Football in the United Kingdom moves on. No sooner has the BUCS University football season finished when BAFA’s National League begins. I suggest the University league has finished, but there are still two games left to close out the season after the weather challenges we experienced last month.
The Coventry Jets play the Newcastle Raiders on May 12 for the division 2 North title and the Southampton Stags will go to the Brighton Panthers for the division 2 South title on April 21.
The first games in the National League season are scheduled for Sunday April 15 when the London Warriors will host the Bristol Aztecs in the only game to be played that weekend in the Premier South.
A week later, the unbeaten 2017 Premiership champions Tamworth Phoenix will open their season at promoted Manchester Titans in the Premier North. The other promoted team the Olympians join the Warriors and the Blitz to ensure that London is represented by three teams in the senior South division.
National League developments
The Norwich Devils return to the SFC 2 East after a few years absence while the Somerset Wyverns are the new kids on the block entering the SFC 2 West just three years after they were formed. They know how tough life in the league will be after losing 33-6 to the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts recently in an exhibition game.
As part of BAFL, the Devils won back to back division two championships in 2006 & 2007. The Devils are excited about returning to the league and told NFLGirlUK that it had been a lengthy rebuilding process but the team is champing at the bit to get back onto the field and show what they can do.
They were realistic about their first season prospects acknowledging, “It’s always tough for a team entering the league but we are confident we are ready and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead. Hopefully we can do the Devils name justice and put Norwich back onto the British American Football map.”
With some clubs lacking depth in player numbers it makes sense to merge where geographical possible. The Newcastle Vikings and Northumberland Lightning have consolidated their resources and will play the new season as the Northumberland Vikings in the NFC 1 North.
The “new” team was keen to clarify why the two teams merged. General Manager Carl Gibson explained, “The 2017 campaign should have been a good one for the Lightning, boasting a strong roster we had hoped to at least be a .500 team by the end of the season. Unfortunately players’ injuries and a string of poor results led us to being unable to finish a game against Morecambe Bay and having to forfeit our home game against Gateshead.
The Vikings had similar trouble with player numbers. Although they did manage to go 5-5 it did not meet the full aspirations of the club management.
The clubs were already working together on the North East Academy of American Football and as discussions between the two clubs went on it became apparent that a senior merger would be a positive move for both clubs and the North East in general – with 3 senior teams and an associate team in the area at that time, it was obvious that the talent pool was being diluted.
Now heading into the 2018 campaign we have appointed a professional Head Coach in Mike Sholars and have a good strong roster raring to go. As always, the goal is to improve on what was achieved in the previous year. Last years the Vikings team set the benchmark for us in Division 1, so the aim for the Northumberland Vikings this season is to go one further and reach the playoffs.”
BAFA Director of Competitions Russ Hewitt explained why the team found itself back in division one. “The Newcastle side of the merger confirmed their Division One standing, as shown by narrowly missing out on playoffs last year following their promotion, so for competition structure we believe that (the NFC 1 North) is the best place for the new Northumberland Vikings team.”
After moving their home ground to Ulverston, the Walney Terriers changed the team’s name to the Furness Phantoms in an attempt to reach out to a bigger following and attract more players. The Phantoms also felt that the club had changed significantly both on and off the field and a name change would help to establish a stronger identity while confirming the transformation.
NFLGirlUK embraces the new season and wish all teams a safe and successful season.
A full list of teams can be found here>>>