BAFA Timeout – Conquering new territory

Just a week from now the new British American Football season kicks off. Time to pull on the pads and hit those tackle dummies one last time in this week’s practices up and down the country.

Our series of interviews continues today with Luke Boorer, a committee member of the Hastings Conquerors.

The coastal team is quite unique as you’re about to find out!

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I have been a New York Giants fan since my mum bought me a grey jumper with “Giants” written on it aged around seven. That was my first sight of an American Football team and the first big rivalry with my brother, who is a Dolphins fan.

Moving on to more recent times a friend of mine, Ian Jones, shared a poster on Facebook about a new team forming in Hastings about a year ago. I have always been interested in the NFL and loved spending Sunday nights watching two or three games, so I thought I would give it a go. I thought with a history of playing team sports, especially rugby, it might be fun.

I went along with Ian, and we were given a form to fill in asking if we had played before and other details, but one question that stood out was if would we like to help with running of the club. I had a lot of success in the past helping to run other clubs especially with grants and fundraising so thought I could possibly help.

That meeting led to me becoming a part of the Hasting Conquerors committee. In my nine months of being associated with the club, I have helped to raise over £12,000, as well as forming links with several local businesses that help our club by offering their services on a fee free basis. I also help with several other areas within the club including recruitment and also the website.

Although all committee members have their designated areas of the club to concentrate on, we regularly find that tasks overlap but we generally pull together and help each other out. From past experiences, this is the most organised, dedicated and properly run committee I have been involved with; something I’m very proud of.

As a newly formed club, everything that we have done is better than last year. However, our main success since September 2013 is that from the 1st April 2014, we began to shares in the club.

This is a unique aspect for any American Football club based in the UK, which is similarly based on the Green Bay Packers system.

As the first and only official American Football Club Co-operative, we are selling shares within the club at a cost of £30 per year which can either be renewed each year, or allowed to lapse.

This gives shareholder the chance to be part of this community club, whose main aim is to improve the lives of local residents. Our constitution states that all money must be invested back within the club or within the local community to help benefit local residents.

Buying a share will give shareholders a chance to vote on club issues, access the club’s website in detail, the online forum and give an all-important vote at the club’s AGM to help shape the club for years to come.

So far, in our club’s short life span, we have had a great uptake of players. Most are new to the sport, with some players returning. I know there is a lot of negativity from some players, coaches and fans in forums about new clubs starting up and reducing the player pool, but I find this to be a very short sighted, negative view.

Talking to our members, which now stands at 49 registered players, they have said that they wouldn’t have travelled to another club.

This is mainly because of distance, but also because we have higher standard clubs based around us. I personally wouldn’t have attended a rookie camp at Sussex Thunder as they are in the Premiership South, and as a new player to the sport, I would have been nervous about my lack of knowledge a year ago.

However, at the Conquerors, we are told the reason why players generally stay is the fact that we try and do things as a team. We had a pool night as a team, meals out together with partners invited; we want to be a community club, not just a boys club.

Personally, I find some people within BAFA to be hard work.

As someone trying to help run a club, not receiving an email back can be very frustrating. I understand they are all volunteers, and that American Football is underfunded compared to the FA or the ECB, but I feel that perhaps the sport would benefit from BAFA having two or three full-time members of staff.

With American Football increasing in popularity within the UK, this is the only way forward for our sport. I think the introducing of the BUCS Leagues is a great idea and Andy Fuller has done a great job with this. I also believe that Sky Sports and Channel 4 NFL programmes could help. It would be fantastic if results could be screened in some way, or if there was a half hour programme on British-based American football rounded up every week. How awesome would that be!

I firmly believe that BAFA need help. As I have said, the fact that they are all volunteers, as I am, we should take our hats off to them. However, I believe that if the NFL, and NFL UK want to see the sport to continue to progress and flourish, help is needed sooner rather than later.

An NFL franchise here in the UK would be amazing. This wouldn’t only increase the fan base, but help push American Football into every household of the UK. This would only have a positive effect on our sport at the grassroots level. However, there needs to be help offered to all community clubs. Not only funding, but in coaching, facilities, equipment and educating players too. But I really do hope I see the London “Whoever” walk out every other week at a ground on the UK shores.

For now though my main aim as a committee member of the Conquerors is to see us in the league structure from the 2015 season.

I am not hoping for the grandeur of taking on the Warriors or Blitz. That is not my goal. I want to see players taking to the field in years to come, and enjoying themselves.

If we make it to the Premiership, then great, but it’s not the be all and end all in my eyes. As for the leagues themselves, I would love to see more clubs forming, and creating more local leagues.

I understand why some people would not wish to see this, but I believe these people live within a negative bubble. With everyone pushing for the same goal, with the help of BAFA, Sky Sports, Channel 4, NFL, NFL UK and others. We could see our wonderful sport in every school, with mini school leagues and more. I firmly believe this could be achievable, but only if we all work together.

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We would like to thank Luke for his time, and would like to wish him, and the Conquerors all the best in the future. Please note Luke’s views are his own and not of Hastings Conquerors AFC. To find out more about the Conquerors , the UK’s only American Football club Co-operative, visit www.hastingsconquerors.co.uk


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