London’s Calling Preview (Open)

Josh Coxon Kelly previews London’s Calling (T1) and the upcoming Tour season.

The opening tournament of the 2013 UKU Tour series once again sees ultimate teams from across the country come down to London to kick off the season in style. Hosted at the excellent UCL sports ground near St. Albans, London’s Calling brings together the Nation’s (and some of the continent’s) finest Open and Women’s division competition in the largest single event in the European ultimate calendar.

Like previous years, the aim has been to create a tournament that unites not only the entire UK open division (hosting A, B, and C tours), but also tempts over the cream of the mainland Europe club scene. With qualification for WUCC determined first and foremost by Nationals and xEUCF results, the British ‘tour’ this year arguably takes another step back in terms of importance for the top club teams, and this can be seen in the entrance of a number of teams that will not be featuring in Nationals this year.

After staking their claim to a legitimate assault on the very top of the UK’s club scene at Fog Lane, GBU23 will be looking to continue to grow as an outfit, and will hope to shock any teams along the way who underestimate them. Seeding a team such as this is always going to be contested, and the 7th place given to GB has reportedly seen complaints equally for it being too low and too high a placement. A pool-play match up against first seed Clapham will be their chance to make a statement. The Irish team are likewise attending in preparation for bigger things in Toronto this July. Past junior teams have been unable to reach the levels of their rival GB squads, but a continued Irish presence both at tours and particularly at University level suggests that this U23 team may be looking to change that. The two teams meet in a showgame at 7pm on Saturday evening, which will provide the perfect stage for comparison.

Recently placing 5th at the European Championships, the youth-focused Heilbronn team Bad Skid boast club as well as international pedigree. Armed with stars such as Florian Bohler and Holger Beuttenmuller who bring valuable experience from junior, through U23 and onto senior international levels, Bad Skid’s young squad bring passion and athleticism as well as what has to be one of the all-time best team songbooks (listen out!) . This year sees the fifth consecutive entrance of Germany’s top players in the UK competition, and after Inside Rakete winning last year, the team will be looking for nothing less than to retain the London Calling title for 2013.

The attendance of not one but two Italian teams sends the message that this nation, whilst perhaps not traditionally seen as a contender, are serious about changing this. Headed by the always-controversial one man trumour machine Davide Morri, CUSB have recently won the Italian championship over Cotarica and will now be building with the view to make the most of their spot on the world stage when WUCC comes to Italy in 2014. Cotarica have the lowest seed of the European teams, but as a club with plenty of top level EUCF heritage they will be looking to improve considerably on the 12th place allotted to them. 

Richard “Gash” Harris, gets a high flying D in last years show game. Photos courtesy of Graham Bailey.

Brighton’s entrance of no less than four teams (as well as two in the womens tour) show the fruits of one of the country’s strongest grassroots Ultimate scenes. Undoubtedly also boosted by the success and growth of University teams Sussex Mohawks, as well as the newly formed Brighton Panthers, the Brighton talent pool is as deep as it has ever been, and the teams will be looking to impress at all levels of the competition.

Devon’s entry of 3 teams likewise is credit to a hardworking geo-setup. Long standing work with local Universities Plymouth and Exeter, as well as the continuing pipeline of players from the Air Badgers of St.Peter’s school, Exeter, sees a consistently plentiful as well as youthful player base attending the tours. The first team has seen top players move on to other teams, notably Chevron in the past, and this year defensive powerhouse Ben Powlay takes the path already trodden by Josh Kyme, Richard Coward and Sam Bowen. However this is unlikely to worry a team that takes so much pride and trust in their young talent, and Devon will undoubtedly look to show the benefits of a tight knit team chemistry by taking some unsuspecting scalps.

The A/B tour boundary is always a contentious one, and placement either side of it at such an early stage of the season can have a substantial effect on a team’s season. Rebel, Fire 2, Bear Cavalry and BAF will be happy to have been placed the higher side of the divide, but the result is arguably the most exciting B tour for a while. Manchester, Ireland U23, Jest Ridisculous, Fusion, The Brown North, Zimmer, Leeds and Cardiff all make up a top 8 of teams who could very legitimately argue for an A tour seeding. Speaking on the subject Si Hill explains: 

‘Divisions can be a problem for us, but they also provide interest. It feels like the depth has increased further, and competition will be tougher than last year. It’s difficult to decide whether to put teams up or down. There’s no perfect solution in our structure, so teams will just have to prove us wrong.’ 

With so many teams in contention for only 3 coveted promotion spots, expect a host of gritty battles deep into Sunday as teams try to prove just that.

London’s Calling, who is going to answer? 

The consistently high level of play needed to win the Ben Rainbow Trophy is always going to make the Tour title a goal for the country’s top teams. However, tour is no longer simply about hosting a 3 stage competition to find the best team in the country. Teams across Britain and Europe have our sights set on a higher goal of being able to consistently compete against the orth american clubs that currently dominate the world stage. This is no mean feat, but for any teams who vie for a title at the European championships, it is the next logical step. For us to get closer to our goals, we need the continuing increase of competition at every level of the tour, and by bringing all of these teams together in a competitive context, London’s Calling embodies this spirit more than any other tournament. Bring on the 9am hooter!

Too excited now?! Well with less than 24 hours till game time, you don’t have long. Both JCK and I will be at St Albans, please come talk to us. We are open to suggestions and looking for possible contributors :). tSG.