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 fifth instalment – 1987!
In November 1986 the BAFL announced losses of £40,000 and promptly went into liquidation. Within a week, British football was united by default. The Budweiser banner now flew alone as the BAFL teams had no alternative but to join up. The Budweiser League would cover 102 clubs playing in a total of 18 divisions. Only the regional minor leagues would continue alone.
The Budweiser League National Division would play for the UK Championship and underneath would be a 35 team Premier Division and a 48 team Division One.
In the Northern conference the Manchester Allstars, who had brought together a number of star American performers, romped to the title, finishing 10-0 and four games ahead of the nearest rival. In the Western, the usual tussle of the Birmingham Bulls, Leicester Panthers and Nottingham Hoods took place, this time the Panthers finishing on top with an impressive 9-1 record, leaving the Bulls and Hoods underneath with 7-3 finishes on the regular season, the Bulls sneaking through to the playoffs.
In the Eastern conference, the Luton Flyers and Chelmsford Cherokee went toe-to-toe and finished with identical 8-2 records with the Flyers taking the title due to twice beating the Cherokee.
Finally, in the South, the London Ravens conquered all, including a 61-8 demolition of the Bulls, to go 10-0 and maintain their record of never having lost. The Olympians limped four games behind at 6-4 but had run the Ravens close at the start of the season losing 12-7 and giving the Ravens a scare.
In the Quarter-Final Playoffs, the first ‘shock’ was the Luton Flyers’ victory over Birmingham, 37-17, setting up a semi-final against the defending champion London Ravens who pushed aside the Flyde Falcons 41-0. The Allstars showed their mettle at Boundary Park, Oldham, edging past a tough Olympians side by a single point, 26-25. At Saffron Lane, the Panthers eased past the Cherokee 41-0 to set up the other semi-final at home.
The Ravens took their third straight final berth, having far too many weapons for Luton to handle in their semi, going away with a convincing 56-0 victory. The Panthers and Allstars clash was seen as being much closer on paper but the Manchester side were very impressive, taking their place with 16-42 win over Leicester.
Bud Bowl II bought an impressive 13,000 crowd to Loftus Road in North London. This was also the first British game to be featured on TV, with highlights being shown at prime time on Channel 4. The Allstars had a sensational offence in 1987, and the Ravens were as formidable as they had ever been since organized football had begun in the UK. The Ravens at the time had still not been beaten by a UK team in fiveyears of football, and they cruised into a 19-0 half-time lead, and then Victor Ebubedike scored a 72 yard TD on the opening play of the third quarter to put them ahead 26-0. The Allstars offence finally got going, and scored three quick scores in ten minutes as the Allstars closed the gap, but Mark Delaney’s 48 yard reception enabled the Ravens to put distance between the teams as they won a third straight British title.
In the second tier, Edinburgh Eagles and the Leeds Cougars finished unbeaten, closely followed by conference winners Dunstable Cowboys, Cotswold Bears and Colchester Gladiators at 9-1. Bournemouth Bobcats topped their Southern conference in a fiesty tussle with the Brighton B52‘s, both with 8-2 records.
In the playoffs Heathrow, who finished 9-1 below Colchester took out Edinburgh 28-7 and Colchester buried Cotswold 66-0. Leeds had no trouble with the Oxford Bulldogs (46-14) and Bournemouth advanced to the semis with a 30-14 win v Dunstable at home.
Leeds kept their unbeaten season intact, taking out Colchester in Essex 44-22 and the Bobcats had no trouble either with the Jets, beating them 28-8 to set up a truly North v South final.
In the Budweiser Premier Bowl, the Bournemouth Bobcats upset the more-fancied Leeds Cougars who had scored a huge 490 points in the regular season. The Bobcats overwhelmed the Tiggy Bell led Cougars 43-6 with a dominating display of running from Lawrence Dinham and Chalkie Elliott.
In the 48 team Division One, the Clydesdale Colts, Washington Presidents, West Bromwich Fireballs, Bristol Packers, Farnham Knights, Ashton Oilers, Basildon Braves and the Ealing Eagles took their respective conferences and quarter-final places.
The Ashton Oilers took the title of ‘spoilers’, taking out the unbeaten and much-fancied Farnham Knights 27-8 in their Q/F clash and Ealing blanked Basildon 32-0. Much closer affairs were the Clydesdale one point win v Washington 20-19 and Bristol edging out West Bromwich 12-7.
The semi-finals were very defensive encounters, Ealing grinding out winners 16-0 v Clydesdale and the Ashton Oilers claiming a finals spot by 7-6 over Bristol.
Ashton had an easier time in the final taking the title 27-7 versus the Eagles.
In the other league finals, the St.Helens Cardinals won the UKAFL title, the Dundee Whalers took the Thistle Championship and the Mersey Centurions took the BGFL final. The London Area (LA) Panthers won the Capital Bowl.
The GB Lions national team travelled to Finland to take part in the European Nations Championship in Helsinki. They travelled full of confidence following their qualifying wins against France and the Netherlands, but there had been organisational problems.
The team travelled without sponsorship, which had failed to be obtained, and the Head Coach Warren Tate resigned at the eleventh hour with Dave Gill joining him one week before the tournament finals. Lance Cone came out of retirement to coach the team – but this was hardly ideal preparation. The result was two disappointing losses (to Finland and Italy) and a fourth-place finish.
Winners in 1987
BUD BOWL II – London Ravens (v Manchester Allstars)
PREMIER BOWL – Bournemouth Bobcats (v Leeds Cougars)
DIVISION ONE – Ashton Oilers (v Ealing Eagles)
BNGL – Merseyside Centurions (v Leicester Huntsmen)
UKAFL – St.Helens Cardinals (v Ipswich Cardinals)
THISTLE LEAGUE – Dundee Whalers
CAPITAL – London Area Panthers (v St.Albans Kestrels)
NEXT: A changing of the guard and the league has a change of style…