IT’S the clash roller derby fans have been waiting for - the world’s number one team, New York’s Gotham Girls will go head to head on the flat track with London Rollergirls on Saturday.
And it’s being played right here in Leeds.
Tickets for the game sold out in just four minutes, and the city’s own league, Leeds Roller Dolls, have been partly responsible for making it happen.
Roller derby is a highly competitive sport played on quad roller skates, and Leeds was the first league to form in Yorkshire in 2007. The sport has rapidly evolved over recent years, and gone are the tutus and spectacle replaced by fierce athletes who train for hours each week - though many skaters still compete under nicknames, a nod to the sport’s beginnings in Texas.
Hayley Avron is captain of Leeds’ A team the Rebel Roses, who will play London’s second team, the Brawl Saints, before the headline game.
She said: “Gotham are unbeatable at the moment, but London have paved the way for other UK roller derby. They are head, shoulders and kit bags above any other UK team, so it will be a great game.
“We’re proud of the small part we’ve played in getting the game here. London needed to find a large enough venue to host 1,000 fans and a skater bootcamp, and we have that here at Futsal.”
Gotham Girls have won the biggest accolade in club competition, the WFTDA Championships, three times in a row and have legions of fans around the world. The league, founded in 2003, has four home teams, and were founding members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the sport’s governing body.
London Rollergirls (LRG) were the UK’s first roller derby league, and are currently fifth in the world. It will be the first time the league’s have met on the track and the competition will be fierce.
LRG skater Amy Ruffell said: “We’re going into the game as the underdog, but we’ll be putting up a fight.
“Since we started playing in the US in 2010, we realised that it was possible to play at a high level.
“You always want to play the best teams you can - even if it means you could get the biggest spanking.”
Gotham Girls’ skater Melissa Waggoner, aka Mick Swagger told the YEP: “We are all feeling very excited at the opportunity to play LRG. It’s been a long time coming.
“Our team is expecting a tough game and are excited it’s happening in the UK.”
The game is part of a weekend bootcamp that has attracted skaters from across Europe, and the game itself will be streamed worldwide.
Ms Waggoner added: “We have been working hard to bring the skills that have helped us become good skaters and teammates to the Leeds bootcamp.
“LRG have been such amazing support in this task and we couldn’t have done any of this without the hard work they put in it. They found this great space, so we can have a large number of skaters on four tracks. Suffice to say we are all so ecstatic for this opportunity.”
ROLLER Derby sees teams of skaters take a flat track in a fiercely competitive, athletic and highly-tactical game.
Each hour-long game is split into two-minute ‘jams’ where five skaters from each team are pitted against each other.
The jammers, who wear stars on their helmets, score points while blockers do their best to get in the way of the opposition - all watched by a team of referees to ensure the rules are stuck to. Big hits, spectacular jumps and even bone-breaking injuries, are common.
You can next catch Leeds Roller Dolls in action at the Futsal Arena as part of the Northern Series tournament where they will take on Rainy City Roller Girls on Saturday, July 26. Tickets are already on sale on the Dolls’ website www.leedsrollerdolls.com.
Video courtesy of Gotham Girls Roller Derby.
Pics: Jason Ruffell and Sean Hale