Belgian American Football Federation issues statement on Belgian Bowl boycott

Over the past few days, a major controversy has been swirling in the Belgian American Football League that threatens the playing of the national championship game – the Belgian Bowl –  and the foundations of the BAFL.

Two teams – the Brussels Tigers and Brussels Black Angels – have stated that they refuse to play any further playoff games or play in the Belgian Bowl as a result of a serious oversight during the playing of the semifinal game between the Limburg Shotguns and the Brussels Tigers. The host team, the Shotguns, were leading 14-0 during the first half when a Tigers player suffered a severe concussion at which time it was discovered that the ambulance ordered by the Shotguns, had not arrived yet in direct contravention to the BAFL rules which state that an ambulance must be present at all times. According to reports, the ambulance took about 20-30 minutes to get to the field and transport the injured player to the hospital. In the meantime, a second ambulance was ordered and was supposed to be in place should play resume. However, a decision was made to halt the game at that point as the Tigers refused to continue due, they said, to the emotional trauma suffered as the result of the injury.

The Tigers and then the Brussels Black Angels, who had already won their playoff game and had qualified to play in the Belgian Bowl, both stated that they refused to play any further games leaving the Shotguns in limbo, without an opponent and the BAFL without a champion.

The BAFL has now issued a statement clarifying their position and promising serious repercussions for the two teams who have refused to participate in any further games.

We would like to clarify a few things from the BAFL board in relation to the events of the last few days. Until now, we have only communicated the decision to play the Limburg Shotguns versus Brussels Tigers game. We have kept quiet about all other events so far to try and keep the peace as much as possible, and in the meantime keep the conversation outside of social media. But given the fact that the teams boycotting the league refuse to cooperate, we have no choice but to explain our opinion further in the hope that a breakthrough can be made allowing us to continue working on the future of American football in Belgium.

First of all, we would like to clarify the decision to have the Limburg Shotguns versus Brussels Tigers game replayed.

The BAFL rules state very clearly in article 10: “No practice or league game, organised within or by one of the BAFL leagues can take place without the presence of an ambulance or medical crew with a defined list of necessary equipment.”

This means that the game should never have started, however, nowhere in the rules does it clarify who is responsible if the game does start. This is actually the crux of the matter. Since the game had started anyway, we looked at articles 10.2 and 10.3.

10.2 says:

“If, due to force majeure on the part of the organiser, the above requirements cannot be met, then a delegate from the BAFL board must be contacted. The score of this game shall be taken at the time of the game. However, the score of this game will not be binding and the schedule committee will schedule this match later in the competition.”

10.3 says:

“If the organiser does not comply with the above requirements and cannot demonstrate force majeure, the sanctioning commission may impose a sanction on the organiser. The matches that were planned at that time shall then NOT be played. The sanctioning committee may, if it deems necessary, impose a forfeit, or designate the schedule committee to reschedule to another date during the season.”

It was the opinion of the board that we fall under rule 10.3. Even though the Limburg Shotguns had ordered an ambulance and it was late through no fault of their own, the requirements could not be met and no force majeure could be demonstrated by the fact that there had not been a check to see if an ambulance was present. This meant that there were 2 possible options: a forfeit at the expense of the organizer or postponing the game to another time.

Unfortunately, this situation has already occurred, namely the game of the Ostend Pirates versus the Liege Monarchs. During that match there was a medical crew but no ambulance. At that time, the option of medical crew did not exist in the rules and the rule of an ambulance was not followed and the game was started anyway. After an injury to a player of Ostend, the Pirates claimed that it was not safe according to the rules and so they wanted to stop. The game was stopped and a procedure started to see what should be done. Then it was decided that that match should be played again.

For that reason, we as a board unanimously decided to have the match replayed. The rules of the league were rewritten after the incident in Liege to include the option of a medical crew. Also after the incident on Saturday, November 13, the rules regarding the ambulance and medical crew will be rewritten to avoid a situation like this.

That teams do not agree with a decision is completely understandable but therefore to immediately boycott the league without a conversation coupled with an unprecedented flood of hate messages against Michel Eeman is a bridge too far. Michel Eeman is doing mountains of work for the league and tries at all times to keep the separation between his club and his league works. Thus, in this situation, he has kept himself out of the discussions, just as Frederic Meysman has abstained. We can therefore strongly confirm that all board members behave impartially in their BAFL board work. Of course there are points for improvement but we on the board would prefer to discuss them in a constructive way rather than immediately resorting to a boycott.

The argument that BAFL does not care about player safety is also blatantly false. We want to ensure the safety of all players at all times. That is why the rules state that an ambulance must be present at all times and that the match must not start without one. The fact that this happened in this case is a moment for us to review the rules and take further measures to avoid this happening in the future. Thus, in an attempt to respond to the laments of both boycotting clubs, the board has made some proposals to address safety even more prominently. Things like starting a conversation with all clubs to see if there are ideas among them to further increase safety, creating a fund to finance safety projects, an unspecified percentage of any fines always provided for this fund, EUR 500 of the proceeds of this year’s Belgian Bowl could already be used to create this fund. This is the last straw
for us, by refusing to even discuss these proposals, both teams show that they are not concerned about safety but rather an attempt to destabilize the league.

It cannot be that teams that agree to rules before the competition, stop during the competition because they suddenly don’t agree with those rules anymore. It is their right to refuse to participate before the league, but the way things are going now can never be an option. Therefore, our position is that both teams either lift their boycott, including Brussels Black Angels playing the Belgian Bowl. Either these teams will bear the proven costs of the non-played games, Tigers for the semifinal in Limburg and the Black Angels for the Belgian Bowl or if they also refuse to do so, we will have to ban both the Tigers and Black Angels from BAFL organized activities for the next 3 years. In other words, no possibility of playing Belgian Bowl, no participation in IFAF sanctioned tournaments, no IFAF or BAFL transfer rules, etc. We hope, however, that it does not have to come to this and that both teams are willing to give up their boycott and cooperate constructively.

Read previous articles with stories from both the Limburg Shotguns and Brussels Tigers.

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