BSF Executive Meeting Report: 2-3 November 2019

Wed 6 Nov 2019

The BSF Executive held its annual face-to-face meeting on the weekend of 2-3 November in London.  Below is a journalistic report on key discussions and decisions.


Present:  Jenny Fromer (President), Liz Graham (Competitions Officer), Bob Fromer (Administrator), Mike Jennings (General Officer), Stella Ackrell (General Officer), Steve Getraer (General Officer), Chris Moon (BASU Representative).

Apologies:  Laura Burkhardt (Treasurer), Alexis Markham-Hill (National Teams Officer), Jana McCaskill (General Officer).

Guests:  Kat Macann (GLSML), Joelle Watkins (BSUK), Alyson Spinas-Valainas (BSF/BSUK Fastpitch Development Manager).

Plans for 2020 AGM

Plans for the 2020 BSF AGM, which will be held on Saturday 29 February 2020 in Manchester, were considered.

In 2019, the AGM was combined with the BSF’s annual League Heads Forum, and a subsequent survey of League Heads showed strong support for doing that again.  So the plan for the 2020 AGM will be to have the League Heads Forum in the morning, some workshop sessions either before or after a lunch break and then the formal AGM in the afternoon.

Possible topics for workshops, which will run contiguously, will be Changes in NSL Rules and Play, Health and Safety/Safeguarding, Slowpitch Scoring and Inclusive Rules. 

All BSF officers are currently in the middle of two-year terms and plan to serve for a second year in 2020.  However, other people are free to stand for any of these positions and a call for nominations for positions on the Executive, nominations for the BSF’s annual awards and BSUK coaching awards, and motions to the AGM will soon be posted on the BSF website.

The current BSF Executive is:

President:  Jenny Fromer
Treasurer:  Laura Burkhardt
Competitions Officer:  Liz Graham
National Teams Officer:  Alexis Markham-Hill
General Officer:  Mike Jennings
General Officer:  Steve Getraer
General Officer:   Stella Ackrell
General Officer:  Jana McCaskill

The BASU Representative on the Executive for 2020 will be appointed by BASU at its AGM on 15 February 2020.  In 2019, this position has been filled by Chris Moon.

Bob Fromer currently serves the BSF as a part-time paid Administrator.

The BSF is also looking for people to undertake the following roles, either as a member of the Executive or on a project basis:

Coaching Development
Competitions Assistant

The Executive has agreed that there will be no change to team affiliation fees for the 2020 season.

ESF Hall of Fame proposal

The Executive has agreed to propose Libby Moss for election to the European Softball Federation Hall of Fame, for her many years of service to softball in the UK during the 1990s and 2000s and for her years of service to the ESF as their Licensing Officer and as a frequent Tournament Controller.

BSF website

The Executive has selected a new design on which to base the refurbishment of the BSF website, and work to create a detailed wireframe and flowthrough chart based on this design is being carried out for the BSF by BaseballSoftballUK Head of Operations Tim Stride.

This should be ready before Christmas and the plan is for the refurbished website to be operational before the 2020 outdoor season begins.

Tim has also created a refurbished and improved Diamond Finder on the BSF website, and teams and leagues will soon be asked to provide information to populate it.

NSL survey and potential changes to NSL play in 2020

The BSF has spent some months considering proposed changes to NSL rules and play for 2020, and recently sent a survey to all NSL teams so that their opinions could inform BSF decisions.

Thirteen of the 24 teams in NSL1 and NSL2 replied, and views were clear-cut on two of three issues they were asked to consider.  In addition, some teams put forward ideas for other changes to NSL rules and play that are also worth looking at.

So the BSF plans to hold a workshop session for NSL teams during the AGM Day on 29 February 2020, where team representatives can talk through both the new and existing proposals.  The BSF will make final decisions after the AGM.

The BSF also wishes to remind NSL teams that starting in 2020, as announced two years ago, there will be two-up, two-down between NSL1 and NSL2 as well as (which is currently the case) between NSL2 and NSL3.

NSL 3 play in 2020 will again be a single National Championship tournament with places open for six teams, plus the two teams relegated after NSL2 league play, with a waiting list maintained in case teams drop out.

The BSF feels that an NSL3 league schedule may still be a couple of years away and will only happen when there is sufficient demand.  It would also be more likely if all NSL play was run by the BSF as stand-alone tournaments rather than within the Diamond Series or other existing competitions.

Inclusive softball rules

The BSF meeting was joined on Saturday afternoon by Kat Macann, currently Director of the Greater London Softball Mixed League, which has conducted a pilot of rules this season to make the sport more inclusive for trans and non-binary players.

The GLSML approach was to start with the standard WBSC slowpitch rules and the Inclusive Rules created by BSUK’s LGBT Panel and make some tweaks with regard to language and to the rules themselves, plus creating a Code of Conduct to support education in this area.

All of this threw up some issues around line-ups and substitutions, the walk rule and the size of ball to be used in a situation where the aim is still to promote women’s participation and preserve gender balance while also making the game inclusive for trans players and players who declare as non-binary.  While the GLSML pilot has been well-received, these issues have not been fully resolved.

The GLSML intends to set up a panel, with participation from the BSF and others, to consider these issues further and create a revised set of rules.  These might be brought to the League Heads Forum on AGM Day in February, or to a workshop set up on the day to consider them.

“The idea is to keep any additional rules as simple as possible,” Kat Macann told the Executive, “and to focus as much if not more on language and education.”

Softball World Series

Sadly, the BSF will no longer be able to hold the annual Softball World Series tournament at the Heston Venue near Heathrow Airport (formerly the BA Concorde Club), and so a new venue will need to be found for next season.

While Farnham Park is certainly one possibility, and the BSF has already received a proposal for organising the tournament there, various difficulties would have to be overcome in order to make that happen, and the BSF will also be looking for other suitable venues. 

Suggestions are welcome (contact Bob Fromer)! 

Single-Sex Nationals in 2020

The BSF is still looking for a date and venue for the Single-Sex Slowpitch Nationals in 2020 and may try to bring the tournament to Farnham Park so that all fields can be fenced, something that players have asked for.

However, next season’s Farnham Park calendar is already very crowded, and finding a suitable weekend could be difficult.  The BSF hopes to make an announcement on this soon.

Confirmed tournaments for 2020 should be on the BSF website Events list later this month.

Web-streaming and marketing in 2020

Later on Saturday afternoon, the BSF meeting was joined by Joelle Watkins, Head of Commercial at BaseballSoftballUK, to discuss marketing, events and web-streaming plans for 2020.

A report on the digital marketing that BSUK has carried out for the BSF in 2019 shows that there has been a significant growth in visitors to the BSF website, BSF Facebook page likes and Twitter followers, and BSF President Jenny Fromer told the meeting that BSUK had done a tremendous job for the BSF in that area.

Three games from the BSF League Nationals and four games from the NSL Nationals were web-streamed in 2019 and were later available on demand on BSUK’s YouTube channel, and these were generally well received, with increased watch time in 2019 over web-streaming done the previous year.

BaseballSoftballUK hopes to invest in its own multi-camera web-streaming hardware before next season, in which case there is a possibility that more events, and more games within events, could be broadcast in 2020.  The BSF Executive, at a future meeting, will draw up a priority list of events.

Joelle told the meeting that BSUK is planning to run more of its own slowpitch softball tournaments at Farnham Park next year, with the possibility of a Slowpitch Academy-based tournament in April and a major tournament related to next year’s MLB London Series games alongside an MLB 60 tournament in May.   More details should be available soon.

Fastpitch Development Manager

On Sunday morning, the BSF meeting was joined by Alyson Spinas-Valainas, who recently took up the post of BSUK/BSF Fastpitch Development Manager, to discuss plans for fastpitch development in the UK, national teams and a reorganisation of the GB Management Committee (GBMC), the BSF subcommittee that supports and oversees national team programmes.

The session began with Alyson providing the Executive, most of whom she was meeting for the first time, with information on her background, which can be found on the BSF website here

With regard to one of the key BSUK and BSF objectives for her role – getting more children and young people playing fastpitch softball – Alyson intends to concentrate on working with schools in BSUK’s focus areas to get young people engaged, ideally starting in the upper years of primary school.

She also has plans to set up dedicated pitching and catching clinics to develop more players with those skills, re-start indoor fastpitch competition, continue Academy programmes during the outdoor playing season and promote fastpitch with exhibition games at slowpitch tournaments.

The BSF has recently decided to disband the existing GB Management Committee, which had lost some of its effectiveness over the past year, and Alyson will be a key part of a smaller and more streamlined GBMC which should be more efficient at making decisions and running programmes and systems to support national teams – though it will need volunteer help to do so.

Pins for GB Teams

The BSF has agreed that it will pay for pins and pennants (or similar gifts) to be produced for all national and club teams participating in official ESF, WBSC or WBSC-sanctioned tournaments (previously, these were only provided for national teams).

The BSF will also consider what design should be used.  Currently, different logo-based designs are used by fastpitch and slowpitch national or club teams, and the BSF would prefer a single design for both.

Can the BSF bid to host an ESF tournament?

A number of tournaments on the ESF calendar for 2020 – including the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship and the Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup – still do not have hosts, and unless a club or country bids to host an ESF tournament, and can meet the costs of doing so, the tournament will not happen.

The ESF hopes to receive bids no later than November of the year before a competition, and failing that, the absolute deadline is the start of the ESF Congress in February of the year in which the tournament should take place.

This has raised the question yet again of whether the BSF could host an ESF event in the UK.  We certainly have the facilities to do so at Farnham Park – few countries in Europe have four-field complexes – but the questions are how the money can be found (the cost will be somewhere north of £20,000, even for a relatively small tournament) and whether enough volunteers will come forward to run the event to ESF requirements.

Another issue with regard to hosting European slowpitch tournaments in the UK is that fewer countries are likely to attend than if the tournament is held on the Continent.  With entries to European slowpitch events rising over recent years, it would be a shame to regress.

The Executive has decided that it would like to consider the possibility of bidding to host an ESF event in 2021 and in the meantime will explore sources of money that could allow that to happen.  However, there remains a small chance that the BSF could try to find a way to bid for the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship in 2020 if no other bids are received, so that the tournament can take place.

WBSC Congress

Both Jenny Fromer and Mike Jennings will be attending the biennial WBSC Congress on 20-21 November in Sakai City, Japan. 

On behalf of British Softball, they will be:

  • Promoting the 2020 Slowpitch World Cup to as many countries as possible and getting an update from the WBSC on plans to hold it.
  • Looking for information and evidence about likelihood of the US asking for baseball/softball inclusion in the 2028 Olympics, to aid the chances of the GB Women’s Team receiving UK Sport funding.
  • Asking if other nations at the Congress are considering rules for the inclusion of non-binary players.

Next meeting

Monthly BSF conference call meetings will resume late in November or in early December, though a date has not yet been set.

Anyone with items to bring to the meeting should contact BSF Administrator Bob Fromer.  

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