Friday, February 15, 2013

Gridiron Britannia: The Trials of Brit Ball, Small Clubs and Big Ideas


Is the future in good hands?

Grass-roots in sports are important. If there is a passionate following at ground level, with local teams getting local fans to pitchside to watch their local team then the benefits for everyone can be untold. Coupled with the showcasing of a major sporting event such as the Olympics, or in this case the Super Bowl, local teams should be receiving potential players who want to try to emulate Ray Lewis or Colin Kaepernick. 

Just like the Olympics, my biggest criticism of grass-roots American football in the past has been that it is too London-centric, but that appears to be changing. There are now powerhouse teams throughout the UK, organisations that are trying to take on the dominance of the south.


I have long been fascinated by the machine that runs behind an American football club in Britain. I wanted to learn how much it really takes to be part of something that gives an opportunity to help the local community but gives no financial reward.

The Cost of Doing Business

To find out more, I contacted Jeff Rutter, CEO of the DC Presidents, who pulls few punches on the amount of effort and funding that is required to run his team.

"We have to raise £36,000 every year to keep the club going. This is mainly done through subs and local and national funding but it only works if we have a solid fan base and players willing to commit."

The last point seems to be a sticking point for Jeff:

"My biggest pet hate is mercenary players, they do not progress the clubs at all and take only for themselves without giving anything back to the sport." 

With three teams in the Newcastle and Durham area it is a challenge to entice both new and old players to be part of the Presidents revolution. To differentiate themselves from other sports teams in the local area they aim for a professionalism that will not only grow the sport but provide an experience to bring in fans and revenue.
The game looks great but with facilities lacking it's hard to get fans  to attend

Forward Momentum

"Our 2013 aim is to progress the DC to becoming a High School standard on and off the pitch and draw back fans old and new to enjoy the British game. The management team have worked hard to create one of the best setups in the country but we are not finished yet."
To run any club it seems you need a good team and strong commitment, attributes which are not always given by new recruits.
"It varies. We are only in our second year [and attract] about 25 brand new rookies a year, but we are encouraging past players in the region to come out of retirement. We also recruit from the surrounding 5 Universities as well."
One of the biggest problems facing all of British American football is the lack of specialist facilities, and the knock-on effect it has on revenue:
"We need to improve the standard of facilities if we are to grow as a sport, spectators won’t last long standing in a field with no facilities, many clubs don’t see this as vital and they will not progress past where they are now. We need to set minimum standards even if it means some clubs must move or fold."

Brit Bowl Problems



Too open, too big, not enough people - Brit Bowl XXVI

But when it comes to the Brit Bowl it seems that they may be going too far in the wrong direction:
"It needs to take a big step back. Long gone are the big crowds, we need to utilise existing teams' facilities instead of wasting money hiring a big neutral venue and only getting small crowds. Teams should be able to apply each year for it like the NFL do."

I disagree with Jeff on this aspect but I understand his sentiments. The Super Bowl is something that a lot of people watch even if they don't follow the sport. It is a spectacle and could really help grow the British game.


I went to the Brit Bowl last year and my thoughts have been set out here. If we can make it a true spectacle that is well organised, family-oriented and above all profitable then it can become the season-ending blowout everyone deserves.


NFL in UK?


American football in Britain should be flourishing. The centrepiece of the sport worldwide is shown on terrestrial TV and there are two live games a year. There needs to be more connection between the NFL and local teams in the UK but I don't think this will happen. Jeff Rutter agrees.


"The NFL is too big of a franchise to worry about growing the sport over here. There are easy markets to aim at and they have already tried Europe back with the World League."
Lewis English is the Editor of Until Kickoff. You can follow him on Twitter here.
A massive thanks to a fantastic photographer Nathan Sharrocks for the pictures  

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