The BSF Executive held its annual in-person weekend meeting on 6-7 November in Manchester. Below is an account of some of the main discussions and decisions.
Present: Ieuan Gale (President), Laura Burkhardt (Treasurer), Liz Graham (Competitions and Membership Officer), Simon Mortimer (Communications and Marketing Officer), Pete Saunders (Technical Officer), Mike Jennings, Stella Ackrell and Lesley Morisetti (General Officers).
Apologies: Alexis Markham-Hill (National Teams Officer), Mike Lott (Coaching Officer).
Guests: John Boyd, Joelle Watkins and Liz Knight (BSUK).
Historic National Team rosters and trophies
Simon Mortimer, who has become the closest thing the BSF has to a National Teams historian, is trying to find the names of all players who have ever represented GB Teams in all age groups and formats in official international tournaments and is also trying to find and gather together all trophies won by our national teams in official competitions so they can eventually be displayed in one place, perhaps at Farnham Park.
With regard to players, Mike Jennings will check to see if the Softball Europe (formerly the ESF) has retained rosters from past tournaments, and if so, how far back these go.
With regard to trophies, Simon has located and obtained some but not others: a number of GB Slowpitch and GB Men’s Fastpitch Team trophies remain outstanding. The location of a pair of very large trophies given to the BSF and the BBF by the British Olympic Association when softball and baseball were dropped from the Olympics after Beijing also needs to be confirmed.
2022 BSF AGM and League Heads Forum
The date for the 2022 BSF AGM will be Saturday 26 February, and the meeting, to be held from 2.00-4.00 pm, will be online rather than in person.
Annual awards will be announced at the AGM and there will also be new inductions into the BSF Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame awards will be presented, where possible, at appropriate tournaments next year during awards ceremonies.
Because the AGM will be a remote meeting, the annual League Heads Forum will need to be held on a different day. The plan is to hold this on Saturday 12 February from 2.00-4.00 pm.
The BSF Executive has agreed to a proposal from BSUK and our insurance brokers to harmonise the renewal date for our Civil and Public Liability and Personal Accident and Injury policies to 1 April. To do this, the BSF will purchase 16 months of Civil and Public Liability insurance on the policy’s renewal date (1 December 2021) and will renew the current Personal Accident and Injury insurance when it falls due on 1 April 2022.
This will ensure continued year-round insurance cover under both policies but also bring them more in line with the playing season. An additional advantage of buying 16 months’ worth of Civil and Public Liability insurance is that the BSF can maintain the current cost over a time period when rates are expected to rise.
National Team training at Farnham Park
Under an agreement reached early this year between the BSF and BSUK, the BSF paid a lump sum to BSUK which allowed all BSF national teams to book available pitches for training at Farnham Park at no direct cost to the team for the period from 1 April 2021 through 31 March 2022.
Although fewer national team training sessions were held than had been originally planned, the arrangement still provided value for money.
The plan is to renew this arrangement for 2022-23, though a price has yet to be determined, and to build this agreement into the Service Level Agreement (SLA) recently agreed by the BSF and BSUK for the BSF’s current financial year, which began on 1 October.
The BSF has also agreed to set a small amount of money aside to help national teams with the cost of venue hire for indoor winter sessions held for trial and selection purposes.
It has been suggested that the BSF Executive needs to put some thought into succession planning, particularly around how the organisation will cope if someone suddenly leaves their position because of accident, illness or some other reason.
Role descriptions that are currently being drawn up by all members of the Executive will help, as will the storage of relevant documents on a site where they can be easily retrieved, and such a site will be available shortly. Training and induction for temporary replacements in a key role also needs to be planned.
It was agreed that in the event of the BSF President suddenly leaving their post, a temporary replacement would be an Executive member chosen by the remaining members of group, pending the next AGM and an election.
BSF Safeguarding Officer Stella Ackrell, who has recently added this role to her General Officer portfolio, has met with BSUK Safeguarding Officer Mark Caress to discuss how the two organisations can work together effectively, given that BSUK has overall responsibility for safeguarding matters for softball and baseball.
Among Stella’s key tasks will be to provide information to BSUK on where there are under-18 players in the sport; which leagues, clubs and teams have designated Safeguarding Officers; and how things currently work with regarding to safeguarding procedures in British softball.
From next year, the bulk of this information will be collected through additional fields on BSF registration forms.
One question is what remedies should be adopted where teams are unable or unwilling to comply with safeguarding requirements. This is a topic that the BSF will take to the League Heads Forum in February, along with information on opportunities for safeguarding education (BSUK can now deliver the basic “Time to Listen” safeguarding course).
World and European slowpitch competitions
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is still planning to run the first-ever World Co-ed Slowpitch Cup for national teams in 2023 but plans for this have been stalled by the fact that the WBSC Slowpitch Working Group has not met since early this year.
Mike Jennings, as a representative from Europe on the Working Group, along with Softball Europe President Gabriel Waage, is pushing for the Working Group to convene before Christmas, and to identify a date, venue and format for the competition.
One of the issues associated with the WBSC Slowpitch World Cup is that only WBSC-approved bats will be able to be used at the event, which means that many bats currently on the ASA-approved list will be banned. Mike and BASU Training Officer Pete Saunders are currently trying to identify which bats are likely to be banned, and Softball Europe is considering whether to move to the WBSC list of approved bats for its slowpitch competitions next summer.
If this happens, will we need to follow suit in the UK?
Meanwhile, postponements to European slowpitch events in 2020 and 2021 caused by Covid mean that both the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship and the European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship – which will be a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup – will be played in the same year in 2022. While this is not ideal, and some players may struggle to attend two tournaments in a single season, Softball Europe, after carefully considering all the options, concluded there was no choice.
The European Men’s Slowpitch Championship looks likely to be held from 13-18 June in Colorno, Italy, and the hope is that the European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship, which still needs a host to come forward, can be held early in August.
Pete Saunders told the meeting that most BASU training courses, which used to be carried out in-person and primarily in league settings, will be delivered online in future, even if and when the Covid pandemic is over, because it will be cheaper for everyone and take up less time for those participating. Softball Europe adopted a similar approach last year and it worked well.
Instruction will be delivered online through a series of modules and tutorials, which will be completed by the new year after many months of work and will feature some outstanding supporting animation by BASU umpire Chris Lunn. In-person sessions will need to be organised for field work and assessment.
Since no BASU courses have been run since 2019, there may be a high level of demand in 2022 and there is a limited number that can take part effectively on any one Zoom call, so this will have to be carefully organised.
In addition, a large number of current BASU umpires will need to be assessed next year to keep up their qualification. League umpires will be assessed locally while umpires who officiate nationally will be assessed at selected tournaments.
BASU is still hoping to deliver an in-person Trainers’ Course next year to create more online trainers.
Placing Games at National Championships
The BSF Executive has decided to do away with placing games for Places 5-8 at NSL National Championships.
While Places 1-4 will be determined by playoff games after round-robins have been completed (the BSF currently uses a Page Playoff system), Places 5-8 will be determined by the round-robin standings.
This will prevent teams with no chance of a medal in the competition having to wait for long periods to play a final game that many would consider to be meaningless.
Accounts and Budget
BSF Treasurer Laura Burkhardt ran through draft BSF Accounts for 2020-21 and the developing Budget for 2021-22.
In 2020-21, the BSF achieved a surplus of around £13,000, which, along with the Sport England grant we received in 2020, has brought reserves back up to £43,000 – more than sufficient when set against the current reduced annual fee income.
However, projected spending plans for 2021-22, which take a conservative position on income rebounding further but project a full season of domestic and international competition activity, suggest a £20,000-25,000 loss, which would bring reserves down to an unacceptable level of only £15,000-£20,000. This would be around a third of income levels when good governance suggests 75-80% is required.
Further work on the Budget will be needed before it can be approved by the Executive and presented to the AGM in February 2022.
BSUK CEO John Boyd, Head of Commercial Joelle Watkins and Facility Operations and Events Manager Liz Knight joined the BSF Executive on Sunday, and many of the topics discussed were BSUK-related. The first topic was plans for further developments at Farnham Park, with a number of changes and upgrades planned for 2022, which BSUK will announce shortly.
BSUK expects to be able to confirm a calendar of events at Farnham Park by the end of November, which will allow the BSF in turn to finalise a large portion of the overall Softball Calendar for 2022 and begin putting events in the website Events List.
BSUK’s events strategy for 2022 includes some new events and an expansion of an existing event (more details will be published shortly).
Head of Performance Systems
Applications closed during the week beginning 8 November for the new BSUK position of Head of Performance Systems (HoPS), which will be financed through UK Sport grants to the GB Women’s Team programme and the GB Men’s Baseball programme. The position will be part-time – the equivalent of two days a week – and the successful candidate will work on behalf of both sports.
The HoPS will be the lynchpin bringing all aspects of the women’s fastpitch programme together, building a structure from entry level through the talent pathway (including the Academy and HPA) to the senior national team. The post-holder will also bring knowledge and experience of what it takes to win at a world and Olympic level.
Between 25 and 30 applications have been received so far. Shortlisting and interviews could be as early as the week beginning 15 November, with appointment by the end of the month. The experience the selected candidate will bring, John Boyd told the meeting, should enable them to pick up the role with a minimal learning curve.
International Representation Grant
BSUK has applied for and received a £12,000 grant from UK Sport to support international representation on the part of baseball and softball.
The money is for four years and will be used by the BSF, the BBF and BSUK. While some money will be available to support attendance at international meetings and Congresses, the wider aim is for British softball and baseball to develop and implement an international strategy.
BSUK is currently working with the BBF Board to put together a Baseball Development Plan and will turn its attention early in the new year to the creation of a Slowpitch Development Plan. There will be consultation with key people in the sport as well as with the BSF Executive.
Meanwhile, BSUK Head of Development Chris Rawlings will contact BSF Coaching Officer Mike Lott so that the two organisations can work together on plans for Slowpitch Academy sessions and for other slowpitch coaching and player clinics in 2022. These could include women-only and position-specific player clinics.
BSUK Development Charter
BSUK’s Development Charter is designed to renew relationships between the development agency and the leagues, clubs and teams that deliver softball and baseball, and it is underpinned by a commitment to support these organisations on safeguarding.
All affiliated BSF clubs and teams are enrolled automatically, at least for safeguarding support, but many other benefits are on offer.
Information on these benefits will be detailed shortly on the BSF website and at the remote League Heads Forum and AGM meetings in February 2022.
One question still to be resolved for softball is whether some Development Charter benefits are better delivered through leagues as opposed to teams.
BSUK is also creating a Fastpitch Development Plan that will set out the direction of travel and metrics for increasing participation and quality in this format, starting from current baseline numbers.
In 2021, BSUK has carried out youth fastpitch sessions inside and outside schools at various locations around the country (along with some in-school teacher support) plus talent development sessions for national team pool players and has restarted Academy Softball. How and when the Softball HPA will restart, given the current shortage of players, is under consideration.
BSUK’s Fastpitch Development Plan will be ready around the end of February and will deal with both women’s and men’s fastpitch. A final draft, which the BSF Executive will need to approve, will be created in March.
Meanwhile, the BSF Executive has asked BSUK to provide baseline numbers on current participation and activities in both fastpitch development and pathway programmes, so that progress can be measured going forward.
With the appointment of the Head of Performance Services, Alyson Spinas-Valainis’s Fastpitch Development Manager role will focus more on participation growth and pathway development, including on-field coaching.
GB Women in children’s science programme
Simon Mortimer told the Executive about a BAFTA award-winning Children’s BBC Science programme called Operation Ouch!, which aims to teach kids across the country about Medical Science and Biology, and has contacted the GB Women’s Team programme to see if they could do a segment on the mechanics of playing fastpitch softball.
Discussions are still going ongoing, but it looks like the upshot will be that GB Women’s Team player Amie Hutchison will travel to a lab at the University of Worcester where the mechanics of fastpitch pitching will be analysed and a programme segment created around this.
This is a great opportunity to showcase women’s fastpitch softball and the GB programme. More information should be available soon.
The next BSF Executive videoconference meeting will be on the evening of Thursday 9 December 2021.
Anyone in the community or on the Executive with matters to bring to the meeting should contact BSF Administrator Bob Fromer.