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The much-anticipated return to American Football in the UK finally has some structure to it in the form of regional leagues (kind of). There were a few options on the table but in the end, a regional approach was probably the most sensible idea. However, they have done some really weird stuff here that we just don’t get.

First of all the biggest question here is there are teams that have come from not existing to suddenly having a place in the BAFA national leagues without completing the Associate process which I can only assume is a good way for BAFA to get more money out of the league rather than inclusiveness. Not to mention that putting sides that have never played 11v11 in against premiership teams is completely irresponsible in my opinion even if the Premiership teams put out their practice squad.

A list of those teams are: South East Squadron (sounds like a split off from the Blazin’ Squad), South Lincs Lightning, Leigh Miners (who were an 8GL team), Highland Stags, Carlisle Kestrels (who have died many times and keep coming back), Manchester Bees (the Titans B Team) and Sussex Thunderbolts (the Thunder B Team). The DC Presidents are back having successfully been accepted into the Leagues.

So let’s take a look at some of the divisions, starting with Scotland.

With the names of all the other divisions apparently, the effort required for creativity ran dry when it came to Scotland with the ever-inspiring A and B format. Similarly, the ability to look at a map also apparently vanished at this point.

Scotland A

All in all, seems like a well-balanced division competition-wise with the only Premier Division team facing off against the Division 1 teams of Scotland. However, given the Geographical Nature of the alignments down south, it does seem like there are a few plot holes in this one when looking at Scotland B. Aberdeen are certainly not allocated to their closest opponents.

Scotland B

As touched on above there is absolutely nothing Geographical in this Division. In order to accommodate the apparent competitiveness, this one has added a team not yet through the Associate process in the Highland Stags, Scotland’s most Northern team and put them in a division with the Dumfries Hunters, Scotland’s most southern team. The two teams are approximately 4 and a half hours apart, making it hilariously out of touch with the travel arrangements of the rest of the UK.

North Hadrians

Another Division with the addition of some new teams, earlier this week the DC Presidents were announced as full members despite not having done the new Associate process, and the addition also of the Rebranded Carlisle Kestrels, a team with more folds than an Origami class. Given their location Northumberland Vikings, one of Division 1’s stronger teams, were always likely to face lower teams in a location-based structure. Morecambe Bay were always going to be difficult to allocate and despite being on the North West have ended up featuring in the North East Set up.

North West

This is where things go from just a bit questionable to hysterical, this Division features two Premiership teams in the Manchester Titans and the Merseyside Nighthawks alongside three division 1 teams including the newly promoted and rebranded Halton Spartans. Sounds fine so far. Then suddenly there comes the two new additions of the Manchester Titans B, who will face their own A team, and the introduction of the previous 8v8 team the Leigh Miners. Who, having not played a snap of 11v11, will face 2 Premier division teams? Call me crazy but if the theme of this season is to have safe football, then it is a swing and a miss by those in charge here.

North East

Another Geographical one that leaves the Premierships Sheffield Giants facing off against the Division 1 Yorkshire Rams and a group of Division 2 Opponents. Not too sure what the motivation will be for a Giants squad to play this year and risk injury.

Central East

The Nottingham Caesars, a long-standing Division 1 team pair up with the Lincolnshire Bombers and three Rookie teams, 1 of which in the South Lincs Lightning has only recently appeared on radar and has no former experience within the Associate process.

Mercia

This one gave me a bit of chuckle. The North’s Premier Team in Tamworth has an alright looking division at the top end with fellow Premiership team Sandwell Steelers and recently relegated Prem team Leicester Falcons. Add to that a good Division 1 team in the Shropshire Revolution and things look alright.

Then there come the two Division 2 teams in the Surge and the Railroaders. Granted the Surge has been a playoff team several years in a row now, but Crewe have generally struggled. They have been sentenced to death in this division and I’d be surprised to see them make it through. Add to that the fact Crewe is a mere 25 miles away from Chester and yet somehow ended up in this Division when Birmingham Bulls, who as you would suspect are from Birmingham, (which is where both the Phoenix and the Steelers are from) somehow ended up in a different division. If you are looking for a method to the alignments, I am afraid you are looking in the wrong place because there is none.

West

Ah yes this makes perfect sense. The previously mentioned Bulls instead of playing two very local teams will instead venture as far as Wales for one of their opponents. The Bristol Aztecs is another team that won’t face off against their B team as the Apache are in a completely separate division. The Premiership outfit takes on a league of Division 2 teams plus the recently promoted South Wales Warriors.

South West

This looks like the exact division that should have played in 2020 with the only change being the rebranded Cornwall Monarchs.

East Anglia

Not too much to say here, Overall, one of the most sensible divisions with a strong Cambridgeshire Cats team surrounded by Division 2 teams

London

London Warriors, Blitz and Olympians will join the Kent Exiles in an All-Premier Division set up. However, Unlike the Manchester Titans, the same geography rules that have meant they will face their B team does not apply to the Blitz, clearly at this point just making it up as they go along it would seem.

Thames Valley

Ah, here is the Blitz B now with London and surrounding teams, all Division 1 teams except for the Blitz B who really should have been promoted in 2019.

South East

The Sussex Thunders B team the Thunderbolts (Guys it should have been the Lightning) go straight into league action following their formation and take on the teams from Essex and the South East. They will join fellow new team the South East Squadron who I’ll be honest I’ve not heard of until now so I have no idea who they are.

Wessex

Finally, one of the most compelling divisions, we get to see the return of the Thunder v Thrashers rivalry in a Division of all Division 1 opponents except for the recently promoted Solent.

Other weird issues include

Have Bury and Berkshire pulled out the leagues? Or have they just decided not to participate this year?

I think the biggest issue here is there is no consistency, some Premiership teams playing Division 2, others clearly thought it wasn’t appropriate. Teams that have not been part of BAFA in leagues, they have no proof they can compete in the league, especially where they have been put in divisions with Premiership teams. That’s just dangerous.

Some of the divisions work and are well thought through allowing for what’s bound to be some good games against unfamiliar opponents such as Thames Valley, Wessex and Scotland A.

I do however think a lot of players may see no reason to risk playing this season. For most subs are hundreds of pounds and for some premiership teams that may mean sitting watching or going on for a quarter to put up some points then not be involved. Teams that have just joined the league (unofficially) may basically be paying hundreds of pounds to take a beating and risk serious injury.

I know BAFA were restricted with what they could do in this situation but I think they have not thought through some of those divisions.

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