It’s time to look at another great British American football team: The Birmingham Bulls.
Following on from our recent look at the London Ravens this is the second in a short series of articles looking at teams that have dominated the domestic landscape.
For a lot of people talking about successful teams based in Britain the conversation begins and ends with two teams. The World League Champion London Monarchs and the NFLEurope champion Scottish Claymores.
Let’s take nothing away from them. Both teams were wonderful. Following them as a fan of football in the UK was a great experience. But they were professional teams supported by the NFL.
This is a chance to remember the great domestic teams and the impact they had on the mostly amateur game at home. In the second in a short series we look at the Birmingham Bulls.
The major difference between the Ravens and the Bulls is that the latter are still active.
The Birth of the Bulls
Like so many teams of the time, the Bulls were born out of an early 1980’s boom time for the sport.
Jerry Hartman, a former US military policeman with some College Football experience formed the team in a local park, and by 1984, there was enough interest to form a team.
The team was financed by local businessman Dave Gill, who later became the Bulls’ first chairman and would go onto become chairman of the British American Football Association.
On Friday June 8 1984, the Bulls played their first game against the Milton Keynes Bucks losing 40–7.
Success in the Second City
The Bulls have a history of success in the Britball game. So far they have won 4 national championships, appeared in 8 championship games, and won their Division 19 times.
1986 saw the Bulls claim their first national title. The game had been split into rival leagues and the Bulls claimed the SummerBowl II title defeating the Glasgow Lions 23-2
In 1988 the Bulls collected their second national championship. This time they were in the same league as the previously invincible London Ravens.
The Bulls dumped the Ravens in the semi-final before dominating the London Olympians 30-6 in the final. They again appeared in the Eurobowl but were beaten by the eventual runners-up the Amsterdam Crusaders.
1991 had one of the great British championship games. The Bulls again defeated the O’s this time by 39 points to 38.
Birmingham had led 36-14 going into the fourth quarter only for their opponents to put up 24 unanswered points. A six play, 62 yard drive led to victory with a winning 23-yard field goal with 17 seconds left.
More Eurobowl misery followed as the Bulls were once again knocked out by the Crusaders who this time went on to win the tournament.
1995 was the last time the Bulls took home a national championship. Once again they defeated the London Olympians. This time by a score of 34-30 after being 21-7 down in the second quarter.
The London side had some measure of revenge that year as they knocked the Bulls out of the Eurobowl at the quarter-final stage.
Nearly but not quite
Alongside their 4 championships the Bulls have been runners up a further 4 times.
Of those four occasions they were beaten once by the Manchester Spartans in 1989. The remaining 3 defeats were at the hands of their great rivals the London Olympians. Those reverses in the final came in 1994, 1999 and 2000.
The year they lost to the Spartans was a tumultuous one for the Bulls. It even spawned a book by a former sportswriter for the Boston Herald, Michael Globetti. He joined the Bulls and penned the book God Save The Quarterback!
The Bulls now
Birmingham no longer play in the top echelon of the game. This is due a to restructure in 2015 that saw them placed in Division One SFC North. They were relegated to Division Two in 2017.
They remain one of the longest standing and proudest British teams. Last season they made the BAFA National League Division Two play off semi-final.
A 420 mile trip to face the Aberdeen Roughnecks ended in a 16-14 defeat for the Bulls. Aberdeen would go on to win the Division Two title.
They are a great team with a great history of success. Truly a GREAT British american football team.
Banner image from Through the eyes of a Birmingham Bulls fan