The first game of football played in
the UK was on Thanksgiving
Day Nov 23rd 1910 by US Navy Servicemen visiting the UK on a
diplomatic mission (Sinfield 1995). Was to be played at Crystal palace between the
USS Idaho (the navy’s div 3 champions) and the USS Michigan (Div 1 champions)
and sponsored by the Daily Mirror. However the Michigan team pulled out of the game and was
replaced by a team from the USS Vermont.
The team from the USS Idaho won,
collecting the Daily Mirror Silver Cup from the Duke of Manchester, by 19 points
to 0 in front of a 10000 crowd.
The Daily Mirror was suitably
pleased to sponsor a further game a week later also at Crystal palace on the
3rd of December. This was to be the American Navy Football final
between the Idaho and the USS Connecticut. Organised by
Rear Admiral Seaton Schroeder the final was a much more serious affair, but the
emerged victorious 5-0. This time the Duchess of Marlborough presented the
medals to the Idaho players in front of a crowd of 12000
spectators (Laird 1995).
The third and final game of the tour
was the 24th of December game between the USS Georgia and the USS
Rhode Island at Northfleet in Kent.USS Georgia defeated USS Rhode Island 12-0 at Stonebridge Sports Ground,
Northfleet, Kent with 4,000 people turning up to watch. A player called Levy was
man of the match.
During the Second World War, with large numbers of US
servicemen in the UK, games were played in venues throughout London. One such
game was played in February 1944 at White City (London) in the Tea Bowl game
between the Canadian Army and the Central Base Section.
With US armed
forces in Europe post war, a USAFE (United States Armed Forces-Europe) league
was created in 1946 (the league ended in 1993). The first champions
being Ansbach (Germany). The 1st UKSC (United Kingdom Sports Conference) winners
of the USAFE title were the London Rockets in 1954.
Action from the USA Air
Force in Europe Final from December 13th 1952 at Wembley Stadium
Bullets (Warrington, Lancashire) vs. Fursty Eagles in white shirts
It was played in front of a
crowd of 21,000 people at Wembley with the German team winning 27-6. Mr Jack
Webb from Rainham in First Down issue number 451 listed other games played at
28th November 1953. Landstuhl Raiders 27-21 London
1st December 1956. London Rockets 32-7 Weisbaden Flyers
this the Rockets dropped out of the league and no more games were played at
Wembley for nearly 30 years.
Domestically it wasn't
until Channel 4 began it's weekly coverage of the
NFL on Sunday evenings in 1982, that the sport took off. Up until then, the only
time you would see the sport on TV in this country would have been on ITV's
Saturday afternoon show World of Sport, and then only with highlights of the
Superbowl several weeks after it had actually taken
What Channel 4 brought to it's audience was a slickly run
production and it's weekly musical montage caught the imagination of the public
in their millions. In SuperBowl XVIII, Washington Redskins defeated the Miami
Dolphins at the end of the first season shown on TV in this country and suddenly
many fans had found Redskins clothing and the sport was gaining credability
In Autumn of 1982, many thousands of young men sught to
emulate their heroes by taking to the parks of the country.
Highlights of the year:
First ever game: London Ravens vs. Northwich
Ravens take on US Airforce
Teams struggle to find kit
ever NFL game in Britain
During 1983, equipment was started to be ordered by desparate players in the UK. Books and
videos were ordered, and Americans living in the UK was called on to give all
the knowledge they had on the growing sport.
London was one of the early places for interest, along with
Manchester. Teams started springing up around areas that had American air force
bases in the nearby area - teams such as Milton Keynes and
The National Football League had appointed an agency to look
after sales of its merchandise since the late 1970's, and it reported back to
the League on every kind of development, especially the crucial TV audience on
Channel 4 which would begin at 750,000 in 1982 and rise to approaching 4,000,000
at it's peak.
In the summer of 1983, an English entrepeneur hiredout
Wembley Stadium, and brought two NFL teams over (Minnesota Vikings vs. St. Louis
Cardinals) to play an exhibition match in front of just over 30,000 fans. The
event lost money, but this fixture at Wembley, was soon to become the annual
Ravens held training sessions in Hyde Park and attracted a huge number of
prospective players. They played the first all-British game against the
Northwich (soon to become Manchester) Spartans. The Ravens won 48-0 in October
London Ravens (black
shirts) lined up against Northwich Spartans in the UK's first ever
Throughout the winter of 1983-84 attempts were made to form a
national league. At first that didn't seem possible, but in February 1984 at a
meeting in the Post House Hotel, Bedford, representatives of 35 teams met to
discuss the formation of an association. It was decided at that meeting to
reconvene in two weeks time in London where, it was hoped, the first wheels
would be set in motion.
Ravens v Paris Spartcatus in 1984, Mark Walcott with the
The Ravens then took on the US airforce base team from
Chicksands in Bedfordshire. The Londoners made up for their lack of knowledge
with a mixture of enthusiam and athletiscism. The Ravens lost both games against
Chicksands - one played at Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge.
The first (when the Americans probably totally underestimated their unusual
opposition) was by a score of just 8-0 - a very creditable
Official associations were now beginning to form, so that
the sport could prepare for a league format. In 1984 there was no official
structure, and games were played on a one-off basis. However, the various league
associations that were to form would plan for league competition by 1985.
At that second meeting on March 3rd, not one but two leagues
were formed. Twenty-six clubs attended and after a stormy debate seven clubs
broke away to form the British American Football Federation (BAFF), with the
remaining 19 becoming the American Football League United Kingdom (AFLUK). Such
divisions would harm the sport for several years in the eyes of other sports
administrators and ultimately the Sports Council.
As friendlies continued to be played throughout 1984, the
two leagues began recruitment campaigns for the 1985 season in earnest and
allowed the teams simply to get on with it organising matches against each other
by simply ringing one another up and arranging a time and place.
The number of teams was growing faster than anyone could
imagine. By the end of 1984 there would be approximately 40 teams fully kitted
and playing. There were then probably another 20 who had only a few pads and
helmets and were just waiting to start.
One of the major problems with the new teams were that
although they were now getting equipment supplied without any real problems, the
start-up money was having to come out of the players pockets. Everyone paid a
weekly subs just for turning up for training and ultimately playing a game. It
soon became clear that sponsorship would be necessary. The cost for a full set
of equipment at this time was about £300 and the general expenses of running
50-man teams to games, to practises etc was too much to handle. So teams came
and went after maybe only one game, many would go broke. Some never even made
the field of play at all. Gone but not forgotten are squads like Tenbury
Crusaders, Harrogate Bulldozers and the Medina Mustangs - they never actually
got round to playing a game!
The best example of teams rising too quick is of the Poole
Sharks. They were among the first teams in kit and were determined to push back
the barriers of the British game. The Sharks played more than most in 1984 and
even became the first team to travel abroad for a game when they decided to
undertake a mammoth coach trip to take on the Dusseldorf Panthers, who were a
team for in advance of any the Sharks had previously played.
returned with a crushing 69-0 defeat and quite a few injuries, which was
ultimately to put pay to their existence. However, as would happen so-often, the
Sharks players managed to re-group and through various name and personnel
changes (including the Dorset Broncos and the Wessex Wildcats) many of that team
emerged as the Bournemouth Bobcats.
The London Ravens continued to lead with a Big Five group of
clubs being picked out as ahead of the rest - the Ravens, the Manchester
Spartans, Milton Keynes Bucks, Birmingham Bulls and the Northants Storm. The
Ravens would win all ten games this year and lead the unofficial merit table of
UK football published in December 1984 by GRIDIRON UK magazine (the first
magazine to devote space to the British game). Milton Keynes were widely
acknowledged as second best team in the country with a 10-2-0 record and losses
only to the Londoners. The Ravens also took on foreign opposition for the first
time and managed another win - 51-0 against top French team, the Paris
Some of the games in the summer of 84 received some
surprisingly high attendances for such a new sport. A Milton Keynes/Northants
encounter at the open-air Milton Keynes Bowl on a lovely summers day in June
clocked up 7,000 fans. The Birmingham Bulls and the London Ravens also played
out a fascinating two-game series, with the Ravens winning both games.
There was another game at Wembley in 1984, but instead of
two NFL teams, the United States Football League (USFL) sent over the Tampa Bay
Bandits and the Philadelphia Stars for a post-season challenge match. The crowd
was down on the previous year, but showed further development.
Towards the end of 1984, the various amateur leagues were
close to readiness for a full season of organised games in 1985. AFL (UK) had
virtually all the top teams behind it and more of the rest. BAFF had about a
dozen which were largely concentrated in the south. It was no surprise that a
meeting should be called to try and immediately put the leagues together in time
for the 1985 season or at least form a governing body to head up the whole
Mike Shepherd, a local Birmingham council official, met with
AFLUK and BAFF teams in Birmingham's Digbeth Hall. This was the largest
conference of its kind in the UK to that date and nearly all the teams were
represented. The idea of a governing body was welcomed but failed to get
established. With hindsight it was too early to develop a governing body at this
stage, as most people involved at that time just wanted to be left alone to play
the game. The two leagues could not resolve their , and instead of any sense of
unity being achieved, a third league (the United Kingdom American Football
Association) was born from that Birmingham meeting, with Shepherd as it's head.
This league pledged to look after many of the starter teams.
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. Their only problem was that they all acted
individually.AAFC President - Geoff Hulse
AFL (UK) had retained the top clubs despite a close-season
of rumours and their numbers were 35 in the league. BAFF handled 12 clubs, which
were all fairly well established. The UKAFA league started with 15 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
In the AFL, crowds of 2,000 were not uncommon
as the Ravens, Bulls and the Leicester Panthers emerged unbeaten from the
regular season to win conference championships.
There was not, of course, success for every
team. Tryers like Tyneside Trojans, King's Lynn Patriots, Wessex Wildcats,
Southend Sabres, Staffordshire Stampeders and Newcastle Browns would all play
this first season only to fold after their brave initial attempt to hold a
position at the head of the sport.
In the AFL playoffs, the Ravens traveled to Leicester in one
semi-final and won 40-14 in a classic encounter at Saffron Lane Stadium. The
game took place on the same day that the Streatham Olympians caused the shock of
the year by overcoming the favoured Birmingham Bulls 13-12 at Oxford City FC in
the other semi.
Villa Park was the venue for the first ever British American
football championship, and with the Birmingham Bulls failing to make the final
in their home town, the organisers were suddenly struggling to make the event
viable money wise. A sponsor had to be found, and up stepped City Sports and
Leisure of Oxford to guarantee the expenses of the two London teams. The game
attracted more than 7,000 fans to this historic event.
The underdog Olympians never recovered from the very first
play - they fumbled the opening kickoff which the Ravens recovered. A Ravens TD
soon followed and they went on to record their expected victory in Summer Bowl I
- 45-7. Joe St.Louis, a London DJ, won the MVP award after a 70 yard run that
left a trail of Olympian players in his wake.
Action from Summerbowl I - Streatham Olympians
v. London Ravens
After two years of claiming to be the best, the Ravens had
proved their point and could look forward to a place in the inaugural EuroBowl
club championship in 1986. They never actually got to take part for reasons that
would become apparent in the off-season.
Meanwhile, the other three associations completed their
seasons with championships of their own. A month after SummerBowl I, the
Rockingham Rebels (a splinter team from the Northants Stormbringers) won the
BAFF title with a 13-0 win against the Croydon Coyotes; the Slough Silverbacks
took the UKAFA trophy and Locomotive Derby were the victors in the AAFC Steel
Gridiron in the UK continued into the autumn as Great
Britain played its first international match - a friendly against France. The
Brits, coached by the then Ravens head coach Lance Cone (see
below), scored an early touchdown through another Raven Victor Ebubideke,
but the expected drubbing never materialised and GB settled for a 7-0 victory.
It was an important landmark as Great Britain was gaining a reputation as the up
and coming power in Europe.
As the inaugural season closed, a company was rumoured to be
preparing a major sponsorship of the British game. It soon became apparent that
that company was Budweiser as it was announced that they had employed an
international marketing company to work on a feasibility study.
The study persuaded Budweiser to make available an estimated
£300,000 to cover all areas of the sport in Britain. Budweiser had approached a
divided sport and could find no one to represent the whole of Britball as a
fellow negotiator for their deal. Many of the AFL teams wanted to continue under
their own banner and a merger between the two previously warring factions
occurred when their executive joined forces with the BAFF to form a united
front. This joint league became known as the British American Football League
(BAFL) and stayed out of the Budweiser plan. The BAFL attracted 38 teams, many
of whom had played with the two warring leagues in the previous
Budweiser, however, had made a commitment. In October 1985,
Budweiser European Sales Director Harry Drnec declared defiantly,
"We are going to play football next year".
Budweiser held their first meeting a week later - an open
event for anyone interested in football. Most of the country's top teams
attended. When the London Ravens and Streatham Olympians announced their
intentions to join Budweiser, a vicious war of words erupted that, at one stage,
threatened the whole of UK football. The sport was in total disarray.
Budweiser appointed Chris Childs as its first commisioner,
and with BAFL's Radcliffe Phillips as his opposite number embarked on a major
propaganda campaign to attract teams to their rival organisations.
BAFL then received it's trump card when the EFL, the sports
governing body in Europe, ruled that it would only recognise BAFL teams. The
reason for this was that it's EFL membership had been negotiated under the AFL
banner, and was transferred to BAFL at the time of the merger. The agreement
meant that only BAFL teams or registered players could play other European
teams. For a sport which was chomping at the bit to prove itself on a European
level, this EFL agreement was a powerful advantage for the BAFL.
Open hostilities were declared when the Streatham Olympians
were told that an attractive fixture against top German side Dusseldorf Panthers
could not go ahead. The Olympians had already been snubbed once, in December,
when Manchester Allstars took their place against a French team in
SJAFL (scottish Junior
american football league) est 1985, first game Corstorphine
Cougars vs Edinburgh Hawks on the meadows in
Edinburgh sept 29th 1985, won 18-0 by the Cougars
Action from the
first "touch" game in Scotland
Corstorphine Cougars v Edinburgh
Picture courtesy of Peter
As 1986 got underway, both leagues started to
organise fixtures. One thing had to be resolved - which team would represent
Great Britain in the inaugural EuroBowl club championship? The Ravens had won
the AFL title in 1985 and hence the right to appear. However, BAFL's EFL
membership meant one of it's own teams would take the EuroBowl spot. Both the
Ravens and the Budweiser League appealed to the EFL to change it's mind, but the
European officials sided with their original partner and judged that a BAFL team
should travel to the Netherlands for the championships. The two semi-finalists
from the SummerBowl playoffs, Leicester Panthers and the Birmingham Bulls,
staged an eliminator at a snowy Saffron Lane Sports Stadium in Leicester in
February 1986 to decide who would take qualify. It was the Bulls qualified with
a 32-18 victory.
On April 27th the fighting stopped as the two regular
seasons began, and both leagues embarked on ambitious league schedules that
would last until mid September. In the Budweiser, the London Ravens carried on
where they had left off the previous year in the old AFL, winning every game
The addition of American quarterback Ron Roberts Jnr to
their squad help to push their game average beyond 60 points a game (still a
regular season record) and the 106-0 drubbing of City of London Stags in week 7
helped them to a season points total of 501 with only 6 against.
The Ravens remained unbeaten all season and turned the
Atlantic division of the Budwesier League into a one-horse race. The Central and
Channel divisions weren't. Thames Valley, Swindon and Slough were split in a
three-way tie atop the Central Division. In the end it was the dark-horse
Swindon outfit which emerged as the best of the bunch. However, their
championship race ended in the semi-finals when they were comprehensively beaten
by the Ravens.
In the Channel Division, the Streatham Olympians eventually
beat off their nearest rivals, the Southampton Seahawks, and marched proudly
into the playoffs. The Olympians clinched the divisional title holding on to a
28-26 lead in week 9 against Southampton. Greg Hairstone passed for two TD's and
Tony Scarlett ran for two more to keep the south coasters at bay.
In the BAFL, the best football was seen in the Central
Division where Birmingham Bulls, Leicester Panthers and Nottingham Hoods were
neck and neck for the top spot. The Bulls had beaten Leicester in a EuroBowl
eliminator before the current season had started, but revenge was on hand later
in the spring when the Panthers came from behind to record an impressive
The Hood's Cliff Stroughter, a product of the University of
Illinois, was tearing up the record books as the Hoods showed themselves to be a
dominant force. Stroughter rushed for over 3,000 yards in the regular season and
still holds the UK single season record for yards and TDs. Birmingham eventually
clinched the title after avenging the early Leicester loss and halting
Stroughter and Co in an action-packed game at Alexander Stadium in
In other playoff games in the Budweiser League, the Plymouth
Admirals frightened the lives out of some of the big guns before bowing out
gracefully to Northampton in the playoffs and Cardiff Tigers sensationally
knocked out the previously impressive Southampton Seahawks. Dunstable too had a
chance of glory before going down to Streatham in the
In the BAFL, little known Luton Flyers, turned over the
Manchester Allstars before falling to the other Manchester club, the Spartans.
And Fylde Falcons, after a dreadful record in 1985, bounced back to win the
Anglo Northern division title. They disposed of Scottish division champs
Musselburgh in the first round of the playoffs before meeting the eventual
Birmingham overcame Fylde and Manchester Spartans saw off
Luton. Leicester once again came from behind to beat Milton Keynes 27-22, and
the Glasgow Lions shattered Nottingham Hoods hopes of a final place with a
display of power football that saw them go through by a massive 44-14 scoreline.
The game, however, was marred by the ejection of Stroughter who, after an
argument with the officials, took the whole team off the field in the middle of
the third quarter, never to return.
In the Budweiser semi-finals, the Ravens found little
problem shutting out Swindon 43-0, but the Olympians had to wait until the final
minutes to seal their second consecutive bowl appearance with a win against the
Northamptonshire Stormbringers (coached by Dr Kurt Smeby) at Crystal
Semi-final day in the BAFL was two weeks later, the same day
as Budweiser Bowl I. American Lloyd Queen ran for 160 yards and three TD's to
help the Bulls to a convincing 35-7 victory over the Manchester Spartans.
At Glasgow's Hellenvale Park, the Leicester Panthers had
travelled north with much expectation to take on the Glasgow Lions. With 27
seconds left on the clock the Panthers led 15-14, and sensed victory. At the two
minute warning, the Lions had started a drive at their own 40 yard line and,
assisted by a personal foul call, found themselves at the Leicester 22 yard line
with just 27 seconds left. Quarterback Mark Federspiel rolled right and fired
the ball into the endzone where Mark Thompson made a leaping grab for the
Leicester made one final attempt to salvage the game when
Tony Cope dropped back to make a desperation pass. Before he got the ball away,
he was sacked and Glasgow's Davie Yeats was on hand to scoop up the ball and
return it to the two-yard line. As time expired, Lion's running back Steve Curry
burst through the line to make the final score 27-15.
At the same time at Crystal Palace in London, the London
Ravens met the Streatham Olympians in Budweiser Bowl I. This was the second year
in the succession that the two London giants met each other in a UK final, and
many people had predicted another London Ravens whitewash. The attendance for
the game was approximately 5,000, probably because of most people's predictions
about the final scoreline.
The Ravens cruised to a comfortable 20-0 half-time lead,
thanks to the efforts of Joe St.Louis whose 77 yard scamper opened the day's
scoring and a 76 yard TD pass from QB Roberts to Tony Taylor. In the second half
though, things then started to change. Andy Smythe and Gerry Anderson made
things very interesting as they rushed over for scores to close the gap to 20-12
to the Ravens. This time it was the turn of the Ravens to face the heat. In a
stirring last-minute rally, Steve Chesney's despairing dive failed and the
Ravens were champions again.
Two weeks later on a soaked Alexander Stadium field,
Birmingham Bulls crowned a superb season with a SummerBowl II triumph. The Lions
supporters came south hoping for another upset win, but they were to be denied.
Lloyd Queen set the tone for the game with an 86 yard kick-off return and three
plays later burst over from nine yards out to send the Bulls in front. A third
quarter safety was Glasgow's only consolation when a Bull's punt snap sailed
straight out of the endzone. Richard Meanwell hit three field goals and Mark
Williams ran in on a sweep for the game's only other score. For Bull's Coach
Warren Tate it was the end to a great season. The Bulls of Birmingham had at
last achieved true first class status.
Lloyd Queen won the MVP award
For the majority of teams in Britain the season was over.
But up north, the smaller AAFC was preparing for it's final. The eight team
league had successfully negotiated it's second full season as Scunthorpe
Steelers met the Wirral Wolves in the final (also known as the Steel Bowl) on
October 5th. Pete Burns, John Strachan and Steve Hodgskin scored two TD's each
as the superior Steelers won through 50-32.
On the international front, Great Britain entered the
European Championships for the first time. GB were paired with the Netherlands
in a two-legged affair in November. GB won a tight scrap 9-6 in Birmingham in
the first leg, and a late rally in the fourth quarter led to a 24-5 win in
Hilversum two weeks later. The Lions therefore progressed to the finals in
In November 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
However, more significant than all the UK league
developments was the commitment of the NFL to play their first official game at
Wembley. The defending SuperBowl champion Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys
performed in pouring rain to a capacity audience. The venue could have been sold
out at least four times, such was the demand for tickets. That one game can now
be seen in retrospect as the first major step towards the development of NFL
football on a truly worldwide basis. Click here for a review of this match 21 years on.
As 1986 came to a close there was a first in Britball - 1st
ever all-female game: South Coast Sharkettes 30-12 Eastbourne Crusaders in
Bognor Regis, November 1986. There were a number of other interesting bits and
pieces in 1986, notably:
George Powell (Fylde Falcons) scored a record 9 TD's in a
game vs. Crewe Railroaders, June 8th 1986.
Tiggy Bell (Bradford Dolphins) rushed for a record 429 yards
in a single game vs. Huskies on 6 July 1986.
Channel 4 featured the Musselburgh Magnums in the
documentary about Britball, "Mud and guts" in 1986.
Talking of Musselburgh, they registered the 1st female
player in Britball in March 1986, back-up QB Fiona Logan.
April 1986 saw the 1st youth game in Ireland. Dublin
Panthers 41-0 Drimnagh Pirates.
1st national football game in Ireland saw the Celts beat
Belfast Blitzers 46-7 on 25 May 1986 in the Capital cup 1st leg. In the 2nd leg
on 22 June Belfast won by 24-20.
Dublin Celts beat Belfast Blitzers 13-0 in the Jack Daniels
Summerbowl final. Celts beat Craigavon Cowboys 20-6 in the semi, Belfast beating
Coleraine Chieftains 27-6 in the other.
1st youth kitted game in Scotland, 20th July 1986 at
Helenvale. Sadly the two teams and the score are a mystery!
Johnstone Crusaders (BAFL Anglo div) became the 1st kitted
team to play 2 league games on the same day on 27 July 1986. In game 1 they lost
14-16 to Musselburgh. In game 2 they beat Clydesdale 14-8.
1st ever game on the Isle of Man. Manx Comets 58-14 Peel
Vikings 20 April 1986.
Gridiron Sports sponsored a winter league involving Tamworth
Trojans, Boston Blitz, Lincoln Bombers, Charnwood Beacons. The bowl was between
Tamworth and Boston, as yet no record of the result has surfaced.
Dan Marino (the legendary Miami Dolphins QB)
came to the UK in 1986, and took a training session at Loftus
Highlights of the year:
Budweiser takes over
Ravens win title -
UK to host Euro Bowl
More teams than ever before were playing
the game now in 1987, with 130 teams registered with the various leagues. Now
though 102 teams were playing under the Budweiser banner.
National team, the GB Lions, had been set up, and the BAFA chairman David Gill
had been given the job of organising a team in time for the 1987 European
Nations Championship qualifer against France in the Spring. The team travelled
to Dunkirk and recorded an astonishing 59-2 victory. The second leg at home
finished 26-0 in GB's favour. The GB Lions secured a place in that summers
finals with a two legged victory over the Netherlands in the second qualifying
round. They would travel to Finland in the summer.
In the Budweiser League National Division,
the London Ravens continued their dominance with another unbeaten season. In the
North, the Manchester Allstars had brought together a number of star American
performers that won them a Conference title; the Leicester Panthers finally got
the better of the Birmingham Bulls to win the Midlands Conference and the Luton
Flyers were the other surprise conference winners.
Manchester Allstars v London Olympians,
Bud League 1987
The rest of the Budweiser League was split
into a 35 team Premier Division and a 48 team Division One. With three separate
division there would be three Budweiser Bowls.
The London Ravens reached Budweiser Bowl
II where they faced the Manchester Allstars. The final was eventually won by the
Londoners who opened up an immediate 26-0 lead, but the Allstars came charging
back with three quick unanswered TD's. It took a pass for a first down on
third and twenty by QB Ron Roberts to WR Mark Delaney to quell fears of an
upset. The Ravens were eventually happy to settle for a 40-23 win, in a game
that was shown in highlights on Channel 4.
Ravens v Allstars, Bud Bowl
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 overwhelemed the Tiggy Bell led
Cougars 43-6 with a dominating display of running from Lawrence Dinham and
Chalkie Elliott. In Division One, Ashton Oilers actually beat Leeds' regular
season tally of points (578) and then beat Ealing Eagles in the bowl
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 -
this wasn't ideal preparation. The result was two disappointing losses (to
Finland and Italy) and a fourth place finish.
v Italy 1987
In the off-season, Lance Cone took over as
chairman of BAFA. The European Football League (EFL) announced that the UK would
stage the EuroBowl II championships and NFL Properties immediately pledged cash
support. It would be the first time British and European gridiron would be on
show to a wide audience as the Channel 4 television network agreed to show
extensive coverage of the finals. Having won the Bud Bowl, the London Ravens had
qualified for the first time to represent their country at the finals. They had
waited four years to show that they were the best at that level.
BAFRA ref Bill
The London O's took part in the
Heineken International tournament in Amsterdam in 1987, and brought the trophy
home. They defeated Amsterdam Rams (16-0) and the Berlin Eagles (7-0) enroute to
the final, where they defeated Amsterdam Crusaders 9-7.
Other interesting bits and
pieces for 1987 included:
Gravesend Lions announced they would play their 1987 home fixtures at
Stonebridge Road, Northfleet, the site of the 1st ever game of American football
in the UK in 1910.
The Wales American football festival was held on 15 March
1987. The crowd was 13000 making it the largest ever in the principality for
15 May 1987. Washington Presidents QB Jeff Rutter threw for a
British record 544 yards and 12 TD passes. Receiver George Skidmore caught 17
for 336 yards and 7 TDs, any one of these could well have been a record.
Skidmore also ran a kick off back 99 yards (TD) and also threw a TD pass on an
option play when the Presidents thrashed stockport 128-6.
28 June 1987. Tiggy
Bell (Leeds) rushed for 429 yards vs. Wrekin equalling his own year-old record.
In the process he scored 6 TDs.
28 June 1987. Jeff Rutter (see above) threw
12 of 20 for 182 yards breaking Ron Dubie's 1986 mark of 1505 yards
12 July 1987. Sammy Samuels (Washington) tied the (then) British
record of 9 TDs in a game in the wild 66-62 win over Wirral.
19 July 1987.
Edinburgh Eagles punter Tom Couch set a British record longest punt of 95 yards
vs. Granite City.
26 July 1987. The youngest player (known) to score a TD in
senior football was 15 year old David Ford who scored his 10th of the season for
Prestatyn Panthers vs. Buckley Hangmen.
30 August 1987. 1st ever youth kitted
game in England - Leicester Panthers vs. Durham Chiefs at Saffron lane.
Oct 1987. Scotbowl 2 (Scotland's junior kitted championship) Glasgow Lions 24-0
1st ever game in the
Channel Islands: Jersey Senates vs. Brighton (no score available) April 12 1987
(700 turned up to watch).