Initially announced in late 2018, Football America’s revival of the All-Star game is back on track following sharing dates and venues for the trials, training and inaugural fixture, last week.
Looking to learn more about this exciting resurrection of an old favourite format, we spoke with Football America’s Joe Walker to learn more about the event, and the road it’s taken to get it up and running.
Eligible ballers (anyone that played Uniball in the 18/19 BUCS season) can register on Football America’s website. Similarly coaches can register to join the Northern or Southern coaching staffs, headed up by Coaches Jason Scott and Wayne Hill, using this google form.
DC: Hi Joe, Thanks for speaking with us – exciting news to see the All-Star game back on track after the initial announcement was followed by a period of some uncertainty.
As much as you’re able to tell us, what’s been going on behind the scenes to get this game going ahead?
JW2: Thanks Nick, so we have had to do quite a bit of work with Marcus Boswell and BAFA to get the game scheduled and given the Green Light. It’s been a long road but we are very excited to get the All-Stars programme back on track.
That, along with booking three venues for five dates, designing uniforms and organising insurance and medical cover for every session, as well as a streaming partner and sponsorship, its been a big job!
Couple all those things with the never-ending job of supplying uniforms and equipment day to day to teams and players and it can quickly turn into a mammoth task.
DC: Obviously we initially saw some changes to the eligibility requirements following the announcement back in October – are we seeing any further changes to the format? From the recent announcement, it looks like there’ll be close cooperation with BAFA building up to the event?
JW2: Apart from the obvious change to the nationality eligibility, now allowing all nationalities to participate, there are no major changes. We still wanted students from the 2018-19 season to be the eligible group for this game which means that even those who have graduated can still participate and represent their alma mater for one last time!
Whilst we have been given sanction from BAFA to run the event, we are happy to say that it is a Football America UK owned and run event, and even with our close partnership with BAFA we were passionate about retaining that control.
DC: After a slow start, we’re looking at a pretty swift build-up to this revival of the All-Star game, with about a month ahead of trials and two ahead of the fixture itself!
With Football America taking up the mantle of the All-Star format for the first time, what are the expectations for this first fixture?
JW2: Maybe we are dreaming a little big with the first iteration of All-Stars, but we want to make it a true showcase of University talent, offering those who trial an opportunity to make a splash with outside agencies and European teams by making the trials open to scouting, as well as the game.
Our hope is that we can provide one of the best-streamed games of the year, every year, moving forward, with a Pro Bowl or Senior Bowl feel, and offering those who participate a platform to shine and those who watch a spectacle event.
DC: What do you think those who are selected to participate will be able to take away from this game?
JW2: Ultimately its a showpiece event for players and coaches to experience playing at a high level against great opposition, networking with players from all over the country and forming friendships and relationships which form lasting connections for years to come.
We have been missing such a platform since GB Students was put on hiatus. But we also wanted to offer some tangible value to those who participate even at the trials level with a really high-quality All-Stars pro-cut tackle twill (stitched numbers) practice Jersey which retails at £25 alone, with their choice of number and size.
Coaches will receive uniform for their participation at no cost, and we hope that they will also benefit heavily in mentorship and valuable networking too!
We are providing the practice jerseys and uniforms at cost as making money from the event isn’t the goal. Depending on the number of people at trials this amount will be subsidised as much as possible. If possible, we would love to be able to make the uniforms at no cost at all!
DC: And are there plans to further develop the All-Star concept in the future? Perhaps a team per tier or similar?
Well, that would be telling!
I think we have to prove the concept first, without losing too much money. But when announced in the new year there was a lot of interest in an Adult All-Stars so we are looking at our options.
I think having different tiers representing would be great, but with the cost of the event as is sitting around £10k, making it work three times over could be very challenging and expensive.
Thanks Joe, and it’s great to see this format returning thanks to your, and Football America’s, efforts.