Throwback Thursday | Britball History with Jason Bowdler – 1982/3

Jason Bowdler, over at the UK American Football Scene Facebook group, has started sharing a great little weekly look back at the history of our beloved game in the UK!

The UK American Football Scene is a Facebook group for players, ex-players, coaches and supporters from the domestic game to chat and discuss all things Britball. It’s got a great, positive vibe and some really active admins that share results, stories and standings each week!

If you check out the group, you’ll see Jason’s now worked his way forwards in history a good few years… but we’ll start at the beginning: The earliest days of the domestic game… 1982 and 1983.


American Football in the UK didn’t take off until Channel 4 began its weekly coverage of the NFL on Sunday evenings in 1982. Suddenly readily viewable, interest in the colourful and vibrant game took off.

Up until this point, the only time you would see the sport on TV in this country would have been on ITV’s Saturday afternoon show World of Sport, and then only with highlights of the Superbowl several weeks after it had actually taken place!

What Channel 4 brought to its audience was a slickly run production and its weekly musical montage caught the imagination of the public in their millions. In SuperBowl XVIII, the Washington Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins at the end of the first season shown on TV in this country. In the Autumn of 1982, many thousands of young men sought to emulate their heroes by taking to the parks of the country.

During 1983, desperate players in the UK started hunting for equipment and information to start their own teams and get a taste of the game. Books and videos were ordered, and Americans living in the UK was called on to give all the knowledge they had on the growing sport.

London was one of the early places of particular interest in American football, along with Manchester. Teams started springing up around areas that had American Air Force bases in the nearby area – teams such as Milton Keynes and Northampton.

The London Ravens held training sessions in Hyde Park and attracted a huge number of prospective players. They played the first all-British game against the Northwich (soon to become Manchester) Spartans. The Ravens won 48-0 in October 1983.

This was the first year that games between British sides took place. Here is a list of the games that took place in 1983:

  • September 1983 –
    Northwich Spartans 0-28 London Ravens
  • October 1983 –
    London Ravens 48-0 Northwich Spartans
  • November 1983 –
    London Ravens 6-6 Paris Castors

Next Week – More teams spring up and an unofficial league table…

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1