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The early years of international flying disc play were dominated by the influence of the International Frisbee Association (IFA) which began in 1967 as the promotional arm of the Wham-O Manufacturing Company. Many of the international affiliates began as Wham-O distributorships that sponsored tours of well-known Frisbee athletes. Several groups of individual disc event stars like the brothers Jens and Erwin Velasquez and the team of Peter Bloeme and Dan “Stork” Roddick made several tours of Scandinavia and the rest of Europe in the mid-1970s; Jo Cahow and Stork went to Australia and Japan in 1976 and Victor Malafronte and Monica Lou toured Japan around the same time. Stork—starting as head of the sports marketing arm of the U.S.-based Wham-O in 1975—played a crucial role in encouraging the establishment of national flying disc associations (FDAs) in Sweden, Japan, Australia, and in many of the countries of Western Europe. The FDAs began with freestyle and accuracy competitions but as Ultimate and disc golf caught on, the associations began to broaden their focus.
The concept of an independent world organization for the development and coordination of all of the disc disciplines began in 1980 at an Atlanta, Georgia, meeting of 40 international disc organizers. A loose federation led by Jim Powers was formed from that meeting but never took off. The following year, the relatively well-established national flying disc associations of Europe formed the European Flying Disc Federation (EFDF). In 1983 Wham-O was sold to Kransco and the IFA was disbanded. Spurred on by the demise of the IFA, Stork called a meeting at the US Open Overall Championships in La Mirada, California. A plan was presented by Charlie Mead of England and a formal decision was made to establish a worldwide disc association in Örebro, Sweden during the 1984 European Overall Championships. This decision was confirmed later that year by other flying disc countries in Lucerne, Switzerland, during the World Ultimate and Guts Championships, and thus the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) was born.
The first WFDF Congress was held in Helsingborg, Sweden in July, 1985, where the first set of statutes was adopted and the first board was elected. The first president was Charlie Mead (England), the first secretary Johan Lindgren (Sweden) and the first treasurer Brendan Nolan (Ireland). Membership was composed of the national flying disc associations and US-oriented organizations such as the Ultimate Players Association, Freestyle Players Associations, and Guts Players Association. Committees were established to oversee international play and rules for each of the disc disciplines. Over the remainder of the 1980s, WFDF took on an increasing role in overseeing and promoting international disc tournaments with Stork as President and Lindgren as Secretary-Treasurer.
In 1992, Robert L. “Nob” Rauch was elected President of WFDF and Juha Jalovaara become chair of the Ultimate Committee. Over the next two years, WFDF was reorganized to better reflect the increasing growth of Ultimate and the diversity of WFDF’s membership. The disc committee structure was simplified into a broad category of team sports (Ultimate and Guts) and individual events (golf and the overall disciplines). The role of the Rules Committee was expanded, headed by Stork, to ensure consistency and an annual rules book was printed. With a variety of representation, the categories of membership were further defined, with national associations able to join as regular, associate, or provisional (non-paying) members depending on level of participation and resources. WFDF’s corporate standing was reorganized and incorporated in Colorado, obtaining US tax-exempt status. WFDF, with a fairly nominal budget, found help with the increasing use of e-mail that permitted reasonable communication and coordination. In 1994, the application to join the International World Games Association (IWGA)—championed by Fumio “Moro” Morooka of Japan—was prepared and eventually accepted by the IWGA leading to Ultimate’s participation in the 2001 World Games in Akita, Japan, and in each of the subsequent competitions.