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An introduction to the BAFA Sapphire Series

Guest blogger Gordon Dedman introduced the BAFA Sapphire Series:

While the spotlight on football recently has been the Super Bowl and the University League’s build up to their playoffs/promotions, this weekend was saw the return of women’s football with the arrival of BAFA’s Sapphire Series (more on this soon!).

The Series is the National Championship competition for women’s tackle football and takes the form of regionally based tournaments through which teams compete to establish their regional and national ranking within two divisions. With 18 teams participating – 8 in National Division One (7 v 7), across North and South conferences, and 10 teams in Division Two (5 v 5), courtesy of the North&West and South&East conferences – there’s plenty of football to be played before finals day in April.

Division One:
[South Conference]
* Birmingham Lions
* Hertfordshire Tornadoes
* Derby Braves
* London Warriors

[North Conference]
* Leeds Carnegie Chargers
* Manchester Titans
* East Kilbride Pirates
* Edinburgh Wolves

Division Two:
[South&East Conference]
* Wembley Stallions
* Portsmouth Dreadnoughts
* Iceni Spears
* Oxford Saints
* Peterborough Royals

[North&West Conference]
* Teesside Steelers
* Sandwell Steelers
* Chester Romans
* Staffordshire Surge
* Cardiff Valkyries

Rnd 1 – February 25th (+ host)
Division One South: Birmingham – first games started at 13.00.
Division One North: Glasgow – first games started at 12.45.
Division Two South&East: Petersfield – first games started at 13.00
Division Two North&West: Oldbury – first games started at 13.00
(Results on these to be discussed on another blog post!)

Rnd 2 – March 11th
Division One (inter-conference, (East)): Derby
Division One (inter-conference, (West)): Manchester
Division Two South&East: Peterborough
Division Two North&West: Chester ** to take place March 12th

Rnd 3 – March 25th
Division One South: Hertfordshire
Division One North: East Kilbride
Division Two South&East: Oxford
Division Two North&West: Teesside

Finals Day / Rnd 4 – April 8th
Division One Finals Day: Leeds
Division Two South&East Rnd 4: Wembley
Division Two North&West Rnd 4: Staffordshire

There will be no national champion in Division Two. Each Conference will have its own champion, based on final standings after all rounds are complete. Division One will play for National Championship honours and national rankings through a seeded system following completion of rounds 1-3.

For those unfamiliar, the Sapphire Series is the women’s national championship for contact football. The series, which runs from February to April, sees teams compete across a number of tournaments in the BAFA 7 v 7 format in Division 1 and the BAFA 5 v 5 format in Division 2. Teams in Division 1 compete for the National Championship title, where Division 2 teams compete for conference titles.

The women’s game has expanded rapidly since its infant days. My earliest photo was taken on a cold, wet January day in 2013. The Portsmouth Destroyers enjoyed learning the basics of football although they were probably envious of me hiding under an umbrella while the rain lashed down.

As the popularity of the women’s game increased, so has the number of teams. This has made the sport more competitive although with their strong football program, the Birmingham Lions have led the way.

Division One

The Lions’ three national championships are confirmation that a well organised and coached team can dominate. Seeded number one, it will be interesting to follow their season in the Southern Conference to see if they can continue their high standard.

Seeded number two, the Hertfordshire Tornadoes also possess a competent setup, but with the promoted London Warriors and the Derby Braves competing in the conference, the season will be a great one to look forward to. The intriguing question will be how well the Warriors, who have the pedigree of potential champions, will do? I suspect it they will do very well.

In the Northern Conference, the promoted Edinburgh Wolves and East Kilbride Pirates teams will face stiff competition from the Leeds Carnegie Chargers and Manchester Titans.

Division Two

Two Steelers teams will face each other in the “North and West Conference”. Teesside and Sandwell will be playing for the rights to be called the Steel City Stars. They will be joined by the Chester Romans and two new teams the Staffordshire Surge and the Cardiff Valkyries.

The Wembley Stallions should control the “South and East Conference”, but the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts have a new name and new coaching staff to ensure it won’t be easy for Wembley. The Iceni Spears return and will be joined by new teams the Oxford Saints and the Peterborough Royals.

Guest blogger Gordon Dedman is a Pittsburgh sports fanatic and Steelers history researcher. You can follow Gordon at @SteelUK.

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