Saturday, October 20, 2012

Brit Bowl XXVI: A Review - A Great Weekend but the Experience Could be Better

I have just returned from a fantastic weekend attending Brit Bowl XXVI in Sheffield. My throat is sore and my bones are wet, but it was a fantastic experience and one I am keen to repeat in future years. Below are some random thoughts on what I think worked and what needs to be improved to make this an even better event. 

What Worked at Brit Bowl XXVI

Neil Reynolds
Sky and NFLUK pundit Neil Reynolds commentated and compered both days of action and was top notch. How he saw the numbers on the Peterborough Saxons jerseys I will never know, but he was professional and approachable at all times.


The Action
All the games provided entertainment and good plays. I enjoyed the Sussex Thunder and West Coast Trojans match-up most, even if it did have the single stupidest football play I have ever seen: spiking the football on 4th down with only seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately this was not put into the record books due to another penalty but I will always remember!

The Location
Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium leaves a lot to be desired (more below) but the location compared to previous years was much improved. I think everybody learnt that hosting the event in London last year was a big mistake. I would be happy to travel from Manchester to see the Brit Bowl at the Don Valley Stadium again.

The Merchandise
For those interested in purchasing new pads or helmets, there was a great selection on offer. The sponsors seemed friendly and helpful. More on the merchandise below.


What Needs to be Changed

The Location
I know I just said that I liked the location, but the stadium itself leaves a lot to be desired. For those who don't know Don Valley Stadium it has a full running track between the field and the stand. This makes the pitch detached from the crowd - leading to a complete lack of atmosphere. This event should be played at a football or rugby stadium with full sided stands. Salford City Stadium, Keepmoat and Edgeley Park would all be great locations for the finals. 




The Entertainment
Beyond the games there was very little entertainment. There could have been opportunity for some great family fun. Between the youth final and the Premier final on Sunday there was a two hour wait with nothing but The Whistle Song for company. Events in the car parks outside could have also gotten those - like myself - who love the NFL but do not play more involved. It seems like there was very little effort to try and entertain those who attended.


The Cheerleaders.
I will try and keep this positive. Cheerleaders are meant to lead cheers, they are meant to involve the crowd in the games and help with the atmosphere. The TWO cheerleading squads who were at the Brit Bowl on Saturday did not do this. The Deva Academy Cheerleaders were traditional and if given a PA and correct instruction could have helped improve the atmosphere. The Crew Girls seemed to be a dance group and brought very little to the atmosphere. There must be a real cheerleading squad out there who could engage the crowd, which sorely needed to be involved in the action.  I am not a critic of dance and so any other thoughts I may have will be kept to myself.

The Merchandise
The Merchandise was tucked away in a small corner of the stand far away from the entrance. Two of the stands were aimed at those who played the game and only one had NFL merchandise in great numbers. All of the stands seemed to offer a good selection but there was a severe lack of jerseys and apparel from British American Football teams. My wife wanted to buy Manchester Titans merchandise but was unable to. I know I can get this from their store but this is meant to be the show piece of all British American Football.

Junior and Flag Football
The pitch for these games was a considerable walk from the main stadium. None of this was included in the main programme of games within Don Valley and with two hours of dead time on Sunday afternoon, this accessible option for new players and fans should have been showcased on a bigger stage.

Marketing
The marketing for this event as almost non-existent. There was no mention on the front page of the Brit Bowl on NFLUK and there is never any mention of British American Football at the International Series game. If the NFL really wants to keep the momentum they create every October with the Wembley game they should get actively involved in the grass roots football in the United Kingdom. All of my information on the British American Football scene comes from Double Coverage and Gridiron TV - independent sites. 

Brit Bowl weekend could be a fantastic family occasion. With the right marketing and the correct message, they could attract a whole new group of fans, from a young age.


Final Thoughts
It is easy to be negative and as I said at the very top of this article I had a fantastic time and met some great people from across the UK and beyond. I just think that the Brit Bowl is a massive opportunity waiting to happen. In Poland their national final attracted tens of thousands of people. We have an incredibly passionate fan base in the UK, we need a national finals to be proud of.

UPDATE: I would like to express my appreciation to all of those who helped with the Brit Bowl, I know this was done by volunteers and that many of the things discussed above are funding issues. This article is meant to be positive and I hope it is taken that way. I want to be able to share this great experience with other British American Football Fans.
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Lewis English is an NFL Fanatic and a Brit Bowl convert. You can follow him on Twitter here.

4 comments:

  1. Glad you enjoyed it. It looked good from home.

    Few quick thoughts on the comments above

    It's all done by volunteers. If the government will give our sport millions, then we can put on something like Poland. Until then it's going to be a smaller affair. Could definatly do with some more marketing though. NFL don't seem to be very helpful as we won't make the NFL millions of dollars.

    Agree about the timings. I'd love to have seen the youth final in the stadium inbetween the 2 senior games. Should be less than an hour and I know it's been done before.

    Using kickyball/rugby grounds - with both sports just underway, you seem to get very protective groundsmen at this time of year. Better that you have some free reign and games don't get cancelled (especially with Saturday evening weather) then getting fans a bit closer?

    Cheerleaders - I've only seen 2 proper sets of cheerleaders in this country since the Claymores days (and that includes US sports like basketball and ice hockey where you'd expect something like this) and they were both groups setup specifically for football teams. Cheerleading groups are glorified gymnastic/dance groups who go off to competitions to do just that and do some events in their spare time. Even the supposed professional cheerleaders who model themselves on the US model are this type of thing and very bad at actually cheering for a team (and very expensive to boot). Nothing wrong with that if that's what we expect, but you won't find US style cheerleading over here unless it's been specifically done by a team (and as neither of those teams where at Britbowl, it's understandable their cheerleaders weren't).

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  2. Thanks for your thoughts TD. As I said I really enjoyed the weekend and appreciate the hard work that all of the volunteers did during the weekend. I hope this article comes across as how to make a great thing better and not a rant on how I hated every aspect. The key here I think is the investment in the sport (which you have highlighted.) I am not sure who you are but it seems you have insider knowledge on this, I would love to discuss this further with you. My email is untilkickoff@gmail.com

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  3. There are loads of university teams that have huge cheer leading squads that compete in national competitions. I'm sure if one of them was contacted they would be interested in doing it (maybe not in the weather on Saturday night!!)

    Maybe contacting the winner of the national finals to see if they'd be interested and then work down from there. Probably would be happy to perform without charging a fee as well. Probably ;-)

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  4. Totally agree on the stadium opinion. The 2008 experience at KeepMoat was much better because the crowd was closer (and the weather was better) and the merchandise stand was more visible. I didn't even see the stand this year.

    For years I have given feedback to the NFL and NFLUK that the international series game would be so much better if they involved the British teams in some way. Having them on pre game and/or half time would do so much for the sport in this country and generating interest in the British game would only have the knock on effect of greater interest in the NFL which would then make their goal of a permanent UK franchise that much more likely.

    The sport is crying out for funding and has so much potential if just one big company/organisation out there pumped some money into it.

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