With so many teams in one area, does it help or hinder British American football as a whole? With the Alphas making their way into Division 2, what does this do to the rest of the field?
With the latest BAFA announcement introducing the latest team into the National leagues, the 2021 season will bring us the Scunthorpe Alphas. Following the completion of their associate games last year, they were able to iron out the few remaining kinks in their application capitalised with a COVID safe practice session.
First of all, I think we need to say congratulations to them because they have completed the BAFA protocols and got themselves into the league. This has rightfully been made more difficult over the last couple of years and has made the teams that come in more sustainable. Looking at the Alphas, they rock some slick uniforms, a strong social media presence and as recognised in the BAFA press release, had a Covid safe practice session with 40 players present. As well as this, they appear to have recruited plenty of coaches and desire to set up an under 16’s squad as part of their program. All of these things are good signs for a new club building a foundation for growing an organisation.
Assuming the Divisions remain the same as the proposed ones for 2020, it is most likely that the Scunthorpe Alphas slot into the NFC2 East, allowing one or more teams in that conference to be relocated to the NFC2 West as the withdrawal of the Furness Phantoms, left that conference with only three teams.
There are, however, a few concerns.
One of the issues that continues to plague the National leagues is the continuous sprouting of new teams in already congested areas, and like many before them, the Alphas are no different. In fact, the Alphas have four other teams, all under an hour drive from Scunthorpe. Hull, home to the Humber Warhawks is no more than 25 Miles away from Scunthorpe centre, and will likely be divisional foes. Then there is Lincoln, Home to the Lincolnshire Bombers again only 30 miles away from the centre of Scunthorpe, another team likely to be divisional foes. There is also the Doncaster Mustangs who are only 30 miles away and yet again will likely be a divisional opponent in the upcoming season. Finally, there is the Knottingly Raiders, situated around 36 miles away, and you guessed it they will also likely be a team that the Alphas face. While this will no doubt be great for cheap travel, it does beg one major question.
Are all these teams in such close proximity even sustainable?
I have no doubt many will rush to the defence of more teams means more players, but with Doncaster plummeting down into Division 2 at the end of 2019, it is fair to assume the rise of the Alphas has also had an impact on the Mustangs. Furthermore, it can also be argued that the proximity of these teams is the reason why they are all in Division 2, a continual diluting of the talent pool in search of a team five minutes from your front door.
Now, this doesn’t mean to say I am assuming the Alphas won’t be successful, they may well be. However, it goes without saying that it could likely be to the detriment of another team in that area, and while many will be pleased with the new people a new team will bring into the game, they seem to forget the ones who will likely lose out when one of the teams is left to struggle or goes under.
The evidence that the likelihood is that they simply attract players away from other teams is demonstrated by their coaching staff, between them they have worked on staff at Humber, Lincolnshire, and Doncaster Mustangs as well as a few other clubs. The Alpha’s staff members have worked on no less than three of the Alphas likely opposition it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine some of these staff have taken players with them.
I understand it’s all about survival of the fittest and why should I care about another team but I do struggle to see if this truly is the best way to grow the game. Sometimes quality is better than quantity. With all that said hopefully, we all get back onto the field soon and all the teams can prove themselves there.