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Published on October 10th, 2011 | by Riff Reff

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Roller Derby Europe: An Update From Riff Ref

Several encounters with Derby people from outside Europe made me realise that a lot of folk have no real idea what is going on over here. So if you’re interested, I give you a quick overview about the status of European Roller Derby.

At this point there are 85 bouting leagues and another about 120 not-yet-bouting groupings in Europe; the majority were founded within the last 18 months. Many of them are not even bout ready. Most of Europe is still a developing derby country, but this is only half of the story.

In spring 2006 the London Rollergirls and the Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz (in Stuttgart, Germany) started practicing. I don’t know about London but the Stuttgart girls started skating in parking lots until they eventually found a night club which let them skate there. If you are a five on five subscriber, you might have read the article about their beginnings.

The first public “bout” on European soil was played in May 2007 in said nightclub under dubious circumstances. The track was resized to fit in the venue, no safety zone, the bar was the track boundary on one straightaway, the stage in turns three and four. There were iron poles wrapped in mattresses. There were penalty games and the crowd (including myself) loved it.

Later that year the first interleague was played between Stuttgart and the newly formed London Rockin’ Rollers. Leagues started to pop up, mostly in the UK, e.g. Auld Reekie in Edinburgh, Scotland, Glasgow (also Scotland), and the Blitz Dames of Birmingham (England).

The first real milestone came in 2009 when the London Rollergirls hosted the first tournament with 12 teams (Roll Brittania). Ten from the UK plus Stuttgart and Berlin from Germany. During the tournament LRG demonstrated their lasting supremacy by winning the final with a 300 point margin. But the participating teams and especially the hosting league proved that European Roller Derby was in fact modern flat track derby. From that moment on everyone who witnessed this knew how it is supposed to be.

From there on it just exploded. At the first boot camp we held in Stuttgart in April 2010 (Rally In The Valley) we had participants from over 20 different leagues from 10 countries. Every month you have new leagues popping up somewhere. Although the term league is not exact. Only a handful of leagues are playing an actual intraleague season. The vast majority of games in Europe are interleague play. What is also remarkable that 100% of all European leagues play flat track and use the WFTDA’s rule set. Recently a couple of men’s teams were forming out of loose groups of skaters, also playing flat track under WFTDA rules.

At this point there are 85 bouting leagues and approximately another 120 not-yet-bouting groupings in Europe. The WFTDA has officially announced Europe as region by the end of 2010 with the acceptance of the London Rollergirls as full member league. In the meantime there is a second full WFTDA member league, the Auld Reekie Roller Girls of Edinburgh. Another eight apprentice leagues from countries across Europe are working their way towards becoming full members as well.

Thanks to London at the WFTDA Eastern Region Playoffs, you all know that we know how to play roller derby, and it will be only a matter of time when the WFTDA Championships will take place by the River Thames.

Riff Reff is a veteran referee, Head Ref for Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz, and roller derby journalist, bringing all of Europe scores, rankings and articles at EuroDerby (European Roller Derby Central).

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