Eagle eyed watchers of BUCS.org.uk may have noticed one of the Division Two leagues has suddenly shrunk in size, from eight teams, to only six.
Despite being initially included in the schedules, both the Northampton Nemesis and Bedfordshire Bulls have seemingly withdrawn from the season before it gets underway.
DC have reached out to both programmes for statements, but are yet to hear back.
Speaking with BAFA Director of Competitions, Russ Hewitt:
“It’s with great regret that the Northampton and Bedfordshire University teams have contacted BUCS and withdrawn from the 2017-18 season.
It does appear that the unique preseason structure and demands were the cause of the issue.
With such a late withdrawal, BAFA and BUCS have no option but to strike these fixtures from the schedule and proceed with a reduced slate of games.”
This raises the total of preseason withdrawals to three, following the Westminster Dragons sharing they would not be participating this season either.
Neither subsequent withdrawal is entirely unexpected. The Nemesis were forced to withdraw part way through last season due to a lack of available players and coaches, and rumblings coming into this season were they still lacked a coaching staff to lead the club through the year.
For Bedfordshire, meanwhile, as a first year programme it’s likely that recruitment simply didn’t go quite well as had been hoped for, and rather represents a stumble on their way to league entry.
All three withdrawals follow attempts by BAFA to instigate higher standards for all BUCS programmes during the offseason, of having a minimum of three qualified coaches registered well in advance of the season.
However, it’s apparent BUCS chose not to enforce these more rigorous standards when writing the initial schedule, and now leaves us with the interesting predicament where the remaining 2A Midlands teams, initially expecting a seven game season, now have only five fixtures scheduled for 2017/18.
This contrasts with six for the 2A South West, eight in the 2A South East, and seven for the other eight team conferences.