It won’t have escaped your attention one of the year’s sporting highlights involves an American invasion this September, as Team USA arrive at Gleneagles for an eagerly awaited Ryder Cup encounter. Their mission to try and wrest back the trophy at the Home of Golf that Europe so memorably retained at Medinah in 2012.
Golf is but one sport Scotland and North America share a love for, and as spring meets summer we take a look at the major sports played across the pond that are flourishing in Scotland, and just as importantly how you can get your spectator fix. Team sports dominate the American landscape and in particular the ‘Big 4’ in the shape of American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey, so where better place to start.
The BAFA is the UK’s American Football equivalent to the NFL and in East Kilbride Pirates, who play in the Premiership North with home games at Hamilton Rugby Club, Scotland has one of the best teams in the entire league. The 2013 season saw a perfect 10-0 winning league record before the Pirates were narrowly beaten in the semi-finals of the BritBowl knockout stages by champions London Blitz. This year the Pirates are confident they have assembled their best ever squad – including a pair of quarterbacks in the shape of the experienced Ryan Hunter and rising star Neil Baptie, son of Falkirk legend Crawford, who are the envy of the BAFA – and the aim for the 2014 season is to win the league title again and then go all the way to the BritBowl final.
A 72-0 thrashing of Gateshead Senators in the opening away match of the season bodes well. With more away matches to come the Pirates first home game of the season is against Lancashire Wolverines on Sunday 8th June at 12 noon, adults £3 on the gate/U16s free. An afternoon of great family entertainment awaits with the added bonus for any youngsters watching, and inspired to take up the game, the Pirates run a youth (age 14-15) and a junior (16-19) team and all are welcome to try out the sport.
We’ll be bringing you news of all the Pirates home fixtures during the 2014 season in the weekly Sport on Spec e-newsletter, as well as news of National North (the league below the Premiership) fixtures featuring Scottish teams such as Clyde Valley Blackhawks, Glasgow Tigers and West Coast Trojans who will be battling for top spot and with it the prize of promotion to the Premiership North to join the Pirates.
Baseball is alive and well in Scotland and there are plenty of opportunities to watch a sport made famous by the likes of Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. First played in Scotland in the 1930’s, by the late 1980’s there were as many as 16 teams competing as part of the British Baseball Federation. The closure of many American Air Force bases in the early 1990’s led to leaner times, but since the formation of Baseball Scotland in 2007 the sport has seen a resurgence with many juniors and adults alike playing baseball for the first time.
The top 6 senior teams compete in the Baseball Scotland league which runs from April through to September. With teams from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen there’s plenty of rivalry and this season sees two teams from Glasgow for the first time (the Comets and Galaxy) who will both looking to challenge the ascendancy of the 2013 champions, Edinburgh Diamond Devils. Matches in Glasgow are played on Sunday afternoons at Tollcross Field (entry is free) and with the season now in full flow we look forward to bringing you weekly fixture information throughout the summer.
Ice hockey and basketball, the other members of the ‘Big 4’ in American, are already a well known fixture on the Scottish sporting calendar. Both sports are played predominantly over the winter months and have recently reached the end of the season.
In ice hockey, Braehead Clan, Dundee Stars, Fife Flyers and Edinburgh Capitals make up four of the ten teams who compete in ice hockey’s Elite League, featuring the best teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Capitals endured a tough 2013/2014 season finishing bottom of the league but are already looking to make amends for the new season. A top eight finish for the Clan, Flyers and Stars meant they all progressed to the end of season play-offs however it was the Sheffield Steelers and Belfast Giants who contested the Grand Final won by the Steelers. Braehead Clan have already shown they mean business for the new season by retaining the services of head coach Ryan Finnerty who took Clan to their highest ever position during the 13/14 season. The 2014/2015 season starts at the end of August – watch this space for all the fixture and ticket news!
Glasgow Rocks are well known on the British basketball scene as Scotland’s representatives in the BBL, Britain’s premier basketball league. An up-and-down 2013/2014 season saw the Rocks make it all the way to the final of the BBL Trophy Final in March only to lose a close match 83-76 to Worcester Wolves, while narrowly missing out on the end of season play-offs. The Rocks are already planning for the new 2014/2015 season which starts in October. Home games take place at the Emirates Arena and as with the ice hockey we’ll have news of all the fixtures in our weekly e-newlsetter, together with ticket information, as the season unfolds.
Outside of the Big 4, but with an increasing popularity in America is football where its more commonly known as soccer with the MLS the major league. On which note we congratulate Celtic, Dundee, Rangers and Peterhead, the 2013/2014 SPFL champions of the Premiership, Championship, League One and League Two respectively, and wish all the teams in the play-offs the very best of luck!
It’s not just team sports Scottish and Americans share a passion for. Golf, motorsport and combat sports such as wrestling and boxing play a significant part in the sporting calendar on both sides of the Atlantic. Golf we’ve mentioned with the Ryder Cup at the end of September, before when there are a number of other tournaments in Scotland this summer including the PGA EuroPro Tour. For fans of motorsport, in Knockhill Scotland boasts a racing circuit featuring a wide variety of racing through the year including rallycross, hot hatch, Scottish Car Racing (SMRC) and Scottish Championship Bike Racing. Wrestling has a growing number of Scottish stars including Grado and Davey Blaze (as seen on TV!) who can be seen in action courtesy of PBW Wrestling and Insane Championship Wrestling, and boxing enjoys promoters such as Prospect Boxing, Matchroom and Ricky Burns’ manager, Alex Morrison, who put on regular shows.
A more detailed look at these and other sports will need to wait for another day, but in the meantime if you want to experience them live we promise to bring you the best coverage available of when and where events are taking place, to include the very latest ticket information.
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Yours in Sport,
Founder – SportonSpec
*The picture in this post is used by kind permission of Duncan Gray at Duncolm Sports Photography.