Gridiron mum was ‘beating heart’ of team

september 19  social 'Fylde Falcons reunion dinner at Fylde Rugby Club, Ansdell'''From left  Ken Benson, Muriel Benson, American guest of honour Jeff Cristman.'''Fylde Falcons Reunion Dinner  - 5th September 2009 - held at the Fylde Rugby Club - St.Annes Lancs
september 19 social 'Fylde Falcons reunion dinner at Fylde Rugby Club, Ansdell'''From left Ken Benson, Muriel Benson, American guest of honour Jeff Cristman.'''Fylde Falcons Reunion Dinner - 5th September 2009 - held at the Fylde Rugby Club - St.Annes Lancs
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A mother described as ‘the beating heart’ of one of the UK’s first American football teams has died, aged 77.

Muriel Benson helped mastermind the success of the Fylde Falcons for a decade from her Poulton Road home in Layton.

And she even became a substitute “mom” to American youngsters who travelled from the states to Blackpool to ply their trade with the Falcons.

The Fylde Falcons were formed in 1983 on the back of a boom in the sport, fed by UK TV’s first coverage of Gridiron.

The team competed for more than 10 years before finally disbanding in 1993.

Mrs Benson and her husband Ken were deeply involved in club organisation for most of that time and their Blackpool home was a hub for the team’s activities.

The Benson’s interest in the game had been sparked by the participation of their 16-year-old son Martin.

Martin, now 49, and secretary of AFC Fylde, said: “Myself and a group of friends started watching American football when Channel 4 started showing in the 80s.

“We got a team together and, between them, my mum and dad got involved in helping run things as a way of supporting us.

“My mum was the beating heart of the team and a motherly presence for a lot of the American players who came over.

“My dad is currently in America because it was my mum’s dying wish that he attend the wedding in Cincinatti of our first quarterback.”

The Falcons’ achievements included a northern division title in the British American Football League and appearance in four quarter-finals.

Mr and Mrs Benson were originally from Preston but moved to Blackpool for work and Mrs Benson was employed by the Inland Revenue for 15 years until 1985. She had suffered from ill health in recent years.

Four years ago she was diagnosed with a rare heart and lung condition and needed specialised surgery at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

After suffering a fall at home, she had been in Blackpool Victoria Hospital for a week when she died on September 2.

Her funeral will be at St Mark’s Church, Layton, on September 26 followed by cremation at Carleton.