Throwback Thursday | Britball History with Jason Bowdler – 1984

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 this week we’ll be looking at his second instalment – 1984!


 

1984

In February 1984, a meeting at the Post House Hotel in Bedford saw representatives of 35 teams meet to discuss the formation of an association. 26 teams attended a second meeting, and this saw the formation of two leagues – the British American Football Federation (BAFF) and the American Football League United Kingdom (AFLUK) – and soon there would be over 40 teams competing in fully kitted football.

However, in part due to the recession, players and teams struggled for funding.

In 1984 there was no official structure, and games were played on a one-off basis. However, the various league associations that were to form planned for league competition by 1985.

As friendlies continued to be played throughout 1984, the two leagues began recruitment campaigns for the 1985 season in earnest, pretty much allowing teams complete freedom when it came to organising matches against each other by simply ringing one another up and arranging a time and place.

The number of teams was growing faster than anyone could imagine. By the end of 1984 there would be approximately 40 teams fully kitted and playing. There were then probably another 20 who had only a few pads and helmets and were just waiting to start.

The London Ravens continued to lead with a Big Five group of clubs being picked out as ahead of the rest – the Ravens, the Manchester Spartans, Milton Keynes Bucks, Birmingham Bulls and the Northants Storm.

The Ravens would win all ten games this year and lead the unofficial merit table of UK football published in December 1984 by GRIDIRON UK magazine (the first magazine to devote space to the British game).

Milton Keynes were widely acknowledged as the second best team in the country with a 10-2-0 record and losses only to the Londoners. The Ravens also took on foreign opposition for the first time and managed another win – 51-0 against top French team, the Paris Spartacus.

Some of the games in the summer of ’84 received some surprisingly high attendances for such a new sport.

A Milton Keynes/Northants encounter at the open-air Milton Keynes Bowl on a lovely summers day in June clocked up 7,000 fans. The Birmingham Bulls and the London Ravens also played out a fascinating two-game series, with the Ravens winning both games.

Towards the end of 1984, the various amateur leagues were close to readiness for a full season of organised games in 1985. AFL (UK) had virtually all the top teams behind it and more of the rest. BAFF had about a dozen which were largely concentrated in the south. It was no surprise that a meeting should be called to try and immediately put the leagues together in time for the 1985 season or at least form a governing body to head up the whole operation.

The idea of a governing body was welcomed but failed to get established. The two leagues could not resolve their differences and instead of any sense of unity being achieved, a third league (the United Kingdom American Football Association) was born for the 1985 competitive season.

Merit Table

(W L T)

  • London Ravens 10-0-0
  • Brighton B52s 5-0-0
  • Oxford Bulldogs 3-0-0
  • Thames Valley 3-0-0
  • Walsall Titans 3-0-0
  • Northants Storm 9-2-0
  • Milton Keynes Bucks 10-2-1
  • Ealing Eagles 5-1-1
  • Birmingham Bulls 4-3-0
  • Windsor Monarchs 2-2-1
  • Tyneside Trojans 1-1-1
  • Harlow Warlords 1-2-1
  • Manchester Spartans 4–0
  • Leeds Cougars 2-4-0
  • Streatham Olympians 1-2-0
  • Glasgow Lions 1-3-1
  • Crawley Raiders 1-4-0
  • Poole Sharks 1-8-0
  • Croydon Coyotes 0-7-1
  • Flyde Falcons 0-3-0
  • Soton Seahawks 0-3-0
  • Walthamstow Warriors 0-3-0
  • Stock Exchange Stags 0-4-0
  • Heathrow Jets 0-6-0

League football did not start until 1985.

These standings of merit are based on teams that played at least three games

NEXT WEEK – Official first season kicks off in the UK and the inaugural first UK ‘Super Bowl’

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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