Jersey Bulls: The story behind the Channel Island club making waves in English football
By Ben Harrison
Formed in just 2018, Jersey Bulls are a newborn to the English football pyramid. A member of the Combined counties league means they play in the 10th step of English football, but this has not stopped them in grabbing the headlines, most notably with a history making FA Cup run in this year’s competition. Away from the pitch and the club have had many struggles in getting where they are today and still face criticism surrounding the club’s participation in English football. However, armed with fantastic facilities and a hunger for success, The Bulls have every right to believe they will be the next footballing success story, and this is why.
The FA cup has given the club a platform to make a name for themselves. They became the first ever Jersey side to ever compete in England’s oldest competition when they faced West Sussex side Horsham YMCA back in August. Such an occasion was met with the performance as the Island side ran out 10-1 winners in front of a Covid capped 1000 Jersey fans – still the second highest ever attendance recorded for an FA Cup game at that stage, only beaten by former professional club Macclesfield Town.
The competition only continued to provide more success for the Bulls, making it past the preliminary qualifying rounds to set up the potential of ties against sides from higher divisions. Their story was picked up by the BBC when their second qualifying round fixture against Isthmian division side, Sutton Common Rovers was selected to be shown live on the broadcasting channel. This was another momentous occasion for the club and the island, and it is no secret how the broadcasting money and the exposure that comes with it can have such an impact on a club and its community at this level.
With the fixture ending 2-2 in Sutton, a replay back in St. Helier saw the Bulls once again defy the odds and progress to the Third qualifying round with a 3-2 win in Surrey where 9 goals for Sol Solomon saw the forward top the FA Cup goalscoring charts for the season’s competition. A tie against Chertsey in the 3rd round proved just too much for the Bulls as their fairytale came to an end in a narrow 1-0 defeat, the first ever competitive home defeat the Springfield stadium has ever seen.
This success has captivated the whole island who believe they should have the right to compete in the English leagues. Prior to The bulls being formed the Jersey FA had sent applications to be registered as a UEFA and FIFA recognized association, trying to follow similar arrangement to that of fellow island Gibraltar. However, this application was rejected after they were told they were not recognized as an independent nation. After this setback the island came up with a new plan, The Jersey Bulls.
Fully formed in 2018 after a long application process to compete away from the island and have a go at tackling the English football pyramid. Following a model adopted by neighbors Guernsey who entered the English football pyramid back in 2011 and find themselves one step above the Reds. With no other Jersey sides at any capacity to be able to do what the Bulls have done; Jersey have adopted the Bulls as their own side. So much so the suggestion of ‘shall we go to the football’ could only mean one thing: a trip to the Springfield stadium.
So, what does the future hold for the Jersey side? Despite external concerns Jersey have the armory to conquer English football. A state of the art 7000 capacity stadium containing a modern 4g surface far exceeds any other stadium at that level. Inspiring the island where Rugby Union and cricket dominated the sport scene has done wonders, providing a sense of community and backing that will continue to fight Jersey’s cause to be a part of English football. This is vital due to the ongoing complaints the club receives from English clubs where travel, especially in an era influenced by Covid, is considered excessive.
Whilst the club are still battling off the pitch, on the pitch there is one clear goal for the Bulls: promotion. Denied promotion back in 2019 due to Covid causing the league season to be null and void despite Jersey running away with the league, The Bulls feel they are prepared for the next step up. Currently sitting 6th in the Combined Counties south, there is plenty of work for Jersey if they are to achieve promotion, however with games in hand due to the FA cup distraction, The bulls have every confidence they can finish the season in a promotion spot.
With the red flag being waved, it is fair to say The Bulls are on the charge. With such progress for a club still considered to be a baby in their footballing world the sky is the limit for Jersey, inspiring an island that can dream of one day being seen as a professional football club.