As well as trying for the national spotlight, Hastings Conquerors wants to expand local interest and participation through its community and youth programmes.
The club recently teamed up with Bexhill College to bring 10 free American football training sessions to students. Hastings Conquerors Chairman Chris Chillingworth hopes the Sport England funded sessions are the beginning of something bigger. “We would absolutely love for Hastings to become an American Football town here in the UK,” said Mr Chillingworth.
The Bexhill sessions are giving coaches a chance to warm up for the Conquerors’ youth programme, set to kick off in January. The programme will be open to boys and girls aged between 16 and 19, offering teenagers a chance to attend regular training and possibly entering into a league. Luke Boorer, the club’s Commercial Manager, noted, “This is just the first step. We want to make the sport of American Football a complete family affair.”
Hastings Conquerors was the first co-operatively run American football club in the UK (the Aberdeen Roughnecks have recently followed suit). Mr Boorer explained, “This means we are owned by our fans, for the fans, by the fans.”
A share in the club can be purchased for £30 per year, and shares are limited to one per person. “One owner, one share, one vote,” said Mr Boorer. “No one person can ever own the club.” Shareholders choose a committee to see to the day-to-day administration of the club, with bigger decisions voted on by shareholders themselves. “We’re very proud of the way we operate,” said Mr Boorer. “I think our club is run in the best possible way.”
American Football is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, due to the NFL’s investment in the sport in this country. Hastings Conquerors and Sussex Thunder represent the South East along with three teams from Kent and five in the London area. There is also a national universities competition, won last year by Brighton Tsunami.
Hastings Conquerors would like to hear from locals interested in volunteering, playing or coaching – regardless of their level of expertise. “Most of our players, when they started, knew very little about American Football,” noted Mr Boorer. The club also want so set up a discount card to help connect shareholders with local businesses, and would like to hear from interested businesses.
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