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Analysis From The Annual Scottish Bloodbowl Survey

TL:DR

It’s clear from the survey results that we have a thriving community that enjoys the game whether it be in a League or Tournament format. There’s a surprising level of interest in playing Bloodbowl for Scotland at the elite end of the game, which coaches should be supported in.


There are a number of recommendations for the SBBC to consider that came to the fore in the analysis of the data. These can be read in the Executive Summary section and no doubt in due course the Committee will be able to evaluate the information and determine its priorities. Thank you to all the coaches who took part in sharing their views, it’s very much appreciated.


Executive Summary

The second Scottish Bloodbowl Coaches Annual Survey received a great response with 93 coaches connected to the community taking the time to give their views - thank you! One in six coaches lived outside of Scotland giving us an opportunity to compare and contrast views between coaches living in Scotland with those further afield, often referred to as the Exiles. There were some clear trends in attitudes, some of which will strike the reader as fairly obvious, others as a bit of a surprise.


Some headlines:

  • Coaches regardless of where they play, overwhelmingly participate in tournaments for fun and the opportunity to meet people - a healthy reminder how sociable Bloodbowl is!

  • There is a strong and healthy one-day tournament scene within Scotland that is well supported (record attendance numbers in 2023 as can be seen in the Chairman’s Annual End of Year Review). 

  • Coaches within Scotland when asked to express their preference for tournament length prefer one-day tournaments over two-day tournaments by a ratio of 3:1. However when we contrast this with the preferences of the Exiles this trend is reversed with two-day tournaments being preferred on a ratio of 4:1. This stark reversal in attitude is perhaps due to the Exiles' closer proximity to large two-day events, which benefit from long-standing heritage and strong fields such as the NAF Champs or Waterbowl.

  • Regardless of how a coach rates their own ability at the game about half of the coaches (forty-seven) have a strong or very strong interest in representing Scotland at the top end of the game.

  • The distribution of strong or very strong preference for leagues versus tournaments was fairly evenly distributed on a 30:40:30 bell curve indicating that both leagues and tournaments will continue to make a vibrant and equally important contribution to the community and its continued growth.


The Annual Coach Survey is not conducted just for the purposes of curiosity, but is a useful tool to tease out potential areas for the SBB Committee to explore and continue to improve our support for the community.


Considering the feedback from respondents the key recommendations for consideration and review by the Scottish Bloodbowl Committee (SBBC), League Commissioners (LCs) and Tournament Organisers (TOs) include:


  1. For the SBBC in partnership with TOs to review the Scottish Tournament scene covering the following areas:

    1. The calendar and the spacing of tournaments throughout the year to maximise year-round coverage and participation rates with existing well-run tournaments

    2. Continue to support TOs to deliver the already exceptional provision of existing tournaments in Scotland and where feasible expanding to meet demand.

    3. The scope to increase two-day tournaments from two in 2024 to at least three in 2025 with the ambition of achieving participation rates of 80+ coaches with a particular focus on building ‘destination’ two-day tournaments. The outcome from these tournaments should encourage coaches to travel to Scotland from further afield, enriching the tournament experience and also increasing the size and quality-in-depth of the coaching gene pool that Scottish based coaches are exposed to. In turn helping to raise overall playing standards of our coaches to support their widely held ambitions to play for Scotland at the elite level of the game.

  2. For the SBBC in partnership with the Captain of Team Scotland to support the burgeoning ambition of nearly fifty coaches who have expressed an interest in playing Bloodbowl for Scotland by;

    1. Evaluating existing pathways and creating new pathways to better illuminate routes for coaches to build their experiences and abilities at the game in general.

    2. Exploring how to close the gap from coaches’ current expectations and tournament preferences with how to obtain the necessary experience needed to play at the top end of the game and gain selection for Eurobowl.

    3. Encouraging and planning reciprocal visits to key tournaments outside of Scotland to:

      1. Raise the overall standards and experiences of our coaches in line with and support of their personal ambitions to play for Scotland.

      2. Raise awareness of the SBB community and our tournament opportunities with the wider Bloodbowl community outside Scotland.

  3. The SBB League lead continues to work with LCs to support this important part of the community by being guided by the recent findings from the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner survey.

  4. The Scottish Championship system and whether it's fit for purpose in its current guise.

  5. SBBC’s Tournament Lead to consider co-creating in partnership with TOs a Tournament charter that Scottish TOs commit to for consistent delivery to build on the already excellent tournament scene which attending coaches can depend upon. This could potentially be seen in the context of an expansion to the existing framework for Scottish tournaments that TOs undertake to qualify for the Scottish Championship.


Review of the Data

Let’s review the underlying data and responses to the survey that lead to the above recommendations.


Demographics of the survey base

When coaches were asked where they lived the following was noted:

  • The largest cohorts were from Lothian and Central with twenty-one coaches each (22.6%)

  • The next largest cohort with sixteen coaches who identified as Exiles (17%), two from as far afield as Australia, with the majority, 75%, of twelve coaches being based in England

  • There was reasonable representation from all of the regions ensuring a representative view from coaches across Scotland.

  • An improvement for next year’s survey is to have more easily identifiable regions; some responses showed confusion with the intention of the regional labels and meant there was some manual manipulation to classify by the intended region.



Considering where coaches play in the league the following was noted:

  • The largest cohort of coaches, twenty-two, nearly a quarter, did not play in any leagues

  • The next largest cohort was from MKKBL with seventeen coaches responding. This is no surprise what with it being the largest league in Scotland

  • Rounding out the top three with ten coaches was the Edinburgh League of Gamers.




Why do we play Bloodbowl

Knowing the underlying motivations and why coaches play Bloodbowl will perhaps help League Commissioners, Tournament Organisers and the Team Scotland Captain understand the motivations and ambitions of the coach base. Some interesting things to note:

  • It’s clear that the fundamental reason why we all play this game is because we want to have fun and meet people whilst doing so. A heartening reminder that we have a vibrant and friendly community.

  • Following on from the obvious, the group is pretty evenly split about playing tournaments with the ambition to win and the opportunity to play different races.

  • What is striking is that with the least amount of votes, regardless of where it’s ranked in preference order is the Scottish Championship system. This might mean we need to understand what purpose the system serves and whether it could be improved upon in its current state to make it more appealing to coaches.



Leagues and Tournament Preferences and Participation Rates

When coaches were asked to indicate their preference between Leagues and tournaments there was a fairly even distribution, but with a slight leaning towards tournaments (32%) over league play (28%)



Tournament participation rates has a number of interesting views which shows;

  • An active player base regardless of location playing in a significant number of tournaments each year.

  • Scottish based coaches predominantly play in one-day tournaments whilst Exiles have a stronger preference for two-day tournaments. This is largely down to the make-up of the tournament schedule in Scotland being one-day events. With the introduction of Mulligan’s as a national and two-day tournament in 2024 the number of Scottish based coaches playing the longer format will naturally begin to increase from zero.

  • Exiles, whilst fewer in number, are more likely to play in five or more tournaments a year. This could well be down to the greater level of choice and frequency of tournaments in England where the majority of the Exiles are based.





When coaches were asked to name their favourite tournament there was a not unexpected theme where high praise and many mentions were given to:

  • The Alicante World Cup V - a rare once in every four year event with the largest turnout of coaches (2,300) to date meant this was a festival event that had to be experienced to appreciate the enormity of the occasion. It also happened to be the author’s personal tournament highlight of 2023 too.

  • UKTC is a team tournament held in York that has a strong field of coaches from across Europe. There was quite a large Scottish travelling contingent who attended the event and UKTC seemed to strike a chord with a good number of coaches

  • Mulligan’s the largest tournament in Scotland also received notable mention for its fun experience and it’s not inconsiderable achievement of qualifying Scotland for its first two-day NAF national event this coming March 2024

  • Most tournaments within Scotland received plaudits and mentions from coaches which speaks to the great diversity of enjoyable tournament offerings that speaks to every coach.


Some examples of feedback received;

“The World Cup, partly because of the massive scale - was somewhat stunning to see so many nerds in one place!”
“I would have said UKTC if it wasn't a World Cup year - Alicante was just an incredible tournament experience to be soaked up with friends at least once! Roll on WC 2027”
“UKTC - first time there, first team tournament. The scale and atmosphere was great, had the chance to play a bunch of new coaches from all over the place (despite drawing Aberdonians round 2)”
Playing for Scotland

Interest in being selected to play Bloodbowl for Scotland at Eurobowl is very high with just over half of the coaching population keen to play at the highest level.


When this interest is contrasted with a coach’s self-evaluation of their current ability and their preference for tournament types some interesting things are worth noting:

  • Coaches' self-evaluation of their ability follows a normal distribution bell curve and they are generally slightly restrained, which points to a fair personal realisation of a coach’s current capabilities and limitations. This creates a good starting point to help coaches gain the experiences most relevant to them to improve their game and increase their chances of selection

  • A coach's current ability does not appear to be a barrier to expressing an interest in playing for Scotland, which is a good indication there is a sense of a journey for coaches to go on and improve before being in a position to be considered for selection.

  • An overwhelming majority of Scottish coaches seeking selection for the national squad prefer one-day tournaments to two-day tournaments. This highlights a potential mismatch between personal preference and the likely needed experience to be gained from performances at two-day events with bigger and stronger fields than typically found at one-day tournaments. This in turn would enable the Scotland Captain to evaluate a coach’s potential and ability to perform in the most competitive environments. 


It would require further questioning of those coaches most interested in playing for Scotland to ascertain whether it's a dream to play for Scotland or a serious ambition and an arduous journey that the coaches are willingly prepared to undertake and require support in.





Qualitative Feedback

When given the opportunity to give feedback or praise on any issue within Scottish Bloodbowl we had a number of warming comments such as:


“Honestly the craic is good - I feel like my skill level is below the top guys but I've improved by a huge amount compared to when I started, which was only a year ago! It's wild how nice everyone's been too, that's a big selling point for the circuit…”

“Should be very proud of how well the structure has formed and how welcoming the scene is.”


“I have yet to play a TT game but have found the community extremely welcoming and forward thinking (and also very professional). I am interested in seeing tournaments and meeting folks in person, but the online presence is very reassuring and open to newcomers!”

“I think Blood Bowl in Scotland is growing at a good pace just now. With our first National, and the launch of the website, I think that everyone should continue with what they are doing and see how everything is looking by the end of the year.”


Issues that were raised for consideration revolved around:

  • The general approach to selling tickets for tournaments, when they should go on sale, should a coach be able to reserve without paying immediately, (and given a grace period to pay) transparency for waiting lists and event capacities were key points raised. 


This leads me to make recommendations of having an annual calendar review meeting with TOs collectively and also considering a TO charter co-created in partnership so that Scottish Tournaments have a minimum standard that coaches can feel confident in. That said it should also be noted, that TOs do an extraordinary amount of work, often at personal financial risk and that the wider coach base should take the time to understand the constraints TOs work under.


  • A general call for more online games whether that be a Fumbbl Scottish Super league, BB3 Scottish league and more. Work in this arena has already begun with Sco Bowl and the recent announcement from Phil (SBBC Online Lead) with the creation of a Scottish BB League on Fumbbl to be launched upon conclusion of the current Sco Bowl tournament.


Conclusion

This has been an interesting exercise and hopefully one that will see the Scottish Bloodbowl community benefit from ongoing on an annual basis.


Recommendations have been laid out in the Executive Summary for the SBB Committee and the wider community to consider.


Feedback on the survey and areas of potential interest for future surveys are welcomed and appreciated. Thank you once again for all the coaches who took the time to generously respond to the survey.


Jock, SBB Community Lead.

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