Life before a National League and BUCS Futsal
It's a proud moment for me. This year's BUCS finals marks 10 years since it all kicked off. Â Ten years ago, university futsal was just a handful of clubs, playing in local leagues, hosting and entering mainstream tournaments and travelling abroad, mostly for social reasons with a bit of futsal thrown in. There wasn't a National League in England then either, just The FA Futsal Cup, in which Doncaster Deaf College, Team USSR and Tranmere Victoria were battling in. I remember clubs like University of York, who are still going strong, UEA Futsal, Sheffield Hallam, Glamorgan, all looking for matches, but not really knowing where they sat or what potential there was...
Starting the first ever British University Futsal Cup
When I set up University of Teesside Futsal Club, with Oli Riches (now one of the partners in The Futsal Shop, and Global Designer/Illustrator), I realised we needed a competition to play in. With Rick O'Toole, Â in 2007, and support from Loughborough University and BUCS (back then it was BUSA), I organised and ran the first British University Futsal Cup - a tournament with regional qualifiers that produced 8 teams to contest the Grand Finals.
Last minute struggles
It was a huge struggle and a massive source of stress, when on the eve of the finals teams withdrew and we found ourselves one referee short! This just made it all the more sweeter when I managed to replace the teams, find a last minute referee (Brian Webster, thank you!), and ran a very successful, 2-day, 8-team tournament. What was even more satisfying was my team, Teesside University, crowned as the first ever British champions.
Fast forward 10 years, now over 200 teams
Ten years on BUCS is the largest, most well organised competition in the UK, with over 200 teams in a complete pyramid system with promotion and relegation in both men and women! Â And the winners regularly go on to compete in the EUSA Futsal Championship. A lot of today's top players will attest to having started their journey at a university level and certainly there is a generation of people who were there at the start that are now keen onlookers of futsal and its development. Every year that passes and BUCS grow their futsal competition, it makes me proud to have been the person to initiate the competition. Winning the first one is something I will never forget, but later, when BUCS were the organisers and I was merely a coach, winning it in 2010 and 2012 were amazing moments for myself and Teesside University.