Behind the Boycott: Brussels Tigers offer their explanation

After a long season in Belgium, the Brussels Tigers were in their minds, one step away from reaching the championship game. Standing in their path were the Limburg Shotguns who were hosting them in the semifinal.

However, the playoff game went anything but what anyone had predicted.

After the Shotguns had taken a 14-0 lead, one of the Tigers players suffered a major concussion during the first half. At the time, there was no ambulance at the game.  Brussels team president Pascal Decoo claims that the Shotguns failed to order an ambulance before the game despite assurances that they had. According to Decoo, this delayed treatment for the player who had suffered a major concussion and had been slipping in and out of consciousness.

Decoo on the frightening injury:

“We felt like he’s really gone, everyone was really scared. We didn’t know what we had, and it was a very severe injury.”

Two Shotguns players trained as nurses offered their assistance while waiting over 20 minutes for the ambulance arrive. However, without proper equipment, there was little that could be done to help the badly injured player.

Following the ambulance’s rescue, referees and both teams met and decided that rather than waiting for a second ambulance to arrive and resuming play, the game would not be continued. The Brussels Tigers stated that their decision to end the game was due to the fact that the emotional trauma of the injury was larger than the game at hand.

Tigers’ president Pascal Decoo on the decision to end the game:

“After the ambulance was gone, they asked me if I want to continue the game. I said no, because we were too much in an emotional state. We were really taking care of him and we were not more in the mindset to return to the game,”

Photo: Brussels Tigers

The Belgian American Football League (BAFL) rules state that the home team must provide an ambulance and that a game cannot begin without one. According to the BAFL rules in this scenario, the game should either be rescheduled, or the home team should forfeit.

Following the very strange, series of events, the BAFL decided to reschedule the semi-final for the following weekend. However, the Brussels Tigers shockingly stated that they would not play in the semi-final, and furthermore, would suspend their participation in the league. Decoo explains the decision to boycott the BAFL:

“I waited for the decision of the BFL, that the Shotguns were at fault because they didn’t respect the ambulance rules. The only sanction the league gave was to just move the date of the game, with no fines or other punishments.”

The league’s decision was simply not good enough for the Tigers head man, as he emphasized integrity when setting up player safety protocols.

“I cannot accept that” said Decoo, “ The boycott is only because the BFL apply didn’t apply a sanction for the rule. If that happens for the next game, for example, your team doesn’t bring in an ambulance, you just have to play the game and another day.  I say it’s not correct. This rule is very important and cannot be weak”

In regard to the remaining schedule Decoo made his position clear.

“You can decide what you want for the remainder of the competition. We are no more”.

Brussels Tigers Photo: Albert-Van-Lerberge

Interestingly enough, a similar situation occurred in the regular season as the Tigers visited the Ghent Gators. There, the game began without an ambulance and continued until halftime. During the break, the Tigers realized the lack of medical staff at the game and met with the Gators to discuss the postponement of the game. In that case, both teams waited for an ambulance to arrive and resumed play in a matter of minutes. Luckily, no major injuries occurred.

The team awaiting either the Shotguns or Tigers in the championship is the defending champion Brussels Black Angels. In a surprising move, the Black Angels have joined their crosstown team in protest of the league, stating they will not play in the upcoming Belgian Bowl, citing the league’s lack of players’ safety concerns.

“In the interest of our players, their safety, and their health, we have decided to suspend our activities and our participation in the championship. Through this approach, we expect the guarantee that the safety of our players is at the center of the league’s priorities.” (translated from French)

Brussels Black Angels Photo: Sportbeat

Both the Tigers and Black Angels have voiced their frustration with the league hoping to correct the issues and concerns about the entire 2021 season. Along with the apparent safety issues, problems around valid player ITC’s have been a concern for coaches. Decoo explains his frustration:

“We are only five teams during the competition, because many teams were not happy with the league already. They were unhappy about the rules they were presenting and the format of the championship.”

 Brussels Tigers president Pascal Decoo explains his reasoning for the decision, while also showed an eagerness to move forward with the league in a cooperative fashion.

“We want to find solutions. We want to work on the rules, we want to add them to create something great. We want to be also that that they listen to us. When they say something like about the safety they must take care of it.”

Photo: Limburg Shotguns

On the other side of things, Limburg has offered to pay out of pocket for two ambulances to be at the semifinal scheduled for this weekend, showing a strong interest in continuing the season. According to a Limburg player, the Shotguns claim that they had ordered an ambulance, but it simply arrived late to the game, helping cause the ensuing debacle.

Limburg, running back Jaycen Taylor explained his frustrated with the situation:

“I think it’s embarrassing. Mostly for the reigning champions to back out of a championship game. Never in sports do you see something like this happening”

The BAFL, responded to a onslaught negative messaging this past week, asking for cooperation from its member moving forward. The teams and league are planning to meet soon and discuss solutions to the problems and a possible return to play.

As of yet, the Belgian Bowl and its remaining semifinal remain in serious doubt as the 2021 season in Belgium could be ending in disappointment for all parties.

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football