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  • Writer's pictureMike Woolnough

Chain Crew. Help Needed: Celebrating Chain Crew Mike

Chain Crew Mike

Photo: Chris Coope


Putting all the pieces in place for a British American Football game is complex. The home team’s game-day manager needs to arrange so many elements. In most cases, everything goes smoothly, and the teams are in the changing rooms or warming up on the field, then, the officials arrive on the field and ask the question:

 

“Do you have a chain crew and ball persons?”

 

Five people, mostly volunteers, who become part of the official’s set-up and are essential to the game taking place. Some teams have this in hand, with a regular group of people who attend all the home games. Other teams may be lucky enough to have junior or youth players who take the roles. Often, Game Day Managers rely on fans or spectators to fill the positions. Many do so reluctantly but some do so with enthusiasm and pleasure. This story is about one of those enthusiastic people.

 


Around the south coast area, there is a guy who has become known as “Chain Crew Mike” by local teams and BAFRA officials. To those who know him well, he is Michael Jeatt. The range of locations Michael has attended did lead one BAFRA official to ask, “Where does Michael live?”

 

I sat down with Michael to discuss his background and love of the sport. Well, it was during our drive to Bournemouth to watch the Bobcats face Plymouth Vanguard in a preseason game.

 

When did you first discover American Football?

“I first became aware of American Football in the early 1960s when I bought a magazine which I later discovered was not about soccer, as I had thought, but about the American game. Then a few years later, in the mid-1960s I came across game coverage, on Sunday evenings, on American Forces Radio. Later in the 1970 ITV's World of Sport would show very edited highlights of Superbowls once a year. Then later in the 1980's, when Channel 4 opened they had a weekly highlights show and showed full Superbowls. This led on to Channel 4 and then Channel 5, when they opened, showing full games then two games each week.”

 

How did you move on from this to our domestic game?

“In very early 2008 I discovered there was University American Football being played by Southampton University and other Universities, so in February 2008, I started my association with Uniball and that same summer with Britball. After 3 years of watching games around the area, year-round, in 2011, I was asked by Fergus Kehoe, GM of Southampton Uni Stags, if I would help on the chain crew, which started me on my chain crew career for, so far, the last 13 years. Every game I attend I always approach the team and gladly volunteer to help on their chain crew. Most teams locally now know me and sometimes approach me. Over the years I have probably done around 300 games all around the area. (Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth as well as Farnham, Reading, Oxford, Royal Holloway, Army, Navy) I will go wherever I can get to for a game and usually, you will find me on the chain crew. I love it. Luckily, my sister, Sheila, is also a football fan and thanks to her, and yourself [Mike Woolnough], who have both been kind enough to transport me to games meaning I am able to get to see more games and provide a chain crew member for these games.”

Chain Crew Mike and Wooly Mike

Photo: Chris Coope


With all those games, what have been some of your best and most enjoyable moments of football?

“I would say the highlight of my Football was in 2019 when I was helping with putting on the Britbowl Championships in London for BAFA when Solent Thrashers, my number 1 team, played and became Division 1 champions. It was probably the best game I have seen during my British American Football time.”

 

Michael has also been part of the Armed Forces American Football games and has assisted in several games including the recent Capt. Chris Butcher Memorial game when Army faced Norwich Devils.

 

Michael is in his mid-70s but is going strong and looking forward to many more games on the chain crew. During the summer and winter seasons, he is most likely at a home game for Solent Thrashers, Southampton University Stags or Solent University Redhawks. If none of these are playing at home, Michael will be appearing at other games alongside Inside Britball’s game-day reporters. Michael is the epitome of our Britball community which relies on volunteers to make our game happen week to week. Thank you, Michael.



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