London Ravens History

Based: Copthorne Stadium, Barnet (also played at Richmond Athletic Ground, Twickenham Road, Richmond)
Career Record: 75-22-1
Colours: Black & Gold
Honours: UK champions 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987

Team Notes: Like so many other British teams, the London Ravens were created out of the overwhelming enthusiasm for football created by the week Channel 4 NFL show, which began in 1982. Just a few weeks after the first show was screened, Rowland Pickering organised a group of would-be Ravens to gather at Speakers Corner inLondon’s Hyde Park. This small band of hopefuls swelled to over 200 after a story went out on a London radio station. Suddenly Hyde Park became as famous for spotting Ravens’ training sessions as it always has been for it’s Speakers’ Corner. It was 1983 before the first formal matches were played – two wins against Northwich Spartans (who later became the Manchester Spartans) and in November a 6-6 tie with the Paris Castors. That was the first ever international match involving a British team, with the Ravens WR Mark Delaney catching a 65 yard bomb to open the scores, while Paris equalised with a TD in the final 2 minutes. There were also two controlled scrimmages against US Air Force base team Chicksands. These last two encounters gave an indication of what was to come. In the first scrimmage, the Ravens held Chicksands to a very close score. In the second scrimmage, Chicksands took the honours much more comfortably. But the Ravens had made their mark. And so too had British football with a crowd at Stamford Bridge for the first game of 4,500.

Read Adam Less's account of the early days of the London Ravens

In 1984 the Black Shadow (as they were to become known) won all ten games they played as British teams began springing up all over the country. They were easily top of that year’s unofficial league table. They played and beat the French champion Paris Sparticus at Windsor 51-0 that year. The Ravens were now shaping up to dominate UK football. The first formal league season began in 1985 and the Londoners beat allcomers with an ease that suggested a long reign as No.1. A 45-7 victory in AFL Summer Bowl I over the Streatham Olympians (now the London O’s) was proof of their power. The game was played at Villa Park in front of a large crowd. In 1985 they also became the first British side to beat an all American team as they defeated USAF Chicksands Chicks 13-12 on the 4th July on their Independence Day festival with touchdowns through Victor Ebudideke and Mark Wynnick.

The Ravens allowed their first american to play for them in 1986, and it was University of Wisconsin QB Ron Roberts Jnr (who also had a try out at the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1986) that was picked after being on the coaching staff in 1985. It was a repeat performance in 1986 as the Ravens joined the Budweiser League and dumped Streatham 20-12 for the title. However, UK football politics robbed them of a place in Eurobowl I. A rival league and not Budweiser was still recognised by the European Football League at this time, so the Birmingham Bulls took the Raven’s place in Holland.

In 1987, the Ravens romped to the Budweiser National League Southern Conference title with 10 wins out of 10. In the play-offs they were awesome, disposing of Fylde Falcons in the quarter-finals (41-0 away), and then the Luton Flyers in the semi-finals (56-0 at home). They then defeated their arch-rivals the Manchester Allstars 40-23 in the classic Budweiser Bowl (which was screened on Channel 4) to clinch the national title for a 4th straight season, and also clinch the place that they so dearly wanted in the 1988 Eurobowl II tournament. The first chinks in the London Ravens armour were found in 1988, when they lost their first ever game against a British opponent. That said that won their 13 other regular season matches and would enter the playoffs as favourites for a 5th national title.

Before that was Eurobowl II which was hosted in the UK for the first time. The Ravens were favourites on home territory, especially as their quarter-final would be against the unfancied Amsterdam Crusaders. In the shock of the tournament, the Crusaders hold on for a 31-27 victory at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in front of a huge crowd on Saturday 30th July. The Ravens dream was over. They entered the Budweiser playoffs deflated, and after beating Luton in the quarter-finals (55-27), they were put to the sword by the Birmingham Bulls 51-13. In 1989 they failed to take their conference title as the London Olympians finished above them with a 8-2-0 record. The Ravens compiled 7 wins from their 10 matches. They exited in the first round of the playoffs 34-16 at the Manchester Spartans. 1990 was a truly dreadful year in the first season of the NDMA as they looked a pale shadow of their former selves. Just 1 win from 10 games. 1991 wasn’t much better as they won 2 and tied one of their 10 games. At the end of the 1991 season and after 8 seasons in the British topflight, and with 4 national titles the Ravens called it a day. Their Youth set-up carried on into the 1993 Youth Kitted season.