They do have us on the main page.
Even if I find another way to link to to the affiliates, you'd have the exact same complaint.There's still be a very noticeable affiliate thingy with only one or two affiliates. Like it or not, we need a link similar to what we currently have on the main page. That's the deal. The best option is to be patient for a bit and wait until we have more affiliates.
Also, as great as your battledome idea is it's not something that would go on one of these tabs. And forum leaders has a link on the main page on the bottom like every other vB forum.