Superbowl may be done and dusted for another year but American football is set to touchdown in Hinckley. Leicester Falcons are bringing their franchise to the home of Leicester Road FC.
Starting on April 12 the 2009 national champions will be playing their home games at the former Greene King stadium. Chief sponsor and team manager Guy Kersey is hoping the area’s sporting pedigree and rugby ethos will help kickstart a new era for his club. He said: “Back in the 1980s and 90s we had Leicester Panthers who were national champions but then unfortunately folded the following year. Sean Payton who is now the New Orleans Saints head coach played quarterback for them.
The Falcons started life in Lecestershire and had some illustrious early names associated with them, Denver Broncos’ quarterback Bradlee van Pelt leading them to the play-offs in 2010 but they dropped down to the Central Division in 2013. Now they are looking up again.
Kersey said: “The club, though it is an amateur club, we try to run as professionally as we can. “We want to offer a matchday experience to the people of Hinckley, to provide entertainment and give them something they can hang their hat on. We want a winning team for an area which has a great sporting pedigree. “We were national champions in 2009 and made the play-offs the following two years but unfortunately didn’t win. “We didn’t do well in 2012/13 but myself and head coach Lester Hopewell returned and we had a better 2014.
“We looked at using what was then the Greene King a few years ago but there were concerns about the affect on the pitch so we ended up at Sixways in Worcester. “Obviously things have changed and Leicester Road are keen to diversify and look to have other sports use the facilities.”
The first game is on April 12 with most matches on a Sunday but Falcons are looking at some Saturday nights and some Bank Holidays and hope to involve local cheerleading groups and musicians. “We are hoping to get 150 fans to start with and then in the long run get that up to around a thousand. “The matches at Wembley have helped raise the awareness of American football, the public no longer see it as rugby for wimps.
“When we spoke to Chris Thompson at Leicester Road we were keen to emphasise that though this is a trial, we are not just here for a one year trial, we see it as a new home for us. “The interest in rugby will help us. Most of the Leicester Tigers have an interest in American football, Manu Tuilagi trained with us and his older brother Freddie was part of our championship winning team in 2009. “It won’t really affect the football and we are creating a window for the pitch to be reseeded, we are very conscious of not harming the facilities in any way.
“The five year plan for us is to quality for Europe which is run similar to the Champions League in football. “In Lester and his brother Johhny we have a multiple championship winning coaching team.”