BAFA Timeout – Full steam ahead for the Railroaders

Just under a month to go now until the British American Football season begins, and we continue our series of looking into the heart of the league and what it takes to be part of the success stories of teams up and down the country.

Today we focus on National League North West side Crewe Railroaders, with the help of Matt Ambrose who has many roles within the club. Just how exactly did Matt get involved in the game though? Well it was an alternative start in his gridiron interest, but not one uncommon in the second boom of fans.

“I personally became involved in the sport 3 years ago. I had just started playing Madden 11 on the Xbox and loved the story of Drew Brees and the Saints Super Bowl win and what it meant for the city. I searched for local teams not knowing if there were any nearby and arranged to take part in their next training session.

“Fast forward three years and I’m now the Railroaders Social Secretary, Ordinary Committee member and Outside Linebacker. I have grown to love the sport and the community within the team and couldn’t see myself playing any other sport.”

So from console to committee, it proves that anyone can get involved. The Railroaders had a rough ride last year winning just twice, with this in mind it must be hard to recruit and keep players, right?

“The Railroaders recruit pretty well. This year we held in effect a combine ran over 3 weekends whereby recruits would be put through their paces in positional and fitness drills as an introduction to the sport.The weekends were very well attended and we have managed to sign 10 new players for this season.

“I think the two main reasons for poor recruitment are lack of exposure in the local community and the initial cost of starting out in the sport. Like most teams we try to help players in any way we can and I think that reflects well in our recruit retention.”

So having kept the majority of the roster and adding new blood 2014 could fare better, but is the league in general heading in the right direction? Can anything be done to change the way it operates?

“Having played a number of sports before I can honestly say that British American football is trying the hardest to push into the public eye. The problem I see is that the effort is uncoordinated. Every team is doing their own bit in there own area and not much help seems to come from the top in terms of regional PR/Marketing funding.

“Unfortunately as the sport is still classed as amateur we will not see the kit of money required to really put the sport on the map. With amateur status comes in some cases amateur facilities. In the two seasons I’ve played in the league I’ve played in packed stadiums as well as unkept airfields. The difference is staggering from team to team. If I had a choice in going to watch a local team I know which venue I would choose.

“Most teams have the best facilities for their needs and for now I think it works, most games I’ve seen are well attended but there is always room for improvement.”

Matt has hit on a growing theme, the improvements have been noticeable over the last decade in the way our game appears to the casual fan but more can be done. Should NFLUK help out more?

“Potentially in terms of funding and marketing, but only if BAFA could put forward a business case as to how they intend to use the NFLUK resources.”

So where would this leave the league in a handful of years time?

“Apart from maybe another League restructure I don’t see the British Game changing for better or worse.”

Of course the NFL is gaining such huge momentum, three games at Wembley this that sold out as fast as tickets were put on sale. So, what if London gained a franchise here, would it increase participation in our domestic game?

“I don’t think an NFL franchise will improve participation in Britball. I’d like to see out of all the sell out crowds a survey into what kind of fan is attending whether it be a long time NFL fan a Britball Player/Coach or a potential male/female who would want to play themselves. I think this is the only way to determine whether participation in the British game benefits from the NFL playing in London.”

We would like to thank Matt for his time, and the Crewe Railroaders.

If you are local to the Crewe area the club can be contacted via their website

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