BSF moves towards NSL 3 league play

Fri 26 Oct 2018

With increasing interest around the country in the National Softball League (NSL) competition structure, the BSF has approved a plan that will move towards league competition for NSL 3 in 2019 or more likely in 2020, alongside the current NSL 1 and NSL 2.

A large number of teams from around the country have expressed interest in NSL 3, and BSF Competitions Director Liz Graham has created a plan that has received approval both from the BSF Executive and from current and potential NSL teams.

While it may be possible to put an NSL 3 league structure in place for next season, the BSF currently favours starting NSL 3 league play in 2020, to provide time to negotiate with tournament organisers that might host NSL 3 and to make sure that a fully-functioning league can be delivered.

If NSL 3 league play is to begin in 2020, then there will once again be an NSL 3 tournament next year, played alongside the NSL 1 and NSL 2 Nationals at Farnham Park on the weekend of 31 August-1 September if sufficient grass fields can be booked.

From 2020 onwards, if sufficient fields at Farnham Park can be secured at the beginning of September, then NSL 1, NSL 2 and NSL 3 Nationals will all be played there on the same weekend.

The plan

The plan for NSL 3 is as follows:

  • There will be two eight-team NSL 3 leagues, one based in the North and one in the South.
  • NSL 3 league play will take place on two weekends at two different tournaments in the North and the South (excluding the Diamond Series).  Tournaments that offer to host NSL 3 will need to dedicate two fields to the competition.  The BSF will produce the NSL 3 round-robin schedule, and then the top four teams from the round-robin will go into a Cup playoff, with the bottom four teams playing a Plate playoff to complete the tournament.
  • Tournaments in the North that could host NSL 3 might include Leeds, Manchester, East Midlands, Sefton and others.
  • Tournaments in the South that could host NSL 3 might include Bristol, Solent, Windsor, British Airways and others.
  • If there are multiple bids from the same area, NSL 3 play could rotate among these tournaments over time, with the proviso that the BSF’s minimum standards for tournaments must be met and dates will need to be taken into consideration.

How NSL 3 will work

  • There will be two weekends of league play with dedicated home and away fixtures.
  • The top team from each league will be promoted to NSL 2 for the following season.
  • The top four teams from each league will go to NSL 3 Nationals.
  • The bottom two teams from each NSL 3 league will be demoted out of the league, and can go back on a waiting list for places.
  • The two teams demoted from NSL 2 will go into NSL 3 and will get first choice of which league – North or South -- they want to enter.
  • New teams – including those demoted from NSL 3 -- will be able to apply for any remaining spaces in the Northern and Southern NSL 3 leagues.
  • Any team not fulfilling their NSL 3 league fixtures or failing to take up an NSL 3 Nationals place will be removed from the league.

NSL 3 roster regulations

  • Players can only roster to one NSL team.
  • There will be a cut-off date for players to switch teams and still qualify for Nationals.
  • Guests can play for one team once per day, but only if the team does not have five men and five women from their own roster available.  Guests cannot be used to allow a team to bat six-and-six.
  • Guest players can only play up or across a grade.
  • The qualification criteria for NSL 3 Nationals will be four days of play for that team, two of which must be in NSL 3 league play.


Here is how the transition from where we are now to full NSL 3 league play in 2020 will look:

Assigning teams to NSL 3 leagues

After the first full season of league play in NSL 3, three spaces will be available in both the North and South Divisions, because one team will have been promoted to NSL 2 and two teams will have been demoted out of the division.

This means that the two teams demoted from NSL 2 will be able to go into their preferred league from a geographical point of view, even if they are both from the same area.

Currently, the teams that have expressed interest in joining an NSL 3 league are evenly split between North and South.  In future, however, if a team winds up playing outside their area for a season -- e.g. a London team opting to enter NSL 3 North because no spaces are available in the South – that team will be given the option to enter NSL 3 South the following season. Should there be two “outsiders” playing in a division, the highest-placed team will get the option first. 

However, teams will only be allowed one swap between divisions.

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