Inside EA Sports, Why Madden Must Be Called ‘American Football’

Inside EA Sports, Why Madden Must Be Called ‘American Football’
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Once upon a time there wasn’t much of a dispute over the word “football”. In the US, it meant cheerleaders, instant replay and concussions. In Europe, it meant relegation, riots and flopping. Then came the internet, and commenters stomping around in one another’s mud puddles.

Football. Soccer. Handegg. Communist Kickball. Whatever you call your version or the other guy’s, EA Sports makes the top video game for it: FIFA and Madden NFL. Madden is the older title, one that not only gave rise to the EA Sports label but also the company’s console publishing dominance. Today, FIFA sells more, to more countries, and the bosses of EA Sports during its rise and dominance have been a Liverpudlian and an Australian supporter of Chelsea F.C.

So, inside EA, which game gets called football?

“My title is general manager of football,” says Cam Weber, the man in charge of Madden and NCAA Football for EA Sports. “It’s on the business card I give out.”

“To me, there’s not really any rivalry,” sniffed Matt Bilbey, an Englishman and Tottenham supporter. “My official title is just general manager of football for EA Sports.”

Since late 2011 I’ve tried to refer to American football as just that on first reference, unless the sport in question was already established by a reference to NCAA Football or Madden or some other title. In stories where both FIFA and Madden or NCAA are discussed, I’ve deferred to calling FIFA football, because God knows, if you don’t, you’ll hear about it.

But I can make such decisions unilaterally. After coming aboard as the chief of Madden and NCAA in 2011, Weber had to sort out such matters with Bilbey. It’s especially humorous that Weber himself is Canadian, whose version of football, like its versions of bacon and whiskey, must always be qualified by its country of origin.

So Weber proposed a round of golf, at Northlands Golf Course outside Bilbey’s home turf of Vancouver, to resolve ownership. “He lives on a golf course and plays a lot of golf,” said Bilbey. “So Cam gave me a 10-stroke lead.”

“I beat him by eight,” Weber said.

“Either way, I won,” Bilbey said.

“Yes, my business unit, internally, is called American football,” Weber said, sounding none too pleased. Was his staff informed of the showdown or its stakes? “No, they don’t know anything about it,” he said.

What about Bilbey’s gang? “I wouldn’t say I was bragging about it,” Bilbey smirked, “but they were informed. There may have been a few updates from the course. A simulcast back in the office.”

Will there be a rematch?

“I fully expect Matt to appear on stage as the general manager of European football next year,” Weber laughed.


  • I never understood why rugby, NFL etc were ever called football. Soccer is the only sport out of those where it’s played exclusively with your feet. What am I missing?

    edit: Thank you for all the replies, you learn new things every day 😀

    • Rugby was the first to be formalised as “football” in the 1820s. When soccer came along 20 years later it was known as “association football” or ‘assoc’ to differentiate it from ‘true’ football. There wasn’t usually a problem dividing them in England because one was exclusively a North-Western game and the other was exclusively a South-Eastern game.

      ‘Assoc’, of course, became ‘soccer’.

      So if you want to call one sport football, it should be rugby union.

      • Wow. I never knew any of that stuff. Go team etymology!

        (Quoth a coworker: “Etymology? Why are you so excited about ants, start making sense!” 😉 I work with some classy, funny people.)

    • It’s not played exclusively with your feet… it’s played with every body part except your hands*

      *unless you’re the goalkeeper or Diago Maradona.

    • Actually, AFL is the only football where a goal can only be scored from the ball coming off the foot. New contender?

    • The used to be a lot more footwork in those games, and there still is in Aussie Rules and Gaelic Football.

    • It’s called football because it’s played on foot, as opposed to in the pool or on horseback. That’s the real etymology of the word.

  • AFL is the only game that has no other name BUT football, I think europe/USA need to wear soccer/gridiron and man up

    • Well, you say that, but at the same time, you call it AFL. Not even referring to the league, but to the sport itself, indicating that you, and I, and all Australians, know it has the name AFL. So…

  • Football originally meant any sport not played on horseback. So tennis is a football sport. I believe football or footy is the sport that you and your mates follow when talking about another code or you don’t know what someone else supports, I think we should use the sports full name and for soccer it should be called association football. American football for what’s in madden, and Australian rules football. For my friends from Perth there is a difference between rugby league and rugby union. Rugby league is shortened to league and rugby union is shortened to rugby. And more people should play Gaelic football, it’s really fun.

  • but American football and those sport only and mainly watched or played competitively by 1 country where football ( soccer) almost the whole world watch and participate,

    i say the more votes win the draw :p

    • Pleasing to see you apologise for the contention that aerial ping pong is football, Sorry accepted… Go mariners!

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