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 tenth instalment – 1992!
There were few changes for the 1992 season. The Glasgow Lions were relegated to NDMA Division Two after they had fielded players who weren’t properly registered in 1991. Registered teams dipped again, from 114 in 1991 to 99. More sides who had been the bedrock of British American football since the beginning disbanded as they struggled to keep pace with the very top sides.
In 1992, the Bournemouth Bobcats, Solent (Portsmouth) Warriors and Bristol Packers all disbanded but none was more troubling than the disappearance of the once mighty London Ravens.
The UK’s pioneer football team, folded after years of decline following a decision by the NDMA to demote them to Division Two for the 1992 season which provoked a walkout at the club, a spokesman said
“If we can’t play in the superleague we won’t play at all. The Ravens played a major part in UK football and we can only assume this means nothing to the NDMA”.
The NDMA replied
“Every week there were rumours coming out of the club that they were about to fold, we need stability, we need to look to the future, not live on past glories”.
For a few years the name lived on via the youth team but for the most famous name in Britball’s formative years it was all over.
NDMA champions Birmingham had high hopes of restoring national pride following the Ipswich saga of the year before but the writing was on the wall when they struggled to beat an enthusiastic Dublin Celts side in Birmingham in March. In a tight game with few chances and the scores tied at 0-0 going into the fourth quarter the Bulls eventually got their act together to scramble a 20-0 win over the luckless Celts who had been unable to convert twice from the Bulls 2 and 5 yard lines as well as having a touchdown called back for a procedure penalty. Birmingham started the game with ex-Raven Ben Moore at QB but was relieved by new import Travis Hunter, who had shone for the Coventry Jags the year before. The Bulls were due to meet their Euro nemesis Amsterdam yet again in May.
Britball’s governing body BAFA sensationally voted to withdraw from the EFL. At an EGM in July, BAFRA boss Joe Mendell proposed that BAFA withdrew from all European competition, save Junior football, in 1992. It was backed by the NDMA’s Ron Weisz and Wayne Persinger of the BNGL. The reasons given included:
- It cost the NDMA £15,000 towards sending the national team to the European championship out of a cost of £20,000 for what was a BAFA team.
- The EFL did not give the Bulls a chance in their appeal to get the result of their Eurobowl defeat by Amsterdam overturned because of player registration problems.
- The EFL banned non-European nationals from sitting on its board, eliminating GB’s representative, American Ron Weisz at a stroke.
Reigning World Bowl champions, the London Monarchs began their campaign at Wembley against old foes New York and struggled to an error-prone 26-20 overtime win in front of 30,167 patient fans who didn’t realise it at the time but they were witnessing probably the highlight of a truly awful season. By the time they played Barcelona at home the crowd had now dwindled to 18,000 and alarm bells were ringing at the NFL.
Back in the domestic game, with the absence of a number of teams the two Conferences were re-aligned:
Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester, Leeds, Gateshead and Blackpool
Birmingham, London O’s, Brighton, Northants, Thames Valley and Essex
There would be a one-off Promotion/Relegation game between the D2 title winners and the worst record in D1 to see who would play in the top tier in 1993.
The O’s had also branched out into D2, fielding the OlympiansSecond team in the Southern conference.
Nottingham were fancied as kings of the D1 Northern Conference. QB Mike Grossner and DB Vic Quirolo were back as was standout GB receiver Allan Brown.
Leicester were welcoming imports Akim Kargbo at QB and Joe Hudson at LB and the Spartans were looking to bounce back from a miserable 1991, hooking up with athletic RB/WR/DB Lorenzo Walker (Brother of Heisman Trophy Winner Herschel), Ex-Allstar runner Andy Iwediebo and HC Terry Smith.
In the South, the Olympians returned with a mainly unchanged squad from their ’91 final appearance, just replacing passer Paul Wright with elusive playmaker Leonard Valentine. The Bulls, as well as Hunter at QB and Jeff Christmann back, welcomed CB/RB Trevor Carthy and DL Nigel Hoyte after their year with the Monarchs. Of course, Northants welcomed back Johnny Atlas and Gateshead signed QB Jason Mitchell.
Week One saw a crucial match-up straight off the bat as Birmingham and the O’s went head-to-head. The O’s never really got going and Birmingham managed a pretty no-frills 26-6 victory to take the very early season bragging rights in the South. Manchester showed their intent, blowing away Leeds 47-27 behind GB passer Mike Astle’s 270 yards and Leicester saw off a sorry looking Gateshead side 61-0. Nottingham also had no trouble, seeing off Blackpool 54-6.
There were no real surprises until Week Four when Leeds ground out a 15-14 victory over Leicester after losing the previous week to the Panthers. Tiggy Bell converting a two-point attempt with 87 seconds left to stun Leicester.
The same week Birmingham were in Eurobowl action v Amsterdam. The Bulls were already under change after Travis Hunter left, leaving Moore at QB. An agonizing 2-0 loss in Holland was then followed up by HC Steve Moon suddenly leaving due to work commitments leaving the Bulls to find a replacement in Jon English, who would join soon after, playing QB as well, from the Arena League.
Two weeks later, the return match-up of Bulls/O’s took place in London. This was a now different London side and blew the Bulls away in a fast-paced first quarter, getting out to 21-0 lead that the Bulls would never catch. Import English took his first start but struggled after only two practises with the team. London WR Leroy Innis torched the Bulls for 189 yards and three scores as London led 27-7 at the half. Birmingham then found their feet in the 3rd, clawing back the deficient to 34-30 before Innis took his 3rd TD in from 26 yards and drew the Bulls level with themselves at 5-1 on the year.
Another revenge act took place. The Hoods, beating the Spartans the week before 40-28, were handed their first loss going down 30-21 to the Mancs.
The rest of the regular season pretty much went with form. Nottingham took the Northern Conference at 9-1, two games ahead of the Panthers and Spartans. Leeds took the final playoff spot at 4-6 but proved they could be spoilers on any given Sunday.
The South was taken by Birmingham’s better points difference v London, both finishing 9-1, way ahead of Brighton (6-4) and a struggling Northants (3-7)
Leicester won their Quarter Final over Brighton 28-12 behind Warren Sweetman‘s 209 rushing yards. Despite a 31-0 scoreline, Birmingham laboured the win, only breaking out after a tense first quarter. Northants’ weak passing game, allowing the Bulls to concentrate on Atlas’ running, was a major factor in what could have been a closer game.
Manchester v London was the tie of the round but it was never a contest after the Spartans travelled with only 22 fit players, without their starting QB and ‘do-it-all’ import Lorenzo Walker going down with broken ribs early. The O’s were up 31-0 at the half and a comfortable 49-0 victory, helped by Richard Dunkley‘s 15 carries for 162 yards.
Nottingham made sure they were not shocked by Leeds, getting to work early behind scoring strikes to Brown and Okiwe from Grossner, leading to a comfortable 40-7 win.
Semi-finals were set in Birmingham and Nottingham. Leicester stunned everyone but themselves in an impressive 21-9 victory over Birmingham to go to their first ever final and silence the Bulls crowd and critics alike. QB Kargbo threw for a brace of TD’s and ran in another and counterpart Jon English threw four interceptions as the Bulls managed their only TD of the game with a minute left and trailing 21-2. Sweetman was once again the main workhorse, carrying 21 times for 114 yards as the Panthers took their underdog tag all the way to the NDMA Final.
Nottingham v London in the other semi-final didn’t disappoint. The league’s two best offences going head-to-head! Nottingham got off to the worst possible start, Allan Brown fumbling at his own 18 and Valentine hit Innis from 6 yards to open the scoring.
Nottingham tried to hit back immediately but their drive ended when Scott Rowe intercepted Grossner in the O’s endzone. Former-Raven Roland Carrington then later took a punt 62 yards for a score and an Olympians 14-0 lead. Nottingham continued to struggle, penalties costing them field position and were blanked at half-time.
Things went from bad to worse for the Hoods, London marching down on the first possession of the 3rd quarter culminating in Valentine going in from two yards and Innis catching the 2-point conversion for 22-0.
Again, Scott Rowe intercepted Grossner in the end zone to snuff out a scoring chance, but things turned as Neil Burnside intercepted Valentine, setting up Hoods’ Albert Thompson to score from two yards and onto the scoreboard at 22-8. But back came London, Valentine hitting Innes from 19 yards out on a 4th-and-6 for 28-8.
Nottingham did respond with a quick drive mid-way through the final period, Grossner hitting TE Mick Morton for the score. The Olympians punted on their next possession, handing the ball to Nottingham at their own 2. A fantastic 98-yard drive ended with Thompson getting his 2nd score of the game from 2 yards out and a 28-22 O’s advantage with five minutes left. London gave the ball back with just 90 seconds left and Nottingham made their way to midfield only for Alsop to cough up the ball and hand London the victory and yet another final appearance.
The Olympians went in as favourites to finally break their Finals duck and they took it with relative ease. The O’s kept the usually-effective Panthers run game to 137 yards total, including Warren Sweetman to 73 yards on 26 carries. After building a half-time lead of 22-0, the result was never in doubt, helped by Dunkley again (24 for 118) and limiting Panther passer Kargo to one pass over 12 yards all game. The 34-6 final scoreline showed how the Olympians had been dominant since week 2 and fully deserved their long-awaited title of UK Champions.
NDMA Division Two
The Glasgow Lions would regain their Division One place, seeing out the Northern conference as easy winners and going up against the Kent Mustangs who took the Southern Conference. They had little trouble in the final against Kent, going out 32-14 winners in the NDMA Division Two bowl game, and then thrashing the Blackpool (formerly Flyde) Falcons 38-0 in the promotion/relegation playoff.
Clydesdale took the Scottish conference with Dundee Whalers as runners-up, the Nottingham Crusaders going 9-1 for the North/West Midlands title along with North Yorkshire Hawks at 7-3 into the playoffs. Southwest would take the 9-1 Plymouth Admirals and Delonghi Knights and the Southwest conference had 8-2 Oxford Saints and 7-3 Kent Cougars go onto the postseason to make up the quarter-finalists.
Nottingham fell to Dundee at home 26-20, the Whalers scoring with 90 seconds left in the game. Clydesdale, hoping to go one better than the runner-up spot of last year, dispatched the Hawks 40-28 and Kent (22-21 over Plymouth) and the Knights (20-13 v Saints) advanced to the semis.
In the battle of the Scots, Clydesdale outfought Dundee 34-20, getting revenge for the 8-0 loss earlier in the year, their only blemish in the regular season.
The Knights took their BNGL Final berth behind GB trialist Adam Heiron’s 348 passing yards in a 17-6 win against Kent.
Clydesdale finally got their hands on the trophy at the 3rd attempt, after Import passer Al Penn-White ran in from 5 yards for the decisive score with four mins left.
Merseyside Nighthawks (v Crawley Raiders)
Tiptree Titans (v Bath Gladiators)
NEXT: NDMA streamlines into one division, Spartans withdraw and more success in Europe