By Duncan Mackay at the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne

American football has taken its first major step on its way to becoming an Olympic sport by being granted provisional recognition by the IOC ©IFAFDecember 10 - American football has taken an important first step to one day, perhaps, becoming an Olympic sport. 

The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ruling Executive Board today agreed to give the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) provisional recognition, having turned down its bid seven months ago.

"On behalf of the IOC, we are delighted to welcome the IFAF into the Olympic Family," said Christophe Dubi, the IOC's sports director.

"The Federation has long demonstrated strong youth appeal and are making great progress in developing their sport around the world.

"We trust that this provisional recognition will generate momentum in the further universal development of their disciplines."

The  IFAF, which is based in La Courneuve in France, was formed in 1998 and currently has 64 countries as members on five continents, although only one of those, Nigeria, is in Africa.

Earlier this year, the International University Sports Federation (FISU) added American football to its sports programme, with the first Championships being awarded to Uppsala in Sweden and due to take place next year.

Could top NFL players one day be appearing in the Olympics? ©Getty ImagesCould top NFL players one day be appearing in the Olympics? ©Getty Images

"IFAF is proud to receive this recognition and join the Olympic family," said IFAF's Swedish President Tommy Wiking.

"The enduring ideals of sport that comprise the Olympic Charter reside in our game's timeless values and in the spirit of the millions who love to play it.

"We thank the IOC Executive Board and administration for its support throughout this process as well as our dedicated National and Continental committees.

"It is especially gratifying to share this recognition with American football athletes of all ages across the world, past and present.

"They have made and continue to make this an exceptional sport that captures our imaginations and unites us through competition in mind, body and heart."

The IOC will decide in two years whether to grant the IFAF full membership, meaning technically it could bid to become part of the Olympic programme in 2024, a decision due to be made in 2017.

Any such campaign would be unlikely to succeed, however, ahead of other sports like squash and karate which have been bidding for several years now.

Early obstacles to overcome would include the fact that the sport is primarily perceived as being based largely in America and also the introduction of a proper drug testing policy that meet the tough requirements of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

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March 2013: World University American Football Championship awarded to Sweden after FISU add sport to programme