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Gridiron Hub recently posted an article called Failures In The Handling Of Jack Welding’s Death which details the tragic death of Jack from his family’s perspective. It a difficult piece to read as they explain that Jack’s death was due to contact to the head he had taken in a training session whilst un-kitted against a kitted player. This has raised lots of questions which in turn has been met with anger from the American Football community within the UK. One of the questions that have been asked the most is who is the 8GL? An answer only a few know.

I personally have had communications with the 8GL through their Facebook page, and they have given my statements regarding this very incident. However, to this day they remain a faceless entity hiding behind their Facebook page. I have made numerous attempts to get them to appear on our live stream show for a balanced conversation (not a lynching) but these responses have been met with dead silence. They have also since stopped releasing official statements to us.

At the start I was a supporter of the 8GL, I liked their idea and the format could work. I even inquired about putting a team in the 8GL league, something I have officially withdrawn due to their unprofessional actions of late. However, I currently believe their position within the British American Football (Britball) Community is untenable.

For an organization still in its infancy, this horrendous situation presented them with a chance to show their worth. It was a chance for them to prove they were serious about their league, a chance to show good leadership. I’m not even going to bring their moral obligations into this piece, but again this has been non-existent.

Yesterday, the 8GL released a statement regarding Jack’s death, but in truth, it again does them more harm than good as it has seemingly be used as a recruitment opportunity for the 8GL. The statement raises more questions than it answers and has been met with an increased level of disgust and disbelief from Jack’s family and the Britball Community.

Instead of supporting the family, they choose to publicly challenge and refute what the family has said by saying “…according to a St Helens representative, we have been assured all safety precautions were followed adequately and there was no mixing of kitted and non-kitted players”. For a grieving family who just want answers, this will do nothing but cause more pain.

A brief search on the St Helens Cardinals Facebook page shows a number of instances where kitted players are playing against non-kitted. Here are some examples, we’ve left them uncropped so you can see they are genuinely from the club:

A fully kitted player going into contact with a fully unkitted player
A fully kitted player going into to contact with a player wearing no helmet

Strangley, the statement then goes on to try and promote the 8GL in a bid to leverage the exposure the statement would get for their own gain. However in doing so, the additional information they released includes incorrect and disconcerting information.

Firstly the 8GL mention that they ‘are made up of 8 clubs’ – they aren’t. Well, they used to be until September 21st this year where ceremoniously 2 of the 8 clubs withdrew from the league. The Pennine Panthers withdrew with a view to rejoining next season and the Midland Storm withdrew indefinitely. These withdrawals were a direct response to the fact that a game was played during lockdown. The Midlands Storm were unhappy with the way the 8GL distanced themselves from the situation and called them out for lying about having no knowledge of the game.

Also in the Statement the 8GL confirmed a very worrying situation regarding the coaches of their member teams and the 8GL’s inadequate plan to address it. The statement says “…we have made a commitment to ensure that every member team has BAFCA Level 1 qualified coaches by the end of 2021…”.

So from that we can denote that there are currently teams within the 8GL that do not even have Level 1 qualified coaches, that the 8GL are giving teams over a year to get qualified, and that the 8GL think the level 1 qualification is enough to provide adequate safety to the players. The level 1 qualification is an entry-level coaching qualification aimed at coaching assistants and takes 1 day to complete.

With the 8GL confirming that not all clubs have qualified coaches, are we to assume that there was not a level 1 coach present at the training session Jack Welding attended?

Why the 8GL have chosen to focus the statement on any form of wrongdoing is a complete mystery. They should be sharing the findings of their investigation with Jack’s family, instead of accusing them of lying.

To add insult to the family, there are actually people on Facebook who “liked” the statement, one would imagine they are current members of the 8GL. To like such a brash and incompassionate statement, again suggests the 8GL is nothing but a “Boys Club” run by a faceless entity.

If you are a team in the 8GL, the question is whether you want to continue to be associated with a brand so damaged there is no repair.

We reached out to Jack’s widow, Vicki Naylor, this was her initial response to the 8GL statement “That’s absolute fucking bullshit. All they’ve done is add insult to injury there calling Jack a liar. I’ll give Shaun (Jack’s father) a ring now and see what he thinks”.

Vicki came back shortly after with the following message “I’ve spoken to Shaun about the statement and we have the exact same views that it is utter bullshit. Once again, the team has hidden behind a faceless organization and shown even more disrespect (which I didn’t think was possible) by calling Jack a liar. They’ve thrown fuel onto an already burning fire. We will not be accepting that complete wash of a statement it means absolutely fuck all.

I know this isn’t anything to do with you or your page, and I’m really grateful for the help and support you’ve been giving us. Just need to decide what to do next now they’ve gone and done that joke of a statement. Like they seriously haven’t even given him a full statement it’s basically just ‘sorry for what happened, nothing to do with us, come and join our league’

Absolute cowards”

Its simply awful to think that these are words of a greiving widow regarding the irresponsible and disrespectful treatment from a cowboy american football league in the UK.

For me, 8GL’s time is up. They played at being a league, they failed miserably and they have damaged the image of American Football within the UK. Let’s hope the 8GL come to their senses, support the family and close the league.

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