Richard MacLean will step down as IFAF President in December having led the organisation since 2016 ©IFAF

Richard MacLean will not stand for another term as President of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) as it holds its Executive Board elections in December, and said he is "immensely proud" about the turnaround at the organisation.

The Canadian official has led the Federation since 2016, but the early years of his Presidency were overshadowed by a schism in 2015 which resulted in two IFAF World Congresses being held on the same day - one in New York and one in Paris.

MacLean was elected as President in the American city, with Swedish official Tommy Wiking leading the faction in Paris.

A partial decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in September 2017 ruled that Wiking should "cease and desist" from acting as and referring to himself as President of the IFAF after it was decided he had resigned from the position.

In March 2018, MacLean published a letter which declared him President of the IFAF after the CAS made its verdict that he was elected to the role on 17 September 2016.

The IFAF was also suspended by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) for failing to pay money owed to the umbrella organisation for "anti-doping services" in 2017.

However, speaking to insidethegames as he prepares to step down at the election on December 11, MacLean looked back with pride at how he guided the IFAF through a turbulent period.

"When I took over the Federation was split into two groups, and my role has been to bring the Federation back together, to put in the safeguards and create the policies and procedures that we needed to be a strong and real Federation, and that has been accomplished," he explained.

"We're on a path to being recognised by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) as a full member, the final submission has gone in.

"The building of a real Federation is what I was tasked to do to bring us back into compliance, and we're at a point now where I have other things on the go and I want to look after them too, and there's only so much one person can do.

"To me, we've made huge strides, huge successes, and even with the IOC with GAISF, with being recognised as doing better than most Federations our size in policy and procedure.

"There was a huge split in our Federation, a lot of turbulent time, a lot of people that didn't trust anybody and I came in and had to play the role of having no hidden grudges and moving the Federation forward to achieve some success."

MacLean also paid tribute to the work of IFAF managing director Andy Fuller and the Board, and he said he was well-positioned to resolve internal disputes in the Federation.

"In a small Federation where there's not a lot of changeover, those long-term grudges and issues fester, and I think I was a perfect person to come in there with no past," he commented.

"I was President of Football Canada but I had no real past in IFAF, I wasn't someone that anyone hated or had any preconceived notions about, and then I was very honest in my dealings - I said what I was going to do and what we needed to do, and I trusted the work of Andy Fuller to get us in good alignment with the IOC and that certainly has happened.

"The strategic plan we came up with in London a couple of years ago was that we wanted to be recognised by the IOC and hopefully get to the Olympics one day, and the way we had to do that was by building a better Federation, it wasn't by fudging numbers and putting all our focus on the Olympics, it was by putting all our focus on building the Federation.

"That's what I did and I'm immensely proud of that, I didn't waver from that goal."

The IFAF is aiming for its flag football discipline to be included at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028, with the chief operating officer of the National Football League's (NFL) international division Damani Leech expressing his support for such a bid back in May.

Richard MacLean said
Richard MacLean said "we're a lot closer than we were" to being recognised by the International Olympic Committee and ultimately being included at the Olympics, with IFAF hoping for flag football to be on the programme for Los Angeles 2028 ©Getty Images

MacLean argued: "We're a lot closer than we were."

"The first year of my Presidency, the IOC would hardly even talk to me, let alone recognise that I was the President," he added.

"We had a lot of issues, the IOC basically waited until the CAS decision was made until they recognised me as the President."

Maclean admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic has proved a setback in terms of organising events, but said he and his team are now "actually building out our competitions post-pandemic."

It was revealed in May that this year's Flag Football World Championships at Jerusalem’s Kraft Family Sports Campus from December 6 to 8 would feature a record 42 teams, while the discipline is also set to make its debut at an international multi-sport event at the Birmingham 2022 World Games next July.

MacLean believes the number of competitors at the World Championships is testament to the work that has been conducted during his tenure.

"When we set that [the Flag Football World Championships] out we got over 20 countries wanting to compete, we have more teams than we've ever had in an event, so that really was the sign that we're doing something right," he said

"When all the countries put down deposits and all got vaccinated, that was a real signal that we're on the right track.

"We're set up for the World Games in 2022, FISU's (International University Sports Federation) going to have flag men's and women's starting in 2024, we've had talks with the Los Angeles Host Committee about flag football going into LA 2028, on condition of us being recognised [by the IOC].

"Those are some of the things that I'm leaving behind knowing that we're much better off than we were before.

"I've done what I've set out to do."

The IFAF Foundation was initiated by MacLean, with one of its aims to "deliver youth engagement programmes that promote education, equality, health and well-being."

He explained that a desire to focus on the development of this arm of the Federation was a major factor behind his decision to step down after five years at the helm.

"In the United States, we've just created a charitable Foundation for IFAF, and that just got approval from the Government of the United States to start, so I thought I can't now go and try to build another organisation while I'm President of IFAF," MacLean commented.

"I thought that just for transparency, for continuity's sake, I'll focus on building that.

"We need more people, we need more help in our Federation, so me taking on another role I thought would be detrimental to the overall success of both the Federation and the charitable Foundation, so I made up my mind that I would focus on the Foundation and get that off the ground.

"The Federation is in good enough hands right now, and with the institutional knowledge that our Board has, our vice-president Scott Hallenbeck has, that our managing director Andy Fuller has, I can step back knowing that Scott is still the vice-president, Andy is still the managing director and that the core of where we want to go is there."

Pierre Trochet of France has been the only confirmed Presidential candidate by IFAF for December's election, and MacLean urged his successor to "be true to yourself."

"The biggest advice I'd give to my successor or anyone who wants to get involved in international sport is that you have to be true to yourself, if you go in for personal gain you're going in it for the wrong reasons," the outgoing President said.

"If people are offering you personal gain, you're totally in it for the wrong reasons.

"This is about bettering your Federation for the athletes and the participants involved, and helping countries develop and navigate through the development of the sport in that country, and if you're not in it for that reason you should not be involved.

"You should be true to your sport, be true to how great this sport can be, and do not get involved in politics, do not play favourites, do not promise things to people that you cannot deliver.

"In the world of sport, I see it over and over again through different Federations when so much of what happens in sport - money doesn't fix problems, being in the Olympics doesn't fix problems, having a committed Board, committed group and committed staff to your mission and to your goals is what improves sport, nothing else."