Fylde Rugby Union FC,
Career Record: 3-17-0
Colours: Orange, blue and white
1992 NDMA Division One Northern Conference 1-9-0
1991 NDMA Division One Northern Conference 2-8-0
1991 YKL record unknown
1992 - Dean Ewanger
1991 - Jeff Christmann, QB Cliff Walker, Dan Brooks
- Mark Heidebrecht
1991 - Jeff Christmann (sacked in May, replaced by Dan Brooks)
28th June 1992 - Tim Predengast passed for 439
yards on 26 of 59 vs Gateshead Senators
28th April 1991 - Cliff Walker ran for 149 yards and Andy Igwediebo ran
for 117 yards vs Manchester Spartans
QB Cliff Walker, 1991
Notes: The History of the Blackpool
Falcons, courtesy of David Stretch of http://www.geocities.com/drstretch/falcons/index.htm
the many other teams formed in the UK in the eighties, the Falcons came
into being by trying to emulate the game they had seen on Channel 4.
That was on a cold Febuary night in 1984, and it proved to be the
beginnings of a team that stayed in existence for eight years.
that time, the history of American Football in the UK was very short
indeed. The first documented game played on British shores took place
in 1910 at the Stonebridge sports ground, in Northfleet, Kent. It was
here that the USS Georgia defeated the USS Rhode
Island 12-0 in front of around 4000 spectators. After the
game, it was reported in the local Gravesend and dartford
Reporter (December 24, 1910) that over 220 sailors from both
ships were entertained by local civic dignitaries.
game, however, did not spark much of an interest among Britons, and the
game was mainly played amongst American exiles, particularly during the
Second World War. The undobted turning point for the game in the UK was
in 1982, when the new terrestrial television station, Channel 4, first
started broadcasting edited highlights of the previous week's NFL games
on a Sunday evening. The programme was hosted by Nicky Horne, a disc
jockey who knew nothing about the game and joined the audience in the
learning process of the sometimes intricate rules of the game. Public
reaction to the programme exceeded all expectations, and American
Football fever started to sweep the British Isles.
tribute to how quickly the game was capturing the imagination of the
British public can be seen in the fact that in the Summer of 1983,
International Promotions Ltd oraganised a pre-season game to be played
at Wembley Stadium. Thus, on August 6, 1983, the Minnesota Vikings and
the St. Louis Cardinals played the first ever NFL game in Europe, the
Vikings winning 28-10. However, the event was not a success. It was
poorly promoted and the teams lacked drawing power, and therefore a
disappointing 37,000, mainly made up of American visitors and military
personnel turned up to watch.
IPL's president, John Marshall, organised a second Wembley match 12
months later. This time the opponents were the Tampa Bay Bandits and
the Philadelphia Stars from the USFL. Marshall gambled that the
public's lack of awareness of USFL teams would be balanced by the fact
that the Bandits were owned by Burt Reynolds, and the Stars were the
reigning USFL champions. The gamble backfired: only 20,000 turned up to
watch Philadelphia win 24-21.
the apparent failiures of these two professional games, the seeds for
American Football in Britain had already been sown. In London's Hyde
Park, a team calling themselves the London Ravens practiced on a
makeshift pitch in front of bemused locals who walked by. By the summer
of 1983, they had acquired some kit from the USA and the first game
between a British team and an American one took place at Stamford
Bridge that July. Although the American team won 8-0, it was seen as a
moral victory for the British contingent, and encouraged teams all over
the UK to form.
the winter months in 1983, there were at least a dozen teams known to
be in existence, and there were many attempts to form a natioanal
league, without success. In February 1984, at a meeting at the Post
House Hotel, Bedford, 35 teams met to discuss the formation of an
association. It was decided at that meeting in two weeks time where, it
was hoped, the wheels would be set in motion for a unified national
at that meeting at the world headquarters of the Boy Scouts movement on
March 3, a stormy debate took place, and in the end, not one, but two
leagues were formed. Twenty six clubs were represented at the meeting,
and seven clubs broke away to form the British American Football
Federation (BAFF), with the remaining 19 forming the American Football
League United Kingdom (AFLUK).
the opening season, there was no proper league structure and teams
played in an ad hoc schedule, with no
championship at the season's end, with just a merit table to catalogue
how well the teams did. As it turned out, the season never really
ended, as most teams played through the winter, trying to gain more
known as the Fylde Falcons, we played our first game in August of that
year, with the Northants Stormbringers soundly beating us by a score of
61-6. We went on to play two more games that year, losing them both.
unity between the two associations was still trying to be reached. Mike
Sheppard, a local Birmingham council official met with AFL's Gerry
Hartman and BAFF's Mike Lytton in the Digbeth Halls in Birmingham. The
only outcome of these meetings was the formation of yet another league
- UKAFA - with Sheppard as its head.
the beginning of the 1985 season, the AFL had 40 teams, all fully
equiped to play tackle football, whereas the BAFF's membership stood at
20 clubs, many of which had no equipment at all. One team, the Heathrow
Jets had tried to cut the high cost of equipment by manufacturing their
own helmets, immediately giving rise to their nickname, 'the Motor Bike
Fylde Falcons took part in the Northern Division of the AFLUK for the
1985 season, scheduled to play 12 games over 16 weeks against
opposition such as the Manchester Spartans, Leeds Cougars, and Glasgow
Lions. However, due to the fact that we were an inexperienced team, we
lacked the technique and knowledge needed to succeed. We finished the
season with a 0-11 record, and our away game against the Edinburgh Blue
Eagles never took place.
AFLUK season reached its climax at Villa Park, Birmingham, on August
26, 1985 for the championship game between the London Ravens and the
Streatham Olympians. The league wanted to call the game the UK Super
Bowl, but when the NFL offices in New York gave a polite refusal, the
name Summerbowl was agreed upon. Whilst the response of the British
media was slightly muted, ABC television in the USA sent over a crew to
cover the game, and the report was broadcast in the US on Monday Night
Football. A total of 7,100 people turned out to see the Ravens storm to
victory with a 45-7 thrashing of their London neighbours.
month later, the Rockingham Rebels won the only BAFF championship,
beating the Croydon Coyotes 13-0, and it was at the game's end that
BAFF's president Mike Lytton and the new AFLUK's commisioner Terry
Clark announced a merger between the two leagues, the combined league
to be called the British American Football League (BAFL). The football
world in the UK was united.
not for long. American brewing giants Anheuser Busch had noted the
phenomenal growth of the sport in the last couple of years, and decided
that the promotional and advertising possibilities of sponsoring a
league was too good to ignore. For the past few months, they had had a
series of meetings with leagues, but personal differences marred any
October 1985, European Sales Director Harry Drnec declared 'We are
going to play football next year', announcing plans of sinking
£250, 000 towards the creation of a new league, the Budweiser
League. They held their first meeting a week later, an open event for
anyone interested in football. Most of the top football teams attended,
attracted by the financial stability such a large sponsorship deal
huge war of words ensued that threatened the whole sport. This was
hotted up even furthur by the announcement by the EFU (European
Football Union) that it would only recognise teams that played in the
BAFL to play in the new EuroBowl tournament, to begin play in the
summer of 1986. However, even after this threat, many of the top clubs
in the UK decided to join the Budweiser League, including the Ravens
1986 season proved to be a turning point in the history of the Fylde
Falcons, and we entered the most successful era of the club. Learning
from the games in the past, we decided to bring over a couple of
players from America, to provide us with the experience and expertise
to help us win games.
players were Canadian player-coach Dave Anthony and US quarterback Jeff
Johnson. We also decided to drop down to a lower division (the BAFL
Anglo Division), and then proceeded to have our best season in our
history, going undefeated in the regular season with a 10-0 record and
qualifying for post season action for the first time.
we were in a lower league, we had to play in a preliminary round where
we faced the Musselburgh Magnums, a game we won 26-8. The wild card
game saw us face the Leeds Cougars, a fixture that saw us emerge
victorious by a score of 36-14. However, our progress was halted in the
quarter finals, as the eventual champions Birmingham Bulls beat us by
28 points to 14.
the offseason, two events of note happened in American football in
Britain. First, the NFL played another pre-season game at Wembley
Stadium between the defending Super Bowl champions, the Chicago Bears,
and the Dallas Cowboys. Unlike the games in the early eighties with
muted success, everything about the game was right: the teams, the
timing, and the organisation and the game was a sell out within a week.
The media caught football fever, and 86,000 people watched the Bears
second event was the folding of the BAFL with debts of around
£40,000. It was at this point that David Gill, chairman of
the Bournemouth Bobcats, travelled all around the country persuading
teams to join the Budweiser League and to unite football in the UK. His
efforts were rewarded with the fact that in 1987, the Budweiser League
had over 100 teams playing underneath its banner, divided into three
divisions with respect to playing standard.
saw the Falcons continue our success, with the help of new imported
players Jeff Christmann and Pat Brennan. We were by this time playing
at Deepdale, the home of Preston North End, and were attracting large
crowds due to the fever for Amrican Football that swept the United
Kingdom during the late-Eighties. We were now in the Budweiser League
National Division (the highest division in the country at that time).
With a 6-4 regular season record we again qualified for the playoffs,
but were resoundly beaten away at the all-conquering London Ravens
41-0. (The Ravens are widely regarded as the greatest team to play
American Football in Britain)
following season brought even more wins. We fielded four imported
players that season, Jeff Christmann, Bo Hickey, Cliff Walker and Dale
Speckman. As a sign of the continued growth of the sport in the UK,
where almost 200 teams were in existence, we played a marathon regular
season of 14 games in Britain's top league, the Budweiser League.
Equipped with a deadly ariel attack, fronted by QB Bo Hickey and WRs
Cliff Walker and John Anderton, we seemed able to sometimes score at
will. Thus we were involved in many shoot-outs which provided fantastic
entertainment for the crowd.
game that stands out in that season was the home game against the
Glasgow Lions. It was 'bombs away' for both teams as the combined
passing yardage of both teams fell just shy of the 1,000 yard mark.
Although we were on the wrong side of a 53-45 scoreline, the wide
openess of both offenses meant the game was not decided until the final
play, and it remains to this day as one of the best matches of American
Football I have seen in my life.
worthy of mention was the away game at the Bournemouth Bobcats, which
saw both QB Bo Hickey and WR Cliff Walker set British single game
passing records against a hapless Bobcat defense in a 55-20 victory to
the Lancashire side. Also, in our home game against the Leicester
Panthers, the Panthers were quarterbacked by Sean Payton who had seen
some action with the Chicago Bears during the 1987 NFL players strike,
and who would go on to become the New York Giants offensive
8-6 record ensured we would play in the post season, but like the last
two years we went out at the quarter final stage to the eventual
champions, this time being beaten 36-7 at the hands of the Birmingham
1989 season saw changes for both us and the league. For the league, it
marked a change in Budweiser's sponsorship; instead of sponsoring a
100-plus team league, they decided to concentrate on the top teams
only. For us, it saw a change in our home to the Woodlands in Lytham,
the home of Fylde Rugby Union Club.
started the season again with four imported players, with Rich Davies
replacing Bo Hickey as our quarterback. We also brought over a head
coach, Jay Perkins, from America. However, in our first pre-season game
against the touring Oregon State Allstars, a team made up of high
school seniors, Rich Davies was ejected for fighting and promptly left
the team afterwards. With the season starting only a couple of weeks
later, a quick change in plans was needed, and coach Perkins placed
Cliff Walker at starting quarterback.
proved to be an inspired decision as Cliff could not only throw the
ball, but was able to run with it as well, making him a dangerous
player where a big play was never far away. We ended the season with a
6-4 record, which was very respectable considering we were in the same
division as the powerful Manchester Spartans, who would go on to become
European champions, and thus had to play two games against them. As we
had become accustomed to, we made the play-offs for the fourth season
in a row, but again fell at the first hurdle against a stronger team,
the London Olympians beat us 37-10.
saw turmoil on and off the field, and the season quickly turned into a
fight for survival instead of a fight for a play-off place. For the
season we brought over new American players, quarterback Mike Lee
(whose brother played at running back for the Scottish Claymores in the
NFL Europe), wide receiver Larry Bartenelli, and lineman Doug Robb. We
also had a new head coach, Tony Softli, who came from the US northwest.
season did not start well for us, and rapidly went from bad to worse.
Both Doug Robb and Larry Bartenelli picked up injuries at the start of
the season, and for a team that based much of its success on its
imported players it meant that we couldn't compete against the best
teams in Britain at that time. We promptly went on to have the worst
season in our history, posting a 1-9 record, with our only win coming
by default after the Manchester Allstars (runners up in the 1987 Bud
Bowl) folded before we were scheduled to play them. In fact, we picked
up many former Allstar players, including American wide out Jim
Nendell, but this influx of new players had little impact on the
were also in trouble of the field as well. The team was in financial
difficulties, mainly due to the high cost of importing American
players, and the reality was that if our founder owners, Ken and Muriel
Benson, couldn't find a buyer, then the team would cease to exist.
After months of uncertainty, Una Sayles, the owner of the La Tour Hotel
in Blackpool, bought the team in a move that was announced at the last
home game of the 1990 regular season.
of the first moves taken by Una Sayles was to hire the services of Ian
Obeng as Managing Director with the aim to find sponsorships and revamp
the existing team. Ian had been involved in the sport of American
Football in Britain since the beginning, and played in the first ever
game on these shores with the Northwich Spartans against the London
Ravens. The name of the team was promptly changed to the Blackpool
Falcons in a bid to attract more sponsorship, a tactic which worked. We
had also been officially twinned with the Atlanta Falcons as part of
the NFL Trust programme, and former kicker Mick Luckhurst was named
honorary president. After all the uncertainty of the previous year, the
future looked bright again for the Falcons.
the playing side, we again brought over Jeff Christmann, and Cliff
Walker also returned. Joining them would be Dan Brooks, an offensive
and defensive lineman from Canada. We had also moved our home ground,
this time to the Stanley Park Arena close to the town centre of
Blackpool. The facilities there were excellent, and large crowds turned
out to watch every home match.
were also changes in the landscape of American Football in Britain. By
now, Budweiser had ended its sponsorship, and Coca-Cola was drafted as
new league sponsors. Also, the World League of American Football was
looming ominously on the horizon, the first match being played on March
23 in Frankfurt, where the eventual league champions, the London
Monarchs, defeated the home-town Galaxy 24-11.
Falcons' opening game of that season was a pre-season friendly against
the touring Oregon State Allstars, a game played in cold and wet
conditions that saw the Falcons victorious by 14 points to 7. Our next
game was another friendly, this time against the Bolton Buccaneers, and
this proved to be a walk over as we waltzed away with a 56-6 win.
opening the regular season with a loss away to the Glasgow Lions, we
took on the Manchester Spartans at Hyde and came away with a 36-13
victory. With three wins in our previous four games it seemed that our
rebuilding programme seemed to be on the right track.
things started to fall away during the season. After a loss at home
against the Leicester Panthers, we were forced to say goodbye to Jeff
Christmann after many years of service to the Falcons, as league rules
stated that a team could only have two imported players playing in any
one game. After a couple of close losses at the hands of the Leeds
Cougars (26-22 and 14-13) our record stood at 1-5, quite a reversal
from the optimism of the start of the season.
went on to win one more game that season (a home 31-14 victory over the
London Ravens, who were by now a shadow of their former self) to finish
the season with a disappointing 2-8 record, although the signs were
encouraging. As a couple of postscripts to the season, Cliff Walker
walked out on the club in the middle of the night following a rumoured
arguement with the management, and Jeff Christmann joined the
Birmingham Bulls who went on to win the Coca-Cola Bowl against the
London Olympians in a classic 37-35 victory.
our encouraging but ultimately disappointing rebuilding season, we made
great strides in the off-season to prepare for the 1992 season. Or it
appeared that way. It all started with us signing up for the services
of Wayne Griggs to be our quarterback for the season. Through him we
were able to sign Lorenzo Walker (brother of NFL's Herschel Walker),
and we were positively looking forward to unleashing him on opposing
BritBall defenses. We also had obtained Mark Heidebrecht to act as our
the training sessions towards the end of 1991, Griggs refused to take
part, claiming he had injured his elbow. His constant complaining
earned him the moniker of 'Wayne the Pain' among his new teammates. He
was also accused of being a spy for the Manchester Spartans and trying
to poach our Manchester based players away to the Spartans. It wasn't
long before we told him to leave, and as a result, we also lost the
services of Lorenzo Walker, who went on to play the 1992 with the
replacements for our imported players were named as defensive back Dean
Eiwanger and quarterback Silvio Martel, a former player with the
Hamilton Tiger-Cats. However, this was not the end of the drama of the
off-season as we were let down by Martel just two weeks before the
season began. The replacement came in the form of Tim Pendergast, who
had been playing quarterback on a team touring the UK.
during the off-season, the Falcons merged with the Bolton Buccaneers, a
reflection of the state the game was in at that time, with seemingly
too many teams and the initial interest in the 1980s beginning to wane.
1992 season was not a good one for the Falcons for several reasons.
Dean Eiwanger dislocated his elbow in the home game against the
Spartans and would not return for the season. Tim Prendergast
also had his injuries and during the season went back to Canada for
arthroscopic knee surgery, although he did return. The team was young,
thanks to an excellent Youth team policy which were one of the best
teams in the country. However, although the future looked bright, the
players were still on a learning curve, and learning the hard way as
the loss total marched ever upwards.
the end, the Falcons finished the season with a 1-9 record, our sole
win coming away against the Gateshead Senators, and at the bottom of
the league. This meant that we had to play a promotion/relegation match
against the Glasgow Lions, a team relegated the season before for
political and not playing reasons (teams in the south of the UK refused
to travel so far north to play them). By this time the imports had gone
home, and it was Dan Brooks who took over the head coaching reins for
the game to be played at the Blackpool Arena. As expected, the Lions
were far too strong for us, and we consequently lost the game by a
scoreline of 38-0, and faced playing the 1993 season in Division Two.
for the following season began early, as the team tried to avoid the
problems of the season before concerning the imported players. It was
announced that both Dean Eiwanger and Tim Prendergast
would not be returning, but coach Mark Heidebrecht would. Owner Una
Sayles told First Down "Mark is simply the best
we've ever had. He's a wonderful teacher of the game who shows the
players the basics and then builds on it. The small group of young
players we have who stuck with us this season have learned a great
deal". She went on to say that "things can only get better next season.
We are in a very poor player catchment area in Blackpool, but if we can
sign more British players, particularly linebackers, then I think we
can have a good season in Division Two".
in mid-January 1993, it was announced that the Blackpool
Falcons had folded. Talking to First Down, Una
said: "I just can't build a team. We only have a youth team left and I
think it's asking to much of them. That's what really prompted me. The
decision was made after much soul-searching." It should also be noted
that the NDMA had merged Divisions One and Two, and if we had carried
on, we would have been playing teams of the same strength as the year
before. According to First Down, Una was not
interested in taking the Falcons into the BNGL, another league which
played football viewed as a lower standard to that of the NDMA (the
National Division Management Association).
of the players now left without a team went to the Lancashire
Wolverines, who played 20-plus miles away in Horwich. Ironically, the
team played in the BNGL, and proceeded to have successful seasons,
thanks in part from the influx of players they received from the demise
of the Falcons.