The GAT Novi Sad Dukes, 2017 Serbian runners up and 2015 champions, have withdrawn from the Serbian American Football League.
Citing a lack of financial funding and a shortage of players as the 2018 Serbian season approaches, the Dukes informed the Serbian federation that they would be unable to field a team this season.
Novica Slijepcevic, board member of the Dukes:
“Novi Sad GAT Dukes will not play in the 2018 season. In addition to all the efforts made over the past months, we have been forced to cancel the senior season, primarily due to the finances and drastically reduced general sponsor budgets. Because of that, we were not able to bring foreign players from the US, nor can we contract domestic reinforcements from the surrounding clubs we relied on in previous years. Therefore, we would be unable to challenge for the title.
He further pointed out that the future of the Novi Sad franchise is uncertain, since the club has not had a proper youth development program since 2011.
“This has contributed to the greatest extent to the situation that we are now in. It is too early to say anything, whether in the coming period the club will decide on any kind of youth selection … For now we are leaving it to the younger and more organized club KAF Wild Dogs who will take over the American football scene in Novi Sad.”
The Novi Sad Dukes finished third in the Serbian Super League in 2017 and then defeated SBB Vukovi Belgrade in the playoffs to advance to the final where they lost to the Kragujevac Wild Boars. Novi Sad won their only Serbian championship in 2015. The club was founded in 2002 and as been one of the top three teams in Serbia, along with the Wild Boars and Vukovi, for the past few years.
Competition Commissioner Ljubodrag Andjelkovic confirmed that he received the official notice from GAT Dukes about leaving the league, but also stressed that the league was not compromised:
“The management of the federation received the official confirmation from the club GAT Dukes from Novi Sad on the withdrawal from the First League of Serbia. In accordance with the competition rules, which were adopted for the previous season, their club will be filled by the club from the Second League of Serbia. Eight teams will still compete in Serbia’s top league.
This is the second top club in Europe to fold this year. Spain’s Reus Imperials cancelled their season last week, three days before the Spanish league start. The Imperials had also been 2017 league finalists.