Pulling The Flag

BAFA Flag 2016: The Divisions

It’s been a long and terrible time between flag seasons, and I hope you’re all getting through it okay.

It’s not over yet, but there’s a least a light at the end of the tunnel now.

We’re pleased to announce the division set-up for the 2016 UK mixed season, direct from BAFA Towers. Thanks once again to BAFA’s Nick Bertenshaw for all his hard work.

The BAFA season schedule is due to be released on Tuesday February 23, with the regular season set to begin on Monday April 4 (That’s the start of gameweek one, not the date of the first matches, obviously – they’ll happen that weekend)

The regional championships will be on August 13 for the south, and August 14 for the north. The final itself remains TBC.

 

ANY BIG CHANGES?

 

Here’s the REALLY big one: The playoffs are bigger.

In 2016, the top THREE teams from each division will go through, and the playoffs will be a three-round affair instead of the previous two. There’s even talk of playoff byes this year. The overall #1 seed in the north or south gets a bye to the third and final round, while the other #1 seed in the conference gets a bye to the second round.

Again, two teams from north and south (that’s four total) will advance to BritBowl, where the matchups will be drawn randomly.

The forfeit system seems to have tightened up a little by BAFA. One forfeit now means a loss of homefield advantage, no gameday stats, and a possible banishment from the postseason if no effort is made a week in advance to resolve any issue before forfeiting.

Two forfeits means no postseason and probation, while three voids all results (counts as a walkover win for the other team) and the team is banned for the following season at least.

And, yes, the PTF Chicken of Judgement will also be back to police the badlands of UK flag, so evildoers beware.

chicken

(Chicken by Stewart Black, used under Creative Commons)

Also, the tie-break became important for several teams last season, and BAFA has clarified that it’ll break down as follows:

1) Win Percentage
2) Head-to-head record (not aggregate points)
3) Division Record
4) Net Points per games played (not including forfeited games for or against)
5) Points scored per games played (not including forfeited games for or against)

There’s also no overtime in the league, so all ties go to a draw. BUT WE ALL KNEW THAT, RIGHT? (ahem, Mansfield).

Anyway, teams are getting an email about this, so let’s go on to the good stuff, starting in Scotland.

HIGHLAND CONFERENCE (HNC)

 

scotlandflag4

Pic by Jimmy Thomson

New additions: Midlothian Sabers

Notable losses: West Coast Trojans, Newcastle Blackhawks (to MEC)

 

NorthSouth
Aberdeen OilcatsCarnegie Thunder
Carnegie RenegadesEdinburgh Outlaws
Carnegie SteelersGrangemouth Broncos
Dunbeth DragonsMidlothian Sabers
Glasgow HornetsWest Lothian Chargers

 

There was a lot of talk about expansion in Scotland, so it’s a little surprising that the HNC is the league’s smallest conference this year.

West Coast absence this year isn’t exactly headline news, considering how many games they forfeited in 2015, and Newcastle’s move south thins the field north of the border somewhat. Aside from the Midlothian Sabers, most of the unfamiliar names are existing teams with a new lick of paint. The Dunfermline Revolution have been swallowed up by the Carnegie death star and become the Renegades, while the Reapers became the Thunder because they fancied a new kit which matched their eyes. The West Lothian Astros are now the Chargers, just because.

Straying into football talk, the new playoff set up should be a huge opportunity for some mid-ranking or rookie teams to get their first taste of playoff action. Could we see a Carnegie side in the playoffs for the first time? Will Dunbeth continue last season’s bright start and head to the knockouts?

MID-ENGLAND CONFERENCE (MEC)

 

Pic by James Brewerton

Pic by James Brewerton

New additions: Darlington Steam, Wigan Warhawks, Cheshire Cavaliers, Doncaster Mustangs, Newcastle Blackhawks (from HNC)

Notable losses: Burnley Tornados

 

NorthSouth
Calderdale KnightsBeeston Bears
Darlington SteamCheshire Cavaliers
Leeds SamuraiDoncaster Mustangs
Newcastle BlackhawksManchester Crows
Sheffield VipersManchester Titans
Wigan WarhawksMansfield Honey Badgers
Woodham WarriorsSheffield Predators

 

With a lot of incoming traffic from transfers and rookie teams, the MEC is the most crowded division this season, opening up a few intriguing playoff battles.

The Woodham Warriors set the cat among the pigeons in the MEC North by entering the division in 2015, and while the Newcastle Blackhawks are unlikely to have the same impact in 2016, their introduction once again steps up the level of competition in the group. Calderdale and Sheffield have had positive offseasons once again and will be dangerous playoff-contenders, while Darlington and Wigan get their first taste of league action. The Burnley Tornados depart after a forfeit-laden season, thus saving this season’s match report writers from being pestered by computer spell-checkers insisting that it’s actually spelled “tornadoes”.

In the South, it’s the Predators’ division to lose once again. Behind them, the Honey Badgers and Crows return for another shot at the playoffs, while the Cheshire Cavaliers and Doncaster Mustangs are the new blood in the group.

 

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE (SEC)

 

Pic by Thomas Neal (Nealist Photography)

Pic by Thomas Neal (Nealist Photography)

New additions: Bishop Stortford HighFlyers, Reading Knights, Solent Thrashers (from SWC), Bedford Blackhawks

Notable losses: Reading Lions #2, Buckinghamshire Wolves, Blisworth Five, Buckinghamshire Wolves, Basingstoke Barracudas

 

NorthSouth
Aylesbury Vale SpartansChichester Sharks
Bedford BlackhawksLondon Barracuda
Bishop's Stortford HighFlyersLondon Rebels
Victoria Park PanthersReading Knights
Ware WolvesReading Lions
West Essex ShowboatsSolent Thrashers
Westcliff Storm

 

There’s a huge amount of turnover in the SEC, and that’s not a major shocker. After all, the SEC was a wretched hive of scum and villainy in 2015, featuring teams who disappeared before the season even started (nudges Blisworth), didn’t turn up to the opening gameday (punches Basingstoke), left after failing to arrange their own home-field tournament (gives Buckinghamshire a Chinese burn) and no-showed an entire gameweek without warning, resulting in the other two teams not having the referee help to play official league games (drowns Reading Lions #2 in a bucket of rancid cow mucus).

All of these miscreants are giving 2016 a miss, meaning there’s a new look to this conference. Most notable is the Victoria Park Panthers’ move to the North, giving the West Essex Showboats some major competition and handing the Panthers a real shot at securing the playoff berth they narrowly missed out on last year. There’s some “derby” potential in the clash between the Ware Wolves and the new Bedford Blackhawks outfit that hoovered up a couple of their players, while the Bishop’s Stortford HighFlyers challenge the Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks for the League’s Longest Name crown.

In the South, the Lions, Rebels and Sharks will face off yet again, and they’ll be joined by the Solent Thrashers. The Thrashers are used to playoff football in the SWC South, but they’ll have to fight tooth and nail to make the cut in one of UK flag football’s trickiest divisions. The Reading Lions have a derby opponent of their own this season in the form of the Knights, a team made up of current and former Reading Uni players.

 

SOUTHWESTERN CONFERENCE (SWC)

 

Pic by Bec Edwards Photography

Pic by Bec Edwards Photography

New additions: Coventry Panthers, Northants Titans White, Hereford Stampede

Notable losses: Solent Thrashers (to SEC)

 

NorthSouth
Birmingham LionsCardiff Hurricanes
Coventry CougarsGloucester Centurions
Coventry PanthersHereford Stampede
Leicester EaglesMerthyr Tydfil Thunderducks
Northants PhantomsNorthants Titans White
Northants Titans BluePlymouth Buccaneers

 

The Birmingham Lions won the league in style last year in their rookie season, and more than one PTF regular still has a lingering football crush on the quarterbacking skills of former GB uniball star Tristan Varney. The Lions added a brand of humour to the league as well as skill, and they’ll be the team to beat in 2016.

Cardiff’s season petered out after they were demolished by Birmingham in their top-of-the-conference regular season clash, resulting in an early exit from the playoffs. Where they go from here depends on what fire they’ve been holding in their bellies in the offseason, and whether they’ve retained the talent that helped them claim the 2014 crown.

Northants did exceptionally well to romp past the Eagles into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, and they’ve continued their growth by entering two teams into the league this year. We hear that they’re planning to split their top talent across the two teams rather than have a designated A and B team, although they’ll most likely tip the balance to put more of their stars in the team in the tougher division.

The Coventry Panthers will make their league debut in 2016, and the derby with the Coventry Cougars should be entertaining.

Leicester return again this year, and pre-season Facebook activity makes us hopeful that they’ve addressed the depth issues that have lingered somewhat in recent years. Solent’s departure to the SEC looks to have opened up the race for the playoff spots behind Cardiff in the SWC South, and rookie side Hereford are well-placed to make a big impact in their first year. After hitting a brick wall and withdrawing early last season, Plymouth make a welcome return to challenge the South and add 4,000 miles to everyone’s gameday journey times.

Stay tuned to Pulling the Flag this year for the latest news, fixtures, results and debate. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter.

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