THE BIRMINGHAM BULLS' SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN
FOR THE 1988 BRITISH LEAGUE TITLE
THE STORY SO FAR
American football didn't happen in Britain until 1982 when the nation's newest TV station, Channel 4, announced that it was to screen a weekly programme. Public reaction exceeded all expectations and, without doubt because of the weekly TV diet, the first of many British-based teams began to form.
— First Down*, 1987.
"Formed in 1983, the Birmingham Bulls were one of the first teams to rise to prominence in Britain. In 1986 they won the British equivalent of the Super Bowl, and went on to represent the country in the inaugural Eurobowl, narrowly losing to the Bologna Doves in the semi-final. Just before the start of the 1988 season, however, Carling withdrew their sponsorship, leaving the club with thousands of pounds worth of debts. Coupled with the departure of several key players, the Birmingham Bulls came within a hairsbreadth of folding.
However, under the ownership of long-time football fan Peter Robinson, a financial arrangement was worked out and, with the determination of existing players and the introduction of four seasoned players from the US, the Birmingham Bulls have pulled themselves back from the brink.
Having been written off as contenders for the top honours, the club has defied its critics by winning all but one of its first twelve games this season, losing by just two points to the London Ravens, the top-rated team in Britain. Halfway through the 1988 season, the Birmingham Bulls are well on course for another British League title."
— Ben French Jones, May 1988.
Thus ran the introduction for my final-year project for the HND course at Newport School of Documentary Photography. In January 1988 I had approached Frank Leadon, the Director of Football at Birmingham Bulls, regarding the possibility of making a photographic record of the club. He was very enthusiastic about the idea and gave me every assistance in putting together my story. I spent four months with the club, attending training sessions and travelling with the team for for their matches. Although college commitments meant I missed several key matches, Frank ensured I was able to attend the season finale, although my project had already concluded.
While I may have been fortunate to pick the winning side for my story, I had no doubt that for ambition, dedication and sheer hard work, I wouldn't find a more worthy set of players. Right from the start there was a hint that the season was going to be something special. I was there for the first training session of the season at Moor Lane when Peter Robinson announced his rescue plan to the players and I was there at Loftus Road when quarterback Russ Jensen and wide receiver Greg Harris led the Birmingham Bulls to victory over London Olympians in a memorable Budweiser British League play-off final.
My thanks to Frank Leadon, Peter Robinson and a terrific squad of players who gave me such help with my work. Please watch the slideshow or click the buttons below for more photographs from the Birmingham Bulls American football team's 1988 season.
— Ben French Jones, May 2008