Chaos in Belgium: Championship game in limbo as two teams boycott the Belgian American Football League

After a long season in the Belgian American Football League or BAFL, the title game, the Belgian Bowl, scheduled for November 27, is in question as two of the playoff teams are refusing to participate.

Last weekend, the league’s two semifinals were held with the powerhouse Brussels Black Angels capturing a predictable win in the one game. However, the other playoff matchup was anything but run of the mill. During the game hosted by the undefeated Limburg Shotguns, an injury occurred to a player on the visiting Brussels Tigers. The player suffered a major concussion and lost consciousness. An ambulance that had arrived late to the game, took the injured player to a local hospital for further treatment.

Following the injury though, while the ambulance was away, the Tigers refused to continue the game citing safety concerns. The Shotguns asked if the game could be simply delayed until another ambulance arrived. The request fell on deaf ears as the Tigers refused to wait and simply packed up their gear and left. Suddenly, the game ended as viewers and teams left the field confused and upset with the situation.

Interestingly, during the regular season, the Shotguns had defeated the Tigers 37-15 and at the time of the ambulance situation they had taken a 14-0 lead.

It should be pointed out that this wasn’t the first time a situation like this happened. A similar string of events unfolded when the Tigers played in Ghent against the Ghent Gators two weeks ago. In that game, the two teams began to play without an ambulance present. Once someone realized the situation, both teams patiently waited for a second ambulance to arrive and then continued to play. However, that agreement couldn’t be reached this past weekend.

Following the league rules and precedent, the semifinal was initially postponed until November 21.  Then, the Shotguns and Tigers could finish their semifinal and one team would punch its ticket to the title game. Unfortunately, the Tigers are boycotting the game and suspending their participation in the BAFL.

The Tigers on their boycott via their Facebook page.

“We have learned that administrative negligence on a license transfer is punished with a forfeit, while negligence related to the safety of the players allows a team to organize a new home meeting for the team at fault. In the interest of our players and in order to protect their physical integrity, the Brussels Tigers suspend their participation in the activities of the Belgian American Football League – BAFL until the latter guarantees the return of safety to the top of its priorities.” (Translated from French)

On the other side of the playoff bracket, the crosstown Brussels Black Angels have joined the Tigers boycott, stating that they have no intention of playing in the scheduled championship game, again, citing safety concerns and overall discontent with the league. The Black Angels released a statement yesterday on their social media pages:

“During this season, the league has applied the rules and thus declared teams withdrawn for administrative reasons, but more than often it has made inconceivable decisions like this one which does not take into account the physical integrity of our players. They decided to let a new meeting take place, which is totally against the rules.

“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)

On the league side of things, the BAFL has been flooded with negative messages since its decision to replay the Shotguns vs Tigers semifinal. BAFL rules clearly state that an ambulance should be present before the game can begin and that if the home team fails to provide it, the game should be replayed or be deemed a forfeit.

The Shotguns had scheduled an ambulance, however, it arrived at the game late which neither team noticed. As a result, the game began without an ambulance present, leading to the “outrage” and eventual league boycott. Since the game, the Limburg Shotguns have reiterated their commitment to player safety offering to pay out of pocket for two ambulance crews in order to ensure the safety and continuation of the season.

The BAFL remains hopeful that the situation can be remedied as both teams’ “boycotts” have been social media posts without direct communications with the league office.

As the situation continues to unfold, the November 27th Belgian Bowl appears to be in serious doubt after two of the possible three remaining teams have issued statements refusing to play. Fans, players, and coaches alike all await the next step as the league will have to negotiate with its title contenders in order to save title game.

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and