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 third instalment – 1985!
As the first organised leagues in the UK began to take shape in 1985, there were approximately 70 teams ready to play the inaugural season of British American football. A fourth league had now emerged which meant there were organisations that catered for all standards of teams in all regions of the UK.
AFL (UK) had retained the top clubs despite a close-season of rumours and their numbers were 35 in the league. BAFF handled twelve clubs, which were all fairly well established. The UKAFA league started with ffiteen very new clubs and the fourth league, the Amateur American Football Conference (AAFC), had a six-team league of brand new clubs from Lancashire and Yorkshire.
In the AFL, crowds of 2,000 were not uncommon as the London Ravens, Birmingham Bulls and the Leicester Panthers emerged unbeaten from the regular season to win conference championships. Other division winners were the Oxford Bulldogs (8-1-1), Streatham Olympians (7-1) and the Manchester Spartans (10-2)
Sixteen teams made the playoffs and all took part in the Wild Card round. The Tyneside Trojans qualified for the knockout stages but were unable to field enough players for their tie v Birmingham so the Glasgow Lions took their place. The Bulls had no problems in the game, coming out 49-6 winners. Big hitters Leicester (26-6 v Milton Keynes) and the Ravens (66-0 v Colchester) had no such problems either. The Manchester Allstars surprised their rival Spartans 26-20 in OT and the Olympians, Leeds Cougars, Oxford and Greenwich Rams all made it through to the Quarter-Finals.
The four favourites made it through to the Semi’s. Birmingham beating Greenwich, Panthers demolishing the Cougars, the Olympians defence shining in a 10-0 win v Allstars and the Ravens besting Oxford, 20-0.
The semi-final line-up of Ravens v Leicester and Streatham v Birmingham were at Saffron Lane in Leicester and Oxford City FC. The Ravens had little trouble in their game, coming out comfortable winners 40-14. Meanwhile, Streatham caused an upset, taking a 13-12 win against the unbeaten Bulls and earning a place in the first Summer Bowl final at Villa Park.
Any thoughts of another upset were quickly forgotten as the London Ravens continued their unbeaten start in the UK game, coming out 45-7 winners to become the first National Champions.
BAFF Final – Rockingham Rebels 13-0 Croydon Coyotes
UKAFA Final – Slough Silverbacks 44-32 Swindon Steelers
AAFC Final – Locomotive Derby 42-21 Leigh Razorbacks
*Best team name of the year? The Newcastle Browns…
Next Week: 1986 and the league splits into two, giving us two National Champions