By now the entire UK roller derby community has likely heard the whispers of the virtual demise of what was Tier 1 of the British Champs. Depending on which rumour mill you listen to, all or all but one of the original Tier 1 teams has dropped out of Champs, most citing the need to play WFTDA sanctioned games and concentrate on WFTDA rankings.
Not only is this a massive loss to the Champs, it’s a loss to UK roller derby as a whole, and one which I think could have been avoided.
Something which has been niggling me from the start is why Tier 1 is being run in the same format as all the other Tiers. There’s no carrot of promotion, and let’s all be up front here – the ‘threat’ of relegation was removed the instant that it was decided teams should be allowed to join in at the most appropriate level. Get relegated and don’t want to play those teams? Simply take a year out and then you’re good to go again, back in where you think you ‘rightfully’ belong.
So why is Tier 1 being run as a round robin style affair where everyone has to play everyone else, with the attendant travel and time issues involved? It seems to me that this is the ideal place for a 2-day Best of British Derby Tournament. Talk to the teams involved and schedule it so it works as a warm up for their trips across the pond to play USA teams and bump themselves up the WFTDA tables. Then run it as a six team seeded consolation bracket tournament. 8 games in total, spread across 2 days.
Or if you’re really short on time and enthusiasm, a seeded single elimination tournament with only 6 games over the two days. This has the disadvantage of meaning there’s no 5th and 6th place, but since those two teams get relegated anyway, maybe that doesn’t matter. (The winners of games 3 and 4 would play each other to determine who came 3rd).
You’d end up with a situation which much more closely resembles that which those teams will face in the USA, since they all go over and either play in tournaments or against as many opponents as possible in a short space of time. Plus you’d have a weekend showcase of amazing derby for people to watch, with a fast resolution and a real chance to ramp up media interest in the sport. You’d have massively reduced the time the top teams need to invest, by halving the number of games they play, and between them the teams only need to organise two days of derby, not 5.
It really saddens me to see the top flight teams backing out of the British Champs, because I think this tournament is hands down the best thing to happen to British roller derby bar none. If we could only persuade them to stay, it would be a really positive move for the development of the sport in the UK, and I’d love to see them all involved again in the future.
– Tilly Latimer