The 2018 BAFA National Leagues season is right around the corner, and if teams weren’t already excited, they will be now as BAFA have issued the alignment structure for the new campaign.
The biggest news coming out of the release is the expansion of Division One. The 2017 campaign saw twenty teams competing across four regional conferences, with the new campaign expanding to 24 teams in the middle tier.
The top tier is returning to a 12-team structure split across the North and South conferences. Can the reigning champions, Tamworth Phoenix continue from where they left off in 2017 whilst juggling European ballin’ at the same time?
2017 Division One Champions, Manchester Titans, have been promoted to the North, whilst runners up London Olympians return to the Premier South after just one season away. Home and away fixtures against all opponents mean a 10-game regular season schedule.
The NFC1 North welcomes four new sides in to competition for 2018. Relegated from the top flight after a difficult campaign last time around, the Lancashire Wolverines will be looking to bounce back straight away, whilst the conference also welcomes three teams promoted from Division Two. Glasgow Tigers, last year’s runners-up to Shropshire Revolution, are joined by the high-scoring Leeds Bobcats and Gateshead Senators.
One of the off-season rumours floating around involved a potential promotion or re-alignment for the Leicester Falcons. However, they find themselves in the NFC1 South again this year, so we can look forward to more back-and-forth battles with Sandwell Steelers this season! Down go the Birmingham Bulls to Division Two, replaced by the undefeated Shropshire Revolution, who steamrolled their way through the competition during the last campaign. Doncaster Mustangs have once again been realigned, finding themselves in the conference they left a year ago (albeit, renamed from the old MFC1).
The Southern conferences see four sides promoted from Division Two. The SFC1 welcomes the Berkshire Renegades and Bristol Apache, whilst Wembley Stallions and East Kent Mavericks enter the SFC1 East.
As with the top flight, each conference will play a 10-game regular season, facing their conference opponents home and away.
Welcome to the National Leagues, Somerset Wyverns and Norwich Devils! Just the two sides enter the league from the 2017 associate round, entering the SFC2 West and East respectively. Meanwhile, West Coast Trojans, Birmingham Bulls and South Wales Warriors drop down to the bottom tier following disappointing campaigns in Division One last time around.
BAFA’s release confirmed that the new-look Division Two will be the development level within the National Leagues. The structure stays with 6 conferences across the North/South split, but scheduling changes sees a revised 8-game regular season, with the option to play two further, non-competitive fixtures against the awaiting Associate sides looking to enter the league in 2019.
The release shows a number of sides still looking to enter the league, along with new names that have entered the fold since the 2017 structure announcement. Dunfermline Kings, Inverclyde Goliaths, Highland Stags, Burnley Tornados, Welwyn Hatfield Mosquitos are joined on the list by Hereford Stampede, Salisbury City Marauders, Kings Lynn Presidents and Cobham Cougars. Over the last 12-18 months, the BAFA National Leagues Associate requirements have increased, and now each team has to play 5 entry games plus maintaining correct number of registered and game day personnel during their application year.
For those keen on having one eye on August and September, the playoff structure for the 2018 campaign was also confirmed in the release by BAFA.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Conference winners face off against conference runners-up for a ticket to the National Leagues’ main event.
A | Winner North vs Runner-Up South
B | Winner South vs Runner-Up North
Winner A vs Winner B
An unchanged playoff structure sees conference winners face off against conference runners-up until we discover the North and South winners, who square off for the Division One title.
A | #1 NFC1 North vs #2 NFC1 South
B | #1 NFC1 South vs #2 NFC1 North
C | #1 SFC1 Central vs #2 SFC1 East
D | #1 SFC1 East vs #2 SFC1 Central
Semi-Finals – North/South Title
E | Winner A vs Winner B
F | Winner C vs Winner D
Final – Division One Title
Winner E vs Winner F
The playoff structure for Division Two also remains unchanged, with 8 teams from each North and South split playing across three rounds of post-season matches; the conference winners (seeds 1-3), conference runners-up (seeds 4-6) and the two best third placed teams (seeds 7 and 8) to determine the Division Two North and Division Two South champions.
We’re hoping the provisional 2018 schedule will drop soon, and as always, we’ll get it right out to the #BritballNation as soon as we receive it.