the birmingham bulls

american football team

british league title winners, 1988
birmingham bulls ball carrier mark williams in the thick of the action against the london ravens at rosslyn park; photograph by ben french jones @ ben in black
the birmingham bulls at london ravens, 24 april 1988


birmingham bulls alf birmingham bulls a j birmingham bulls trevor carthy birmingham bulls player birmingham bulls lloyd birmingham bulls ken spatz lewis birmingham bulls colin nash birmingham bulls sid birmighman bulls player birmingham bulls greg harris birmingham bulls russ jensen birmingham bulls night training


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.

the birmingham bulls logo

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


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photographs from the birmingham bulls 1988 british league title-winning season
trevor carthy celebrating victory in 1988 british league final
trevor carthy — british league final at loftus road
mark wiliams with the ball looking for a way past london ravens defence
mark williams — birmingham bulls v london ravens
profile of ken 'spatz' lewis in football hemet
ken 'spatz' lewis training at moor lane
bulls players on sidelines celebrating victory
birmingham bulls v nottingham hoods
quarterback russ jensen about to take the snap
russ jensen — birmingham bulls v northampton stormbringers
wide receiver greg harris taking the ball into ravens territory
greg harris — birmingham bulls v london ravens
birmingham bulls on training run, spaghetti junction in background
training at salford stadium
team on pitch during half-time talk
half-time talk