AMERICAN FOOTBALL FEATURE
Pregnant pause: tension mounts as the Claymores prepare to launch an assaults
American football is not. repeat not, tackling soccer or rugby head on. ‘We know soccer and rugby will always be Number One,’ says Williams, a man who didn’t get to be a successful quarter-back by settling for second place. The line is echoed by World League communications director Regis Navarre. ‘We don’t want to be in competition with soccer or rugby.‘ he says. ‘We want it to be an alternative sport, a complementary sport.’
This modesty is an interesting insight into the way American football is being developed in Scotland and across Europe. (The other cities with World League teams are London, Barcelona. Frankfurt. Amsterdam and Dijsseldorf.) The World League is clearly anxious to avoid charges of using financial muscle to impose an essentially American sport on Europe.
The World League is expected to appeal to mainly young sports fans who will go for all the merchandising spin-offs. Scottish kids are already big consumers of NFL clobber, and with the Claymores’ kit undoubtedly the coolest in the World League. it looks as if navy and grey will be this summer’s hip sportswear colours. ‘A rock ’n’ roll party with a game afterwards’ is how the Claymores spokesman describes American football. But given that Murdoch is paying for the party, it’s certain the World League will bejudged on hard financial criteria. American football is nearing the limit of its growth potential in the US and is now looking for new territories to expand into.
If it does succeed, it will surely start competing with existing sports for air-time. sponsorship money and turnstile takings. The combination of money, entertainment and television will be trump cards in this expansion plan. (Oh. and it’s
also got pretty girls with pom-poms and perfect teeth. whose effect on the average young, male sports fan should not be underestimated.)
The people in charge of indigenous Scottish sports say they are unperturbed by this encroachment onto their turf. The Scottish Rugby Union has welcomed the Claymores, whose season begins just as rugby’s is ending. into the bosom of its Murrayfield headquarters. From offices high in the refurbished stand. they seem to be looking down on at the grunting and high-lives of training sessions with faint amusement. So can we expect to see rugby picking up tips from American football’s seductive pre-match hoopla? ‘We’ll be observing it closely to see if we have anything to learn.’ says SRU secretary Bill Hogg. Cheerleaders at Murrayfield. perhaps? ‘We have a pipe band before the match which crowds find very rousing.’ replies Hogg wryly.
‘The razzmatazz is part of it but we want people to watch the football rather than the cheerleaders.’
That there is interest in American football in Britain is not disputed. In the early 803 when Channel 4 started showing highlights of the NFL it quickly attracted a cult audience who bought into the whole Budweiser/Americana fascination. Sports television producer Mike Milne, who worked at Cheerleader Productions which produced Channel 4’s early coverage, notes the decline in viewing figures for the sport. He wonders whether the market for Americana was something perculiar to the 803; it has been suggested that American football was a perfect metaphor for that thrusting. aggressive decade. ‘Now in the 905 it is not as popular as it was, it’s
It just lsn't cricket: rough and tumble wlth the Claymores
Murrayﬂeld wave: tootball tans cheer the Claymores
tailing off and maybe that’s the mentality of the time.’ says Milne.
One young fan who became obsessed with the game when it was first shown on Channel 4 is Scott Couper. who started playing on Glasgow Green with a bunch of mates in 1984. Now he’s a wide receiver with the Claymores, and one of the few Scottish players in the American- dominated squad.
‘American culture was big back then,’ he agrees. ‘You could actually see the rise and fall of British amateur American football along with that American culture craze. I thought the game was dying in this country and then up pop the Americans with a lot of money.’ Couper reckons that the game will become popular a second time round because people are interested in the game itself. not the hype that surrounds it. ‘The razzmatazz is part of it but we want people to watch the football rather than the cheerleaders.’
The surest sign that American football has a
future in Britain was a face-off between the Claymores and the London Monarchs on the flight back from training camp in Atlanta last week. Given that well over 90 per cent of the players involved were American, there was still ‘no love lost’ between the Scottish and English teams sharing Club Class, according to an official who flew with them. If neutral players can whip up that kind of feeling, what will a truly partisan crowd manage? Calcutta Cup watch your ass! L] The Scottish Claymores" trst game is against Dilsselilorf's Rhein Fire at Murrayﬁeld on Sunday 9 April. K ick-ojf is at 3pm with the pre- game party starting at noon. Tickets are from £10 with a few £5 tickets available on the day. The ticket hotline is on 0/41 305 7575.
The List 7-20 Apr 199515