‘One Club, One Future’: Manchester Titans talk ‘violent chess’, tactics and growing UK American football

“American football can be described in many different ways,” said Liam Twigg. “Violent chess is one, it’s all about tactics.”

Liam is the club secretary for the Manchester Titans, an American football team founded in 2003 and now with teams for women, youth teams for players as young as eight, and flag football.

The club also joined with Manchester College for the last two years to offer American football as part of the sports course. Players train two or three times a week while studying, and the hope is this will increase the sport’s exposure, particularly for young people studying in Manchester.

And through bringing in young players and partnering with Manchester College, Liam hopes that the sport can grow in the UK.

“The Titans have for a long time had a tagline of ‘One Club, One Future’ and this feeds the clubs desire to continue to expand American football to be offered to as many people as possible in Manchester,” said Liam.

“The development of players from such a young age to the basics of the sport allows them a better chance of reaching the highest versions of the sport they can be part of.

“The only way money enters the league is more media interest and desire for it from the general public.

“In the UK, the sport is amateur and while this remains we will struggle against teams who train full time for American football, which happens across Europe and other continents.”

The BAFA league was restructured in 2010 to coordinate contact football in the country, and Pete Ackerley was hired as the full-time chief executive, which has helped the league become more professional.

Additionally, Liam notes, an increasing number of universities are beginning to offer the sport in BUCS leagues, with many players going onto the adult teams.

The Titans’ growth and expansion has been driven by the committee and the desire to push the teams forward, but there also exists a strong community beyond the gridiron.

“The ‘One Club, One Future’ feeling is part of why we try and connect all teams and members, including family flag days, and just before Christmas a charity event to raise money for a player’s family.

“The family were struggling following a cancer diagnosis and the clubs’ members all joined in raise money to be given to help the family.

“We now have players at the Titans ranging from eight years old, up to players over 50 years old. The cadet u13 flag team has been running for a year and a half now and we hope that they will move up to u17 contact, then u19 and then be representing the Senior team in the Premiership at some point.”

The Premiership which Liam refers to is the British American Football Association National Leagues, which has three tiers, 12 divisions, and 62 teams competing in men’s senior football.

The Manchester-based outfit, who play their games at the National Speedway Stadium, compete in the Premier North division, alongside the Edinburgh Wolves, Leicester Falcons, Merseyside Nighthawks, Sheffield Giants, and Tamworth Phoenix.

The Titans have a strong history in a tournament which has largely seen its annual showdown, the BritBowl, monopolised by teams from London, with only three winners from outside the capital since 1998, the last being Tamworth Phoenix in 2017.

“The Titans senior team did beat Tamworth last season at their home ground, which was a huge step for the club’s senior team. 

“The Titans have played the London Warriors in the National semi-finals for two years in a row and in no uncertain terms, we were well beaten both times by them.

“A large part of London’s success, with the Warriors currently holding the title for the last two seasons and prior to that, them fighting with the London Blitz, does come from the huge talent pool to select from in London.

“London currently has three teams in the South Premiership division of American Football.”

The season was due to begin in early April this year, however, the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. An update, on March 19, from Chief Executive Pete Ackerley states the season is scheduled to begin on April 12.

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