Friday, 14 December 2012

4th and Against - Should The BUAFL Season Begin Later On In The Year

Here at the Double Coverage towers, we like to argue... a lot.

One argument that keeps popping up, is the debate as to whether the uni league should begin later in the year to accommodate for the bad weather. 

In the end, we decided to take the argument to a 4th and against debate. In case you haven't seen a 4th and against debate yet, two writers will argue the topic at hand, one for, one against. Each writer will provide reasoning for their argument, and we allow the readers to comment and decide among themselves as to who is correct.

Arguing For - Jon Goddard, Co-Founder of Double Coverage and Head Coach of the Brunel Burners.

Another BUAFL season and once again the opening games have been blighted by the weather, with ground staff up and down the country refusing to allow teams to play games on damp fields for fear of irreparable damage to their beloved turfy havens.

What is the best solution to this uncontrollable problem? Shift the BUAFL season round so a majority of games are after Christmas, so that there is less likelihood of games being cancelled!

The biggest benefit to all of Britball is the amount of extra coaching that could go into University teams with this schedule switch. In 2007 the league had 2460 participants in 48 teams and this number has almost doubled to 4’026 participants in 68 Universities, showing the huge progress the league is making and the sheer number of players being brought into the game by it.

The extra weeks of practice could be used to play scrimmage games and give a more thorough introduction to the game for rookie players. Teams could run more ambitious schemes and technique and fitness could be drilled in. In theory this would then lead to more players able to step up to the senior level and not be swamped by terminology or size differences.

It would also take pressure off those Universities that have late starts to their academic years, with some University teams only getting 4 weeks to get their rookies up to scratch before facing off in a full game with pads. Even though this can amount to 12 training sessions, it’s still a huge task to undertake and one that must lead to avoidable injuries occurring on the practice field and on game day.

Students education and the clash with the exam period can be legislated for by more attention being paid by coaches to students progress in their courses. At Brunel for instance players have one excuse for missing practice because of work, but after that the excuse isn't acceptable because if they have to do it more than once, they aren't doing their work properly!

The issue of overlapping season is a big one, but one we already face that with the swath of postponed games due to the weather forcing the BAFANL senior season to start later and later. Already the Britbowl has been pushed back to the end of September instead of the August bank holiday, so shifting the seasons round seems the next logical step to ensure quality American Football can be played all year round and the standard raised year on year.

Arguing Against - Luke Plastow - Head Coach of BNU Buccaneers and Fan of Cowboy Hats.

Why we should keep it the way it is.

The focus of the sport at this level in recent years has been increasing participation.  If we move the season that participation could be effected massively.  The main intake of students occurs during freshers week and the subsequent recruiting fairs and campaigns.  Each team competes for the student athletes looking at taking up a sport. American Football tends to rival 3 main sports when recruiting.  Soccer, Rugby and Lacrosse.  Their seasons match the BUAFL season for now.  IF the season was moved back to January the potential rookies will be faced with a dilemma.  Play sport in October all season or wait and train for 3 months before the first match.  As a coach I would love a 3 month lead in to get the players trained and at their peak.  But I doubt the students would see it the same way.

Term time is another problem facing the season.  Each university has different term timetables with exams at different stages of the year.  These discrepancies tend to happen in the 2nd and 3rd semesters when coursework deadlines and exams are thick and fast.  As the players are students first no decent coach would advise a player to come to training and games when they should be doing work but pushing the season to the 3rd semester will pose a lot of problems with regards to attendance.  There are a lot fewer occurrences of this issue in the 1st semester.  Some teams suffer from January exams already.  Imagine having that the whole season.

They might not like to admit it but Uni ball keeps the senior leagues alive with a constant stream of young players every year.  The reason this works is because the seasons do not overlap.  The BAFANL preseason often misses it Uni players but they are not sitting at home they are still training every week.  By keeping the season in the winter you enable players to have all year round coaching and playing experience.  By overlapping the season you are not only taking away a players ability to play a lot of football but you are also reducing the rosters of the BAFANL teams.  Looking at the teams who have struggled to fulfil their fixtures, reducing rosters could see some teams fold completely.

It’s not all about players though.  A huge amount of coaches are signed up to summer and winter teams.  By moving the Uni season back you are forcing coaches to make a difficult choice as to whether to stick to the Uni season or move over to the summer season.  Some coaches won’t want to leave halfway through the year and will just coach one or the other.  In conferences like the TVC where they are over 10 teams within a 40 minute drive, coaches are hard to come by as it is. Losing more coaches who would rather participate in BAFANL would not improve the level of football at all.


  1. While both contributors make compelling agurements on their viewpoint, I noticed one particular peice missing; officiating.

    While Coach Plastow mentions the dilemma coaches, and in some cases players will have to make between selecting their Uni or BAFANL team, the pressure on the already overstretched officiating resource would be enourmous. Teams already face the possibility of not having officials in the current season timeframe, it would be much worse if games were held right up to the end of the academic year.

    Coach Goddard mentions scheduling, but scheduling the majority of a particular uni's games for after the holiday break could be arranged by those affected universities, but they could lose the possibility of makeup weeks.

    As for the weather, wasn't there several BAFANL games cancelled due to the weather this past BAFANL season.


  2. Pure and simple, if you shifted the season back, you wouldn't get players wanting to play at the business end of the season.

    As a recent UEA graduate, I was thrilled we made post-season in my final year and gutted when we only got to the semi-finals, but with the deadlines coming thick and fast, I was almost relieved we didn't have the Plate final four days before my first exam.

    I also had a job, as I was one of those who couldn't afford not to. Time management was a massive issue, and if something had to give, it would have been football. Who wants to watch a finals series with a whole raft of star final year players missing? This will surely reduce the quality of the post-season and favour those teams who simply have the greater numbers and depth.

    Also, without wanting to cause offence to anyone, the best coaches will get the players ready with appropriate pre-season in much less than three months, and even the first few games will be used to tinker with and change the look of a team.

  3. Not implying I was a "star final year player" though...^^^

  4. I must have missed the years when post Christmas weather is better than pre Christmas Weather :-/

    The only thing I would do is extend the season, maybe have the Finals and/or semi finals after Easter. Like the break between NCAA season and bowl games. A 6 day break between semi final and final gives no time for recovery and in depth game planning.

    Another point is to get over this lack of planning. It is not a surprise when games are called off (the Weather forecast is pretty good) unless you stick your head in the sand and hope that because you did not ask the groundsman he will forget to cancel. Plan to share an all weather pitch (and that term does not always mean available I know, frost, 3ft water and heavy snow all affect it) at the beginning of the week, instead of calling Sat night or Sunday morning. I am not saying it's easy, but if told on Monday the pitch will not be available, a lot of teams would make it happen somehow, so why leave it to Sunday morning?

    I have to say after the 4th week of pre season I want a game, that's enough, any longer and you will lose that sense of urgency. If a player is not attending practise then he will not be safe if you have 20 weeks, if he is attending then 12 good practises he will be ahead of a lot of players.

  5. Injuries are a real and increasing problem in BUAFL, and I honestly believe that one of the main reasons for this is the lack of preparation time for rookies.

    I've seen so many rookie guys put shoulders out, blow out knees and get concussions because they aren't "game safe". Having more time pre-season would help this, but where does that time come from? I can't any major shifts in schedule any time soon, so there remains one (controversial) measure - less games.

    I'd hate it, but it would solve a lot of problems...


  6. maybe we (the sport) needs to look at teams preparations. 8 weeks of poor preparation is no better than 4 weeks of poor preparation.

  7. Why not a compromise between the two? Even shifting the season back 2 weeks would be invaluable for the extra practice time.

    Plus if some teams have a really long gap between recruitment and kick off - there are always pre-season friendlies and scrimmages to keep players involved and interested.

    Also, if the uni season was moved, couldn't the senior league be shunted back to accommodate?

  8. The weather is bad all year round. Aside from ALL moving to another country, theres not a lot we can do apart from building in 3-4 weeks of flex into the BUAFL and BAFANL seasons

  9. Pushing the season back wont help the Senior game, was already a problem with getting players in/players wanting a rest from BUAFL.

    More flexibility needed, move games to a Wednesday (BUCS day) if possible. And local teams should think about arranging double headers on 3G pitches or pitches that can be played on.

  10. I would be in favour of shifting the season forward by two weeks. Established programmes are coaching their returners before uni starts. Also the level of these teams are getting to a point where by rookies are not seeing as much game time because the standard of the returners is so high (cas for development 2nd teams). Maybe a two tier system would see the top tier start earlier and the second tier later. This could also help alleviate the issues of officiating numbers in a small manner.

  11. 1) Surely all the arguments about a later season interfering with BAFANL would be solved by starting the (already very stretched out) BAFANL season slightly later?

    2) Shut up Deakin - good luck trying to get coaches and officials to wednesday games en mass.

    3)Hopefully the funding implications of joining BUCS will mean that teams can now / will soon be able to afford to play on 3G pitches. This, coupled with tougher sanctions for games not being played (eg the default position being that a game unplaid goes down as a loss to BOTH teams), will hopefully lead to fewer cancellations (or, at least, games being re-scheduled sooner).

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  13. "I would be in favour of shifting the season forward by two weeks. Established programmes are coaching their returners before uni starts. Also the level of these teams are getting to a point where by rookies are not seeing as much game time because the standard of the returners is so high (cas for development 2nd teams). Maybe a two tier system would see the top tier start earlier and the second tier later. This could also help alleviate the issues of officiating numbers in a small manner."

    Starting the season earlier would mean some unis get 2 weeks of training before their first game... that's not even kitted training, but including rookie/try out days. Doing so would going stretch the already huge gap between 'established programmes'(by which you mean playoff teams) and teams who rely on starting significant % of rookies even further.

    2 tiers is another debate entirely, but wouldn't be effective because at the moment there are only 5 or 6 teams who would dominate every other team in their tier. 3 or 4 tiers would be needed for parity, but that would come at a ridiculous travelling cost.


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