Frankfurter Löwen

Frankfurter Löwen
Founded 1977
League American Football Bundesliga
Team history Folded in 1985
Based in Frankfurt, Germany
Championships German Bowl: 1979, 1980
Division titles AFB North: 1980, 1981

The Frankfurter Löwen (English: Frankfurt Lions) were an American football team from Frankfurt, Germany.

The Löwen were the first American football club to be formed in Germany.[1][2] The club, a founding member of the American Football Bundesliga, was also the winner of the first two editions of the German Bowl.[3] However, the club was short-lived, folding in 1985. It was the last team to represent Frankfurt at the GFL level for over three decades before Frankfurt Universe earned promotion to the top tier after the 2015 season.


The history of American football in Germany, outside the US Army bases in the country, began in 1977, when the Frankfurter Löwen were formed as the first club to play the game in Germany. At first, this team was only able to play US Army teams, lacking German opposition.[1] The driving force behind the formation of the club was Alexander Sperber, son of a U.S. Army soldier and a German mother.[4]

In 1979, the American Football Bundesliga, later to be renamed the German Football League,[5] was formed, consisting of six clubs, the Frankfurter Löwen, Ansbach Grizzlies, Düsseldorf Panther, Munich Cowboys, Berlin Bears and Bremerhaven Seahawks.[1] The first official game of the league was played on 4 August 1979, between the Löwen and the Düsseldorf Panther, and ended in a victory for Frankfurt.[2]

The Löwen were an early power house of the game in Germany. The first season was completed undefeated, culminating in a German Bowl victory over the Ansbach Grizzlies, the team it would face in all three editions of the German Bowl it played in.[6]

While the club was able to repeat its championship the following year, with the league now split into a northern and a southern division, Ansbach finally managed to triumph in 1981. Frankfurt won its division, the northern, which it played in despite being a rather central German club, but was stopped by the Grizzlies in the final. While the Grizzlies continued to play in the German Bowl until 1986, the short golden era of the Löwen had come thereby to a halt.[6]

The team moved to the southern division for 1982 but came only third that year and was knocked out in the quarter finals by the Düsseldorf Panther, who would go on to win the final. Panthers and Lions met again the following year in the quarter finals, with the same result, while 1984 was to be the last season for the club. The Frankfurter Löwen only just scraped into the play-offs, finishing fourth, and again had to face the Panthers, where a 55-0 defeat would be the last competitive game ever played by the side.[6]

After the 1984 season, the club folded in 1985, as the members could not agree how to reform the club. By that time some players had founded the Frankfurt Gamblers.

Gamblers & Knights

The Gamblers advanced in 1991 to Germany's 2nd division central conference (2. Bundesliga Mitte), which they won in 1993. They were not promoted to first league, though, due to having fielded an ineligible player. As the Frankfurt Galaxy of the WLAF had caused a Football boom in Frankfurt an Germany from 1991 to 1992, but the NFL-backed league did not play in 1993 and 1994, some entrepreneurs and clubs founded the semi-pro Football League of Europe in 1994. The Gamblers gambled on that league and skipped another season in the German minor league. The team won 2 of 9 games in the FLE Central Conference under Headcoach Tracy A. Holland, and had been spared a trip to Helsinki for the 10th game.

At the end of 1994, the club was bankrupt and formally dissolved to get rid of the debt. With Frankfurt being the banking center of Germany and maybe of continental Europe, and apparently some surplus money to spend, the players and managers gambled again. They formed the Frankfurt Knights and tried another season in the FLE, with the same result at the end of 1995.

By 1995, the Frankfurt Galaxy had returned, and the former World League was now the NFL Europe. That league was popular in Germany, were eventually 5 of 6 teams were placed, but no amateur football team established itself in Frankfurt itself.

In 2007, new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell discontinued the NFL Europe and thus the Frankfurt Galaxy.[7] Soon, fans founded Frankfurt Universe to continue as an amateur Football club, hoping to take over name, brand etc. from the Galaxy. By 2016, they had advanced to the top German Football League, finishing second in the southern conference.

Unrelated hockey clubs

A similar-named club, the Frankfurt Lions, were actually an ice hockey club unrelated to the football Löwen. Yet, they folded in 2010 after having had their licence revoked, and the new club was named the Löwen Frankfurt.


  • German Bowl
    • Champions: 1979, 1980
    • Runners-up: 1981
  • American Football Bundesliga
    • Regular season champions: 1979
    • Northern Division champions: 1980, 1981
    • Play-off qualification : (6) 1979–1984
    • League membership : (6) 1979–1984

German Bowl appearances

The club's appearances in the German Bowl:[3]

Bowl Date Champions Runners-Up Score Location Attendance
I November 10, 1979 Frankfurter Löwen Ansbach Grizzlies 14–8 Frankfurt 5,000
II July 30, 1980 Frankfurter Löwen Ansbach Grizzlies 21-12 Frankfurt 7,000
III August 5, 1981 Ansbach Grizzlies Frankfurter Löwen 27-6 Cologne 11,000
  • Champions in bold.


The complete seasons played by the Frankfurter Löwen:[6]

Year Division Finish Points Pct. Games W D L PF PA Postseason
1979 AFB 1st 18–0 1.000 9 9 0 0 243 44 Won GB: Ansbach Grizzlies (14–8)
1980 AFB (North) 1st ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Won GB: Ansbach Grizzlies (21–12)
1981 1st 22–2 0.917 12 11 0 1 388 76 Won SF: Hanau Hawks (17–12)
Lost GB: Ansbach Grizzlies (6–27)
1982 AFB (South) 3rd 12–12 0.500 12 6 0 6 240 231 Lost QF: Düsseldorf Panther (0–66)
1983 4th 10–10 0.500 10 5 0 5 211 170 Lost QF: Düsseldorf Panther (0–30)
1984 4th 14–14 0.500 14 7 0 7 276 275 Lost QF: Düsseldorf Panther (0–55)
  • QF = Quarter finals.
  • SF = Semi finals.
  • GB = German Bowl


  1. ^ a b c Geschichte (in German) AFVD website, accessed: 29 December 2010
  2. ^ a b Google book review: Turnen and sport: transatlantic transfers author: Annette R. Hofmann, accessed: 12 January 2010
  3. ^ a b Bowls Archived 2015-09-29 at the Wayback Machine GFL website, accessed: 1 January 2011
  4. ^ Football Goes International The Washington Post, published: 24 August 1980, accessed: 28 September 2015
  5. ^ GFL German Football League (in German) AFVD website, accessed: 29 December 2010
  6. ^ a b c d Football History (in German) Historic American football tables from Germany, accessed: 2 January 2010
  7. ^ Football-Hauptstadt Frankfurt (in German) Frankfurter Allgemeine, published: 24 October 2007, accessed: 12 January 2011

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