(* = playoff team ** = Division Champions)
The original Colchester Gladiators were formed in October 1983 by a group of friends inspired by the radical coverage of American Football on the new Channel 4 television station.
The Gladiators organised, recruited and grew steadily in numbers until their first competitive match in May 1984. Intrigued local newspapers covered this new sport promoting the considerable novelty value.
Appointing the first American Head Coach led to an application for, and granting of, national league status in 1985. Additional coaching appointments advanced technical and tactical development and culminated in divisional domination, playoffs and the National Championship “Budweiser Bowl” triumph in 1988.
A perennial playoff team, from the late eighties to the mid nineties, the Gladiators enjoyed an excellent relationship with local and national media. Over the course of these years the Club received thousands of column inches in the local and national press and dedicated national publications with colour photography. Also regular radio coverage by SGR and BBC Essex.
A successful team attracts a fan base and the Gladiators were no different. With a record crowd in excess of 1,800 the Gladiators competed with Colchester Utd for support and enlisted the help of the police to manage game day traffic and parking. Inevitably the BBC and Anglia TV began to take notice and the Gladiators enjoyed several minutes of television coverage as the rival channels filed weekly reports on team progress during the most successful seasons.
Lack of sponsorship money and problems with a permanent home ground put the Gladiator organisation under extreme pressure during the late nineties and, sadly, the decision was taken to leave the league set up. A number of the players retired and some were invited to join other teams in Ipswich and Southend as coaches and players.
October 2003 was the 20th anniversary of the Gladiators formation and the idea of a Charity Celebration game was born. The Gladiator organisational machine went into overdrive and more than fifty “old boys” pledged their support. Among these was TV personality Dermot O’Leary who agreed to play and aided the publicity drive. The Gladiators ran out 50-8 winners against the Essex University team the Blades, raised over Â£2,500 for charity and, with a crowd approaching one thousand, proved that potential support for American Football is massive. The match was featured heavily in the local press and Sky Sports sent a camera crew. The highlight package, with interviews, was shown twice during American Football coverage at prime time on a Sunday.
Following this success, a new Management Committee organised training facilities, equipment and a home ground and the Gladiators were re-born. A recruitment drive registered about forty players and new Head Coach, Karl Bourke, set about moulding a competitive playing squad.
The Gladiators were welcomed into the British Senior League (now BAFL), for the 2005 season, and recorded a creditable 4-5-1 season which included two one point defeats. With the signing restrictions lifted, the Gladiators registered over 60 players for the 2006 season & won their division with an 8-2 record, reaching the playoffs. With the league’s restructure, the Gladiators gained promotion to BAFL Division One (South) for the 2007 season as the Club’s Management Committee continued to look long term & appointed a Youth Programme Head Coach. Plus an Awards For All grant application for playing kit and additional equipment was processed.
After a disappointing 2007 campaign the Gladiators were positioned back into BAFL Division Two for the 2008 season. A new Coaching Staff was recruited by the Management Committee for 2008 to re-build the Senior team ready for progress through the BAFL divisions in the future. During 2008 this new era of Coaching Staff completed a successful campaign finishing second in Division 2 South East with a 7-3 record, making the ‘wild card’ playoff round. Meanwhile the Youth team are going from strength to strength, trained during 2008, and were accepted into the BAFL YouthÂ kitted league ready for their first competitive football season during 2009.
2008 was the Gladiators 25th Anniversary Season – Celebrating 25 years since the original formation of the team in 1983.
After the successful 2008 season the Senior team were placed in BAFL Division 2 East where the team has high hopes of returning to the playoffs in 2009 after strong recruiting in the off season. The Management Committee also recruited a dedicated Youth team Head Coach to ensure a strongÂ set upÂ ready forÂ theÂ fledgling side’s 2009 BAFL Youth Central Division campaign.
2009 turned out to be an excellent season on the field for both the Gladiators football teams. The Youth team finished the season with a 6-1-1 record and entered the playoffs at the Quarter Final stage, in their first year of competitive league football. Meanwhile the Senior team set a great example byÂ finishing the regular season undefeated with a 9-0-1 record and won through the playoffs to appearÂ in the National Division 2 FinalÂ in Doncaster.
After the very successfulÂ 2009 campaign the Gladiators Senior team were promoted to BAFA Division 1 for the 2010 season.Â For their first season at the higher level the Gladiators completed a credible 5-5 record. Meanwhile the Youth Team finished 2010 with a 7-0-1 record, winning the BAFA CL Youth East Division in the process, qualifying for the playoffs for the second successive season.
2011 was a mixed year for the Gladiators Football program. The Senior team were competitive but struggled to close out games and ended the season with a disappointing 1-8-1 record, finishing bottom of the BAFA CL Division 1 South. The BAFA CL rebranded the Youth system during the off season, in line with EuropeanÂ AmericanÂ Football,Â with under 19’s now playing as Junior and under 17’s now playing as Youth teams. The Gladiators Junior (U19’s) team had another good season finishing with aÂ 6-2 record and again qualifying for the end of season playoffs. The Club also had a new team during 2011 with the Youth (U17’s) team set up early in the year andÂ theÂ team entered regular seasonÂ tournaments being placed in BAFA CL Youth South Division. The Youth team finished the season with a 1-14 record but showed signs of being aÂ strong team forÂ future seasons.
After the 2011 season the now rebrandedÂ BAFL National Leagues (BAFA NL) restructured theÂ divisions and the Senior team was placed / relegatedÂ into the lower level of Division 2. With a settled coaching staff and a high profile recruitment strategy the SeniorÂ team will be ready for the challenge on the field and will be aiming forÂ the playoffs at the end of the season. The Junior team have also recruited strongly in the off season and have high hopes to compete deep into the playoffs for 2012 and the Youth team will build on last season’s performances.
For an in-depth review of the 1988 National Champion Gladiators read Coach George Baldwin’s chronicle, “Seeing England from the fifty yard line” ISBN 0-930753-20-8. See also “Call Me Coach! – Lessons learned in 40 years on the sidelines” ISBN 0-9930753-50-X
For a historical look at the Club, please use the navigation bar in the history section of this website, or the links below,Â to select theÂ section required.