Ahead of the upcoming regionalised divisions for 2021, with the help of Jason Bowdler from the UK American Football Scene Facebook group, we are taking a look back over the history of Britball. You can find part 1 here
After the Manchester Spartans became the first UK team to take the European title in 1990 and succesfully defend their title (In the Coke Bowl when Budweiser dropped their sponsorship and the soft drinks giant took over) and Birmingham bounced back in 1991 when they retook the British Championship with a last minute field goal to beat the Olympians once again 39-38, it would be the London side that would grow to dominate the domestic scene during the 90’s.
The Olympians would finally break their finals hoodoo when they lifted the trophy in 1992 v Leicester. This started a run of another 2 titles in 93 and 94 before losing again in the 1995 final….to the Bulls no less 34-30 in a back-and-forth contest. Leicester would grab the UK championship in 96 before the Olympians finished the decade on top, British champions in 97, 98 and 99.
1991 Coke Bowl – Birmingham Bulls v London Olympians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hqW71tTK8M
1993 Britbowl Final – London Olympians v Glasgow Lions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9BxcLU-d48
1995 Britbowl Final – London Olympians v Birmingham Bulls https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99IRgRQi7UQ
The GB national side successfully defended their European title, beating Finland in the final once again, this time 14-3 in the Finnish capital Helsinki.
The O’s continued where they left off in 2000, taking their 4th National championship in a row, beating Birmingham 34-26. In 2001, East Kilbride made the Britbowl final but came up short against the dominant Olympians 37-20, never recovering from a 0-28 start.
The O’s continued their rule of the UK in 2002 and 03 and were the overwhelming favourites heading into 2004.
16 UK based players were selected to take part in NFL Europe Camp in Tampa, and of those the following got through to play in NFL Europe in the summer – Jeff Nicolson (Edinburgh Wolves), Robert Flickinger, Scott McCready, Rob Hart (Southern Sundevils), Scott Couper (Glasgow Tigers), Aden Durde (London O’s) and Warren Keen (London O’s).
The PA Knights won their first ever national title with a convincing 28-14 win over the London O’s to finally loosen the grip the London side had on the UK. Ashley Heath to Steve Belcher, and then Marvin Jimerson’s interception return saw the Knights jump out to 14-0 advantage. Roland Williams reduced the score to 14-7, but US standout rusher Anthony Stitt (in his last ever game) extended the lead to 21-7 and then Jon Wyse sealed the game for the Knights with a 50 yard interception return. The O’s scored a late TD, but the Knights had done enough to win their first National Championship.
The O’s would exact revenge on the Knights in 2005 and reclaim their usual mantle of being UK champions when on the 25th September, the Olympians and Knights played out a re-run of last years final. The Knights took an early 10-0 lead on Paul Attia’s 1 yard run and Steve Belcher’s field goal, and when QB Ashley Heath found Belcher on a 43 yard TD and the Knights had a 17-0 half-time lead in the British championship game. After blocking a Belcher field goal in the 3rd quarter, the O’s scored on a fake punt through Boyle before Tony Mackenzie broke loose to record a sack and safety to increase the Knights lead to 19-7 as the fourth quarter began. Jermaine Allen scored from 1yd out with 11 minutes remaining in the game the score stood at 19-14, and after another Belcher missed field goal the Olympians had one shot to win the game. Taking over at their own 22yd line they drove down the field on the power running of Jermaine Allen – finally scoring on his 7yd run with just 43 seconds left on the clock. The Olympians regained their crown in the most dramatic fashion.
2006 saw the London Blitz come to the attention of the BAFL league, especially when they shocked the Olympians 28-12 in Week 3. They would earn a Britbowl XX berth at Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, but Michael Sobanjo ran for a Britbowl record of 278 yards from 31 carries and scored 3 TDs, as the Olympians racked up an 9th national championship in ten years. The Blitz led 17-12 at half-time, but Sobanjo’s 77 yard TD run edged the Olympians ahead for the last time as they triumphed 45-30 to capture the newly named Boston Trophy. Blitz QB Tom Britton became the first British born QB to pass for over 200 yards in a bowl game.There then began a power shift in the national game as the Blitz and the Coventry Jets went head-to-head in the next three Britbowls.
The Blitz triumphed in 2007 and 2009, sandwiched by the Jets’ Britbowl XXII win which was one of the best British American Football finals of all-time. The Blitz led 25-14 at half-time, and still led 32-27 going into the final quarter. With just 4 ticks left in the game the Jets rookie kicker Fraser Houston kicked a 40 yard field goal to win BritBowl XXII for the Jets 33-32.
Britbowl XXIII 2009 – Coventry Jets v London Blitz :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo5enyHCxvg