In the heart of the United Kingdom lies Staffordshire.
Despite its location, it’s making steps to become a big name in the UK American Football scene. With less than a month now until the British season gets under way, and our countdown series continues with the Staffordshire Surge.
Our point of contact with the Surge was Shaun Rogers, as you will find out he is just as passionate about the sport as some of the ‘veterans’ we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to so far, and we are happy to have had the chance to catch up with someone that is part of the new breed.
So how did Shaun get involved in the game, and what is it he does on a daily basis with the Surge?
“I have been a fan for a number of years and I had seen that we had a local team in my area but I never made the effort to go along and watch. Then, in 2013, I decided one Sunday afternoon to go and watch them play in their first game of the season and that was it I was hooked on the team, I went and watched all bar one game of our 2013 season and got to know the team very well.
“After a few games in I started to design posters to advertise the teams games as there was no advertising for the team, or the game to a great extent so I decided to help them on that side of things and this has since led to me been voted onto the committee of the club and becoming the teams Director of Media & Communications. All in the space of 12 months I have gone from not ever seeing a live UK-based game of American Football to being on the Committee of one and proud to be there, and helping my side as well.”
That just proves to anyone reading this who wants to get involved, whether it be playing or helping out in the office, can do so easily.
The Surge had a disappointing season of sorts last year, but have extra measures been put in place for a better campaign this year?
“We did have a few games last year that we were hit hard, but a lot of the games we really were just unlucky and at times we went from having players playing most of the plays out on the field for the Defence, and then also having to offer help on Offence as well so this does not help you.
“We started back in August last year (our recruitment campaign) for the 2014 season the moment the 2013 season was done we were actively seeking new players with adverts in local shops, papers etc., and constant adverts on our website and social media outlets all trying to promote the team and find new blood.
“At the first 3 of our Rookie Try Out sessions we had over 60+ players interested in coming to play the sport and we hope that we can try and keep these players interested and hope that the financial strain that comes with playing the sport does not put them off playing for the Surge in 2014. We also added to our coaching staff for the 2014 season with a new D-Line coach in the experiences Jason Smith as well as some of our more senior players taking there coaching badges so that they too can help out coaching the new rookie players.”
Making some serious gains for the team is great, but is there anything that can be improved from a Staffordshire point of view to the league in general?
“I think BAFA have a tough job in the UK to be fair, the sport is growing – that cannot be denied. I was once told that American Football was more popular to watch than Darts and we have all seen what ratings the arrows gets, but with the sport on the up and now having three International Series games here in the UK, this should only be good for BAFA. However I feel that BAFA need to be more consistent on their social media outlets and their presence within the game. The website of BAFA, to be fair, is not as updated as much as it should be during the off season, as Jeff Reinbold said there is no such thing as an Off Season!
“Last year I travelled for the first time to the International Series games and nowhere at the Tailgate parties or at the official Tailgate was there a BAFA stand or presence. this would be a perfect opportunity for them to promote the British game and what we have to offer but I feel they are missing this boat. I spent the day with two of our players from the Surge and we all had our jerseys on and wore them with pride and we got asked about our team and promoted ourselves the best we could, in fact at the Vikings game I had three Vikings fans from the USA take our details to keep a track on us this season.”
We asked Shaun if it become increasingly hard to keep the players that the Surge work so hard to recruit?
“It is very hard to keep new players. Attracting them does not seem to be the problem as I mentioned before, and when we started our pre-season training in January we had more and more turn up. However once the physical side of the game comes into play you do see most drop out, but in the main I feel you lose most players due to the cost of playing the game.
“I’m not 100% sure on my numbers but registration with the league I think is about £37, then you have your Subs with your own team. At the Surge, we offer players various different packages but they normally mount up to a couple of hundred pounds by the end of the season, this then followed by purchasing kit (however clubs can provide some kit) and the cost just keeps escalating. This can be tough on the average working man, let alone the student-type of player. So with all these factors taken in we lose around 70% of the Rookie income we see at our tryout sessions. Are there ways of making the cost come down? Perhaps, yes, but can clubs run at lower costing? It’s doubtful?” Shaun went on to say.
With the NFL courting these shores more and more, would a franchise here have in player participation?
“I personally feel that it wouldn’t change too much. The people who play the game are not always fans of teams from across the pond, but most are I agree, however some play just for the love and the challenge of the game. A UK-based franchise would be good if they could delve into the pot of British based talent and especially in the London areas where the catchment is massive for them, but I can’t see the commissioner allowing that to happen, also with a UK franchise I don’t see how it would work. The team may not get everyone’s 100% support as fans already have picked their teams (Seahawks for me since 2005).
“Without a doubt if they did introduce a franchise here as it’s looking more and more like, the sport would see more coverage and in the press, but will people still go out and find clubs only to then see what the costing is to play the game?”
Finally we asked Shaun where he sees the game here in the UK in the next handful of years, and there was an ambitious response.
“I would like to see the UK game stronger and perhaps more teams been introduced around in areas that have not currently been supported with clubs. An idea I once read on Twitter would be the introduction of games against teams from Europe. I know Germany have a very strong amateur game and, if anything, it would be interesting to see games between us and them. Let’s be honest – we all enjoy a game against the Germans no matter what the sport!”
We would like to thank Shaun, and the Staffordshire Surge.
If you are interested in playing or helping out the Surge, they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org