFF’s work on all levels: economy, environment and social." John Liljelund, Secretary General of the IFF

The IFF signed the UN Sports for Climate Action in 2019, and is represented in two working groups as a part of this, to create best practices and tools to measure the implemented efforts.

“In spring 2020, a partnership was forged with myclimate to help the federation create models and tools for the sustainability work as well as supporting sponsors and members in their efforts,” continued Liljelund.

“In November 2020, the IFF was among 20 Olympic Movement organisations, namely 15 International Sports Federations (IFs) and five National Olympic Committees (NOCs), that received the Carbon Action Awards of the IOC and DOW, a global initiative which is aimed at recognising and accelerating effective climate action in sport.”

More recently, the federation signed the Sports for Nature declaration and is also an active member in the European Sponsorship Association sustainability work group. The IFF participates in the EU-funded GAMES Erasmus+ project, with the aim of raising awareness and increase the adoption of climate change mitigation practices by key players.

The GAMES project consortium is coordinated by Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy, and includes three participating international sports federations – World Athletics, International Biathlon Union and International Floorball Federation, as well as the Swedish Floorball Federation.

Elsewhere, the IFF has focused on its social sustainability commitments which include further enhancing the good governance of the IFF, strengthening the athletes’ voices within the federation, offering accessible and flexible game formats for all, and promoting gender equality.

Liljelund added: “The IFF is dedicated to working towards inclusion and to offering more opportunities to participate in floorball regardless of age, gender, disability, financial status, ethnic background, and/or geographical location. This is engraved in the value statement, IFF Code of Ethics and the IFF Equality Policy.

“The IFF also runs the GoGirls! project aimed at helping to increase and promote the participation of girls and women in floorball throughout the world. Within the equipment support programme, IFF has organised a programme specifically directed for children (‘Kids with Sticks‘).”

Since 2012, the IFF has also collaborated with Special Olympics and other ParaFloorball organisations. The office has an Equality Officer in charge of initiatives surrounding ethics and equality, with the federation introducing a Fair Floorball campaign through social media, venue activations and wearables such as a captain’s armband.

Working Together

“The IFF works closely with the national federations regarding sustainability,” explained Liljelund. “Partly due to our encouragement and partially in meeting the modern-day requirements, national federations have started to include more elements of environmental sustainability in their work.

“The Finnish Federation introduced a dedicated section in their new strategy and the Czech Federation has published a set of guidelines for organising events in a more environmental manner. The IFF is also preparing similar guidelines for its members to help tackle this complex topic.”

Recently, the Swiss floorball association – Swiss Unihockey – decided to make environmental sustainability a high priority for the 2022 World Floorball Championships. Working alongside myclimate, the organisation defined five focus areas to help reduce emissions. As a benchmark, organisers calculated CO2 emissions from the 2018 World Floorball Championships in Prague. The goal was to then cut those emissions in half for the 2022 edition and compensate for the unavoidable emissions.

The 2022 event was able to produce 56% less CO2 emissions compared to the 2018 event.

“The World Championships was not only a great showcase of what can be achieved but also a start for the Swiss federation’s environmental sustainability journey,” said Liljelund.

“This legacy now carries on together with the local organising committee of the 2024 World Floorball Championships. With the plans, knowledge and results from 2022 we are able to tackle the important areas and learn from any mistakes made before.”

He added: “The IFF has also introduced a sustainability section into its host bidding process, making it a requirement to consider this area. In the scoring system this new section accounts for roughly 12% of total points.”

Individual floorball associations have taken the lead from the IFF and implemented their own sustainability strategies and initiatives. Czech Floorball struck up a partnership with a sustainability consultancy and introduced sustainable guidelines for event organisers, which were partially implemented at the U19 World Floorball Championships in Brno, in 2021.

Elsewhere, the Finnish Floorball Federation has made sustainability a core principle of its new strategy since 2021, aiming to reduce emissions from competitive activity; organising events in a way that supports sustainable development; developing energy efficiency for venues; improving recycling across floors, rinks and equipment; and to start measuring its carbon footprint in partnership with consultancy, Carbonlink.

The Swedish Floorball Federation, which is set to organise the 2024 World Floorball Championships created a sustainability strategy and also partnered with consultancy Greentime.

Growth

The International Floorball Federation was founded on 12th April, 1989 in Huskvarna, Sweden by the floorball associations of Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. Some five years later, the organisation welcomed Denmark and Norway.

Since then, floorball has witnessed growth on a global scale and in 2023, welcomed Mexico to the IFF.

Next on the agenda for the IFF is the Women’s World Floorball Championships 2023 in Singapore. The event is set to take place from December 2- 10.

To read more about the International Floorball Federation, its growth strategy and dedication to sustainability, click here.