SWINDON Storm are set to bring competitive American football back to the town for the first time in nearly 20 years after being accepted into the British league system.
The club have joined National Division South after completing a series of requirements set by the British American Football Association (BAFA), and will now compete against a number of local rivals including Oxford Saints and Gloucester Centurions.
Led by head coach Steve Bennett, the club played three friendly games during 2012 to prove they have what it takes to play in the leagues, as well as registering the required 35 new players and earning funding from Sport England and Swindon Borough Council.
The club held its first training session in December 2008 before transforming from a junior club into a senior side, and although Bennett is delighted to have been given league membership after four years of struggle, he is keen to stress the hard work is only just beginning.
“We are all really pleased to have been accepted because it is something the club has been working towards since we held our first training session in 2008,” he said.
“But the hard part starts now really, and it is only just beginning for us even though it has taken a while for us to get this far.
“There were a lot of requirements we had to meet which was tough at times, but we have done all that now so we are all looking forward to getting going.
“We were observed during the friendly matches we played to make sure we were looking after the players, and also that we were coaching in a way the league liked, and we passed all that so we are happy.
“It is about time the sport came back to Swindon because it is a town which is perfect for it, and the location is great for people to be able to get to and it is a great catchment area.
“We are going into a league where we will be playing against some local sides like Oxford and it will be great to have some derby matches like that in our first season.”
Storm are holding introductory sessions this month for new players, with the first two taking place on January 7 and 14 at the North Swindon Learning Campus on Redhouse Way, starting at 6.30pmand finishing at 9pm.
The two identical sessions will involve both classroom time to learn the game and playing drills, and any new player can have a taste of the sport for free for their first four sessions.
The club supplies all equipment apart from gumshields, and Bennett believes American football can be an outlet for any individual.
“American football offers all people of every shape and size and athletic ability the chance to get involved in a team sport,” he said.
“Every position is almost a different sport in itself, and it is a great game to play for anyone who wants to get involved.
“The first few sessions will be aimed at players new to the sport, and will offer ‘football 101’ which will go through everything from the very beginning.”
After six weeks training, sessions return to the regular base of Swindon Rugby Club on Greenbridge Road, with each Monday costing £3 for subs.