Q&A With The Pirates Part 1

Team Captain Andy Smith talks season ambitions, the rise of American Football and hopes of becoming the most popular contact sport at UEA.


Team Captain Andy Smith talks season ambitions, the rise of American Football and hopes of becoming the most popular contact sport at UEA.

How come American Football is getting so big here in the UK and at UEA?

Smith: Well, American football first came over here in 1984 and has been steadily growing in popularity since. People seem to love watching the huge hits, explosive runs and bomb-passes. It’s just a great spectator sport and more and more people are now realising this. Obviously the Superbowl Championship is a huge part of the sport and is the biggest annual sporting event in the world. It gets huge amounts of publicity and is an all-round entertaining night with the 2 best teams in the NFL battling it out.

Every year we put on an event in conjunction with the Union, in the Blue Bar, for Superbowl night. We watch the game on the screens, and socialise with a drink or two. But it’s not just for the American Football team, absolutely everyone is welcome whether you’re familiar with the game or not.

How has the team been looking pre-season?

Smith: From a Captain’s point of view, our offseason and preseason preparations have been fantastic so far. I’ve been with the Pirates for 4 years now and I’ve never seen such a genuine effort by the players to better themselves in their own time! Everybody has done at least something to up their game for this coming year.

How does the American football league work?

Smith: The league works in the same way that most other sporting leagues do, except that it is grouped into geographical categories, called conferences, to avoid long trips away. Each team plays around 8 games per season, against the other teams in their conference. It’s then playoff time, with the top 2 teams from each conference making the knockout stages of the main Championship, until there is only 1 team standing. The plate championship, which is for the 3rd and 4th ranked teams from each conference, runs parallel to the playoffs.

What is the aim for the season?

Smith: Our main ambition for this year is to beat the benchmark set last season – last year we got to the semi-finals of the plate championship, which is the furthest the team has gone in a very long time. Looking towards the future, our ultimate goal is to become the best university team in the country, knocking Hertfordshire off their perch! It’s long overdue.

Do you think you will benifit from the gap left by the Rugby team, in terms of players and crowds?

Smith: It’s very unfortunate that UEA doesn’t have a rugby team this year. Nobody likes to see a well-established club go under for the sake of a few individuals poor behaviour. Nevertheless it does mean there is a massive hole in the market for contact sports this year at UEA. We don’t like to look at it as benefitting from another team’s misfortune, but we do see it as a chance to offer people something new.  We’re more than happy to accommodate any players who played rugby, or were hoping to play this year. It will give people an opportunity to try something they’ve never done before and hopefully people will jump at that chance.

Hopefully the crowd who enjoyed watching rugby will give American football a chance. We appreciate everyone who comes down to watch our matches and always try to put on a good show and get the victory for them, as much as ourselves. We have to mention the fantastic support of the UEA Angels Cheerleading squad and the other spectators, who are as much a part of our club on game day as our own players. We have gained a reputation for being one of the loudest and most well-supported teams in the league.

Look on the site tomorrow for Part 2, with an interview with Pirates President Steve Omanyondo.