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Highlights of 1998 to 2000: 

1998

Highlights of the year: 


O's/Bulls reunited with BSL
O's take title
GB thrash France
Monarchs franchise moved
Spartans travel to the States
Senior Flag league set up


Before the 1998 season started there were further withdrawals of teams from the BSL. Milton Keynes Pioneers announced that they wouldn't be competing in the BSL this year, instead they were playing a full season of home and away matches against continental opposition as well as taking part in an indoor league with 5 other British teams. Neither of these things ever happened and the Pioneers, a once great team, faded away into nothing.

The once-mighty Northants Storm (runners-up in 1990) also withdrew. Sheffield Cyclones changed their name to the Sheffield Saxons. Other withdrawals from lower down the league included: Carterton Wildcats, South Yorkshire Jaguars, North East Presidents, Invicta Eagles, Gwent Mustangs and the Bath Gladiators.


The BIG-C disappeared, and the three surviving clubs rejoined the BSL. The BSL organised their structure into 2 divisions. In Division One, Sussex Thunder and the London O's went through the regular season unbeaten and took the South West and South East Conference titles respectively. The Birmingham Bulls took the Northern Conference. All four quarter-finals went according to form, and in the semi's the O's crushed Bristol Aztecs 28-0, while Sussex Thunder made it to their first national final with a 26-24 home victory against the Bulls. The final was one-sided as the O's defeated the Thunder 20-0.


Tony Stitt led the Sussex Thunder to the final


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In Division Two, Lancashire Wolverines, Redditch Arrows, London Mets and Southern Sundevils all took conference titles. All the playoff matches were hard fought and finished with tight scorelines. All conference winners made it through to the semis, though the Mets had to leave it late to pip the Tiger Bay Warriors 13-12. In the semis, the Wolverines edged the Redditch Arrows 14-12, and the Sundevils sneaked past the Mets 10-6. In the final, the Sundevils won promotion to the top-flight with a 22-16 victory over their northern opponents.


In Europe, no British side entered the EuroBowl competition, and the only National match was a European Nations qualifying match with the French in November at the Milton Keynes National Hockey Stadium. Great Britain had to win to qualify for the finals in Sweden in 1999. They did so comfortably 42-0. The Brits were 16-0 up at half-time thanks to a Simon Newnham safety, a Bruce Reid 10 yard TD run, and Rowelle Blenhan's 18 yard catch from QB Junior Price. In the second half, GB pulled away with a Robert Flickinger 60 yard interception return, a Darren Cooper 1 yard TD catch from Nick Hewitt, a Justin Oke 11 yard TD run and Steve Branscombe's 24 yard TD catch from Nick Hewitt.

Bruce Reid
Bruce Reid scores vs France


The off-season was a momentous one for the London Monarchs in the franchise's history with the name being changed to 'England Monarchs' in October. It was also announced that the team would play at three different home venues in 1998 - three games at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre (south London), one at Ashton Gate Stadium (Bristol) and another at Alexander Stadium (Birmingham). Poor crowds blighted their season as they finished 3-7-0. The NFL decided that in 1999, they would be replaced by the Berlin Thunder.

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In the BCAFL, the Hertfordshire Hurricanes won their first national title with a 16-7 win in College Bowl XII. Other national titles went to the Lancashire Wolverines Colts (who retained their crown) who won the Youth Kitted title with a 14-12 win against the Farnham Knights. The Doncaster Wildcats won the Youth Kitted Division Two title with a 32-22 win against the Southern Sundevils. The NFFA Youth Flag title was taken by the Doncaster Wildcats also, who thrashed the UCLA Renegades 32-8 in the final at Norman Green Stadium in Solihull.



1998 was also the first season that a National Senior Flag League would be run. The 5 Senior Flag sides that had been playing games purely on an ad-hoc basis for a couple of years were approached by NFFA to start an official league affiliated to the BSL. The Leicester Europa Eagles won the first NFFA Senior Flag league title following an unbeaten 8 game season.


Leicester Europa Eagles


In GB Crusaders had qualified for the European Junior Championship finals after a 54-0 thrashing of Norway in a qualifying game at Crystal Palace in May. In August they travelled with high hopes to Germany, after being drawn against Finland and France in group A. Things did not go according to plan, as they were routed firstly 52-0 by France, and then 49-7 by Finland. They had to play Switzerland in a 5th/6th place playoff, and lost again. This time 18-0. GB came back with the tail between their legs.


The GB Bulldogs played three friendlies in 1998. They defeated Team Canada 6-0 and German Universities 13-6, but suffered a narrow 27-26 defeat against the Dutch Universities.


In the UK Nations Cup, Scotland took the title with convincing wins against Wales (50-8) and England (36-6). England defeated Wales 27-2, and the Welsh went on to beat the Irish 34-6. A proposed game between Ireland and Scotland was changed at the eleventh hour to Carrickfergus Knights vs. SGA select, the Scots winning 44-0 (Carrickfergus were the current Irish champions, having beaten Dublin Tigers 22-14 in the 1998 title game),


Terry Smith re-formed the Spartans for a tour of the States to play a series of Arenaball games prior to the start up of a proposed UK/US Indoor League. The Spartans team travelled over to play two games against professional indoor football teams in the U.S. In doing so, they became the only British team to ever travel to play a U.S. team, and not against a high school or college team, but against two pro teams.They played two games, vs. Madison Mad Dogs 12-29 and vs. Green Bay Bombers 34-55. The U.S. side of the League later decided against all the travel back and forth, and the league never got off the ground.

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1999

Highlights of the year: 


SGA teams join BSL
O's win National Bowl
O's win in Europe again
Scotland win Four Nations cup

The SGA had folded in the off-season, and two of it's sides joined the BSL - East Kilbride Pirates who had won the Scottish Bowl the previous season, and the Strathclyde Sheriffs.



When the 1999 alignments were announced in the BSL, there was surprise as a National Conference was created in Division One with the top 4 sides in the country playing in it. The O's, Bulls, East Kilbride and the Sussex Thunder competed in an 8 game regular season, with the top two in the Conference playing each other for the title. In the event the O's went through the season unbeaten and then won a defensive battle with the Bulls 9-6 in the National Bowl.


O's RB Justin Oke


Two further major cities in the UK would now be without a team. The Sheffield Saxons had pulled out as had the Leicester Huntsmen. Cambridge (who had been playing since 1984) also folded as did the Hull Rockets, St.Helens Cardinals and Torbay Trojans. Redbridge Fire merged with the Essex Chiefs to form the Essex Spartans.


In the BSL Division One Bowl game, the Gateshead Senators defeated the Bristol Aztecs, and the Chester Romans won the BSL Division Two title with a thrilling 24-22 win against the Tiger Bay Warriors.

In the SGA, the East Kilbride Pirates dominated against four other opponents, and ended up winning the SGA Bowl IV 50-6 against the Dundee Whalers.


Hertfordshire Hurricanes won their second successive College title by defeating the Loughborough Aces 7-3 in College Bowl XIII. The London Capitals dominated the Youth Kitted season, and won the national title 32-0 against the Lancashire Wolverines. Milton Keynes Pathfinders defeated the UCLA Renegades 21-12 to take the Youth Flag final, and the Leicester Junior Eagles took the Junior Flag title with a convincing 32-6 win against the Sussex Junior Thunder.


After the first NFFA Senior Flag season in 1998, the NFFA was absorbed into BYAFA, and so the senior flag league was renamed as the British Senior Flag League (BSFL). The BSFL set up their own committee to run the league and continued to affiliate, register & pay insurance to BSL (still under the BAFA governing body). At around the same time, the under 18 game run by BYAFA decided to move to non-contact flag as promoted by the NFL. The BSFL league title was won by the Fen Harriers, who went through the league season undefeated, with a 6-0 record. Then In December of 1999, with no prior warning or discussion, BAFA announced that they were no longer going to recognise contact flag. The BSFL (as all their member clubs wished to continue to play contact flag) responded to this by declaring themselves an independent league and took out their own separate registrations, insurance policy and age policy (over 16's).


The London O's took part in European competition for the first time in 4 years as they entered the Eurocup (the equivalent of soccer's UEFA cup). The problem was that very few teams bothered with it. In fact only four took part in 99. In the semi final first leg the O's travelled to Amsterdam to play the Crusaders where they won 37-0. In the second leg at Southwark park the O's won 26-2, thanks to two Justin Oke TD's, but the game was abandoned in the 3rd quarter as the Cru were hamstrung with a spate of injuries causing them to concede early. They had started the game with 22 players, but received 6 injuries during the game! In the final, held at the Heysel stadium, Brussels, the O's defeated Oslo Vikings 12-6. After this game EFAF announced that due to a lack of interest the Eurocup would not take place in 2000.


O's QB Nick Hewitt vs Oslo


In 1999, the European Nations Championship was to be held in Sweden. Great Britain had qualified by virtue of their defeat of the French at Milton Keynes the previous year. However the Swedish federation "failed to meet their commitments" and EFAF suspended the championship until 2000. First reports indicated that GB would have to re-qualify but after an appeal EFAF confirmed that this would not be the case. The GB squad played no games in 99.


Great Britain were invited to take part in the inaugural World Cup of American Football held in Palermo, Sicily this year after Canada dropped out but they declined the invitation. The tournament was between USA, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Italy and Finland. France eventually took GB/Canada's place. Japan won the World Cup beating Mexico 6-0 in overtime.


Scotland won the UK Nations cup for the third successive year as they shutout the Welsh (20-0) and the Irish (30-0). After England had defeated Ireland 46-0, this set up a deciding game with Scotland. The Scots won a superb game 22-16.



2000


Highlights of the year: 

O's pip Bulls - again
GB's Euro disaster
Scotland defeat England



At the start of 2000, the only team that dropped out of the BSL were the Tiger Bay Warriors, which was surprising as the previous season they had reached the Division Two final. The BSL realigned their divisions into Division One and Two, and this season there would not be an elite National Conference in division One as there was in 1999. The BSL secured a deal to play the Division One and Division Two finals at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield on the same day.


In Division One, Birmingham lost only one regular season game (to the O's) on their way to a 7-1-0 season and clinched the Northern Conference. East Kilbride improved to 6-2 and took second place. In the Southern Conference, the London O's kept their unbeaten run going (now stretching back to the 1997 regular season) and they went 8-0 and took the Southern Conference. Sussex Thunder and London Mets put together fine regular seasons both finishing with 6-1-1 records. There were no real surprises in the playoffs as the Bulls and O's rolled over all opposition on their way to the final, which was to be played at the superb Don Valley Stadium for the first time. The O's took the title with a 34-26 victory. Two Bulls fumbles in the opening quarter led to O's TD's and then Birmingham were always chasing the game.


Junior Price QB'd the O's to another title win



 In BSL Division Two, the Redditch Arrows won the Northern Conference, and the PA Farnham Knights went upbeaten in clinching the Southern title. Ipswich Cardinals, likewise, did not lose a regular season game. Fascinating playoff games followed, as Redditch squeaked past Norwich 12-11, and the Knights edged Oxford 18-13. In the final, PA Knights thrashed Ipswich 41-7, and would be promoted to Division One in 2001.

The London O's decided against entering the EuroBowl competition, which was won by an Italian side for the first time (Bergamo Lions), but vowed to enter in 2001.


There followed the European Championships disaster. GB had been drawn away to face Finland, with the game being scheduled in July. The original date did not clash with any BSL fixtures, but the Finns wanted to change the date at the last minute! The date they proposed (which was ratified by the EFAF) clashed with BSL matches. The BSL made every effort to try and accommodate the change but were unable to rearrange the fixtures - the key game being the London Mets vs. London O's (who would be supplying half the GB team). It was also a very special day for the London Mets who had gone to a lot of effort to plan a whole event round the game. The powers that be ruled in BSL's favour, and so GB travelled to Finland with half their team missing. On the 17th July, GB were unsurprisingly dumped out at the semi-final stage 34-9.


On 1st October 2000, England took on the GB Bulldogs and lost 10-7. Not ideal preparation for the game against Scotland the following week, but it did show how far the College game has come. England's TD was from WR Andy Falconer's 17 yard catch from Wayne Mayers pass. The Bulldogs score being a 20 yard run by Richard Marshall.


The Four Nations tournament didn't take place this year, and it was left to England and Scotland to fight it out for the title. Scotland won the Nations Cup for the 4th consecutive year with a 12-0 win. Two Gary McNey TD passes to Stevie Branscombe clinched the win for the Scots.


In BYAFA, the London O's won the Youth Kitted title with a 22-0 shut-out of the Lancashire Wolverine Colts, and the Southern Sundevils won the 3rd/4th place playoff 42-26 against Norwich. The O's also won the Youth Flag final with a 32-26 win against UCLA Renegades. Birmingham and Oxford won the Junior and Cadet finals respectively.


In Senior Flag Football, the BSFL decided against a league season for 2000 and intended to re-build towards 2001 after a few teams dropped out. Nevertheless, a couple of tournaments were played in the Autumn (in Cambridge & Leicester), and the Fen Harriers proved themselves to be the pick of the bunch by going undefeated in these. An English Senior Flag side also travelled to Ireland in May to play the first ever international at this level between the two countries. The Irish ran out 27-7 winners. Towards the end of 2000, steps were taken to ensure that a league season would occur in 2001.


The GB Crusaders became known as the GB Lions Youth in 2000 and played a European Championship Qualifying match at Saffron Lane Stadium in Leicester against Holland for the right to appear in the finals in the Summer. The British won convincingly 40-0.


In Berlin, Great Britain were drawn in the same group as Germany and Finland (the number 1 seeds)!! The other group contained Russia, Austria and France. In the opening game of the tournament the Germans overwhelmed the Brits 53-7. Finland thrashed GB 31-0, meaning that GB had to play a 5th/6th place playoff match with France. GB lost agonisingly 32-27.


The GB Bulldogs defeated an Allstar team (largely made up of Yorkshire Rams players) 39-13, and then defeated the Danish University Allstars 21-14. In the Autumn, they defeated England Seniors 10-7. A very impressive achievement.


Ireland and Wales did not compete in the UK Nations Cup in 2000, so it was left for Scotland and England to playoff for the crown in a one-off game. Scotland winning 12-0.


Great Lions Youth team travelled to Germany for the 6th European Flag Championships (Under-16), and came away with a very respectable second place finish. They defeated Netherlands (28-7), Norway (49-6), Austria (25-0) in the group stages, before beating Switzerland 29-6 in the semi-finals. Germany defeated the Brits 18-14 in the final.


In other notable matches in November, Sky Sports sponsored a clash between Scotland thrashed England 44-2 at Under-19 level. Strathclyde University running back Jordan Falconer scored two touchdowns en route to earn one of the game's two Most Valuable Player awards helping Scotland lift the Sky Sports NFL Sunday trophy at Glasgow's Garscube Sports Complex. Defensive tackle Jim Adams was awarded the game's defensive MVP trophy, leading a hard-hitting Scots defense which never allowed their opponents to settle, with two forced fumbles and two sacks. 



Scotland's Under 16 flag tam had defeated their English opponents 52-47 the previous week at Stirling's Forthbank Stadium to set up the double. Leicester Junior Eagles won the English (21-6 vs Birmingham Young Bulls) and UK Junior Flag championships (37-29 vs St Maurice's High School Rams), but failed to qualify for the World finals when they lost narrowly in Holland in the European qualifying event.



In December Chrysler, the car company, announced a five-figure sponsorship deal with BAFA for the GB Lions.

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