The first national American Football federation outside of the United States was founded in Canada in 1896, as Canada already had a long history with Canadian football. Japan was also an early adopter of American football, establishing its national federation in 1936. The first European federation was formed in 1976. Since then, the sport has experienced a significant expansion, especially in Europe, culminating in the founding of the European Federation of American Football in 1996. Two years later (1998), the International Federation of American Football was officially formed. The IFAF became a provisionary member of the General Association of International Sports Federations in 2003, and became a full GAISF member in 2005.
Currently, the IFAF is composed of 62 member nations on six continents (North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania), all of which possess national federations dedicated solely to American football, except for Canada, whose federation is primarily devoted to the similar Canadian football. The IFAF includes Canadian football in its definition of the term American football, despite differences between the two; in international competitions, the Canadian teams play by American rules.
The current goals of the organization are (1) to be part of the international sporting community, (2) admission into the General Association of International Sports Federation, (3) acceptance by the IOC, and (4) participation in the World Games and Olympic Games.