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The British Softball Federation Executive held a conference call meeting on the evening of Thursday, June 2. Highlights of discussions and decisions are below.

Present:  Mike Jennings (Treasurer), Julie Calver (Website Officer), James Reilly (Coaching & Development Officer), Vicky Hall (General Officer), Chris Moon (BASU Representative).

Apologies:  Stella Ackrell (President), Liz Graham (Tournaments Officer), Mark Wigington (Marketing Officer), Debbie Moores (General Officer).

Guests:  Jason Greenberg and Bob Fromer (BSUK).

Matters Arising

British Athletes Commission Conference.  At its last meeting on May 5, the BSF Executive had approved a grant of £100 to allow slowpitch representative Martin Cartledge and fastpitch representative Rachael Watkeys to attend the annual British Athletes Commission Conference on behalf of softball. Martin was unable to attend, but Rachael was there and reported that there could be benefits for all softball players (not just players at national team levels) from membership of the Commission. More details will be announced shortly.

Home Runs for Kids.  At the May 5 meeting, the BSF Executive had also agreed to support the Home Runs for Kids campaign promoted throughout Europe by the BeBe's Kidz slowpitch club in Germany. The idea is that teams that want to take part will collect £1 for every home run one of their players hits during the season and at the end of the season the money will be given to a children's charity of the team's choice. To put their support into effect, BSF Tournaments Officer Liz Graham will send an announcement to all BSF teams about how to get involved in the campaign. BSF Coaching & Development Officer James Reilly has volunteered to be a central contact point to collect data from teams about home runs hit and money collected so that teams that top the table can be recognised at the end of the season.

Bring a Bat, Give a Glove!  The BSF will promote its "Bring a Bat, Give a Glove" equipment donation campaign to provide equipment for new softball teams and leagues by creating a flyer that can be distributed to all tournament organisers to put in Tournament Packs during the rest of the season.

Use of tournament functionality on the BSF website

Jason Greenberg from BSUK attended the meeting to ask the BSF to encourage tournament organisers to offer and promote functionality available on the new BSF website that can make life easier for organisers, team captains and individual players involved in tournaments. The functionality has been used for tournaments run by BSUK, such as the LSF First Ball and the Single-Sex Spring Ball, and some players are now asking why it's not available for other tournaments on the calendar as well.

The answer is that tournament organisers haven't signed up for it, either because they're not aware of it and/or because there is a cost involved of £5 per team. But BSUK has volunteered to pay half of these costs in 2011 and Jason invited the BSF to pay the other half so that the functionality could become more widely known and used.

The Executive asked Jason to send a summary of what the functionality offers and the pros and cons of using it, and Jason in turn has asked the BSF to circulate information to all tournament organisers explaining the system, its advantages and the cost.

"The system makes taking online registration and payment easy for organisers," Jason told the Executive, "but teams, captains and players are the real beneficiaries of the system. And unless people use this kind of functionality that's now available, the new website may tend to pass them by."

The Executive decided to ask BSF Tournaments Officer Liz Graham to trial the website's tournament functionality at an upcoming BSF National Championship, and has asked Jason to provide contact details for players who have requested the functionality, to see what their experiences were when they used it.

NSL 2 proposal

At its meeting on May 5, the BSF decided to bring a second National Softball League (NSL 2) into being next year, and as part of the process, to cap NSL 1 at 12 teams.

Since that was announced, the BSF has received a letter, signed by 12 of the 14 current NSL teams, arguing -- not against the creation of an NSL 2 per se -- but against the capping of NSL 1, which would require the "relegation" of two teams to NSL 2 for next season.

The letter argues that teams relegated from NSL 1 would be likely to disband and their players join other NSL teams, and that the presence of 13 teams in the B-grade competition at Diamond 1 (along with the GB Under-19 Fastpitch Team) suggests that there are enough B-grade teams to create a viable NSL 2 next year without the need to relegate any teams from NSL 1.

Supporters of the NSL 2 decision that the BSF announced last month argue that there are far fewer B-grade teams likely to join an NSL 2 than the Diamond competition roster suggests, since there were not enough teams to create an NSL 2 this year. They further contend that a 14-team (or more) NSL 1 leaves too many teams without the possibility of competing in National Championships and that a balanced NSL 1 and NSL 2 (with eventual promotion and relegation between them) would be better for the sport in the long run, regardless of the pain that might be caused to one or two of the least successful NSL teams during the transition.

The BSF has decided that it needs to consider the situation further, but wants to make a final decision sooner rather than later.

Event coverage on the BSF website

BSUK Communications Consultant Bob Fromer told the BSF Executive that while BSUK has spent between £5000 and £7000 in each of the past three years to provide journalistic and photographic website coverage of important domestic and international softball and baseball tournaments and events, over and above the Service Level Agreements between BSUK and the Federations, BSUK budgets and priorities will require this amount to be cut by almost 60% in 2012 and beyond.

It was agreed that the BSF Executive and BSUK's Operations Department will need to work together over the rest of the year to consider how softball event coverage might best be provided in future.

Support for Manchester Umpire Course

The BSF Executive has responded to a grant request from the Manchester Softball League to support the costs of a BASU Qualification Course held in Manchester last month by awarding £125 to the MSL.

ESF tournament formats

The BSF had written formally to the European Softball Federation requesting that it look again at the format it plans to use for this summer's European Cadette (Under-16) Girls' Championship. In the ESF's format, from two initial groups of five and six teams, only two teams go forward to the playoff round, leaving the remaining seven teams to play for places. What's more, the four teams that do advance will play each other in a second round-robin, then play each other all over again in the Page Playoff.

The BSF had suggested that it would be better for three teams from each initial group to advance to the second round-robin, with four going on to the Page Playoff. While the BSF recognised that it was probably too late to change the format for this year, it asked the ESF to consider amending it in future.

The ESF considered the BSF proposal and rejected the idea of changing the format either this year or in the future.

The BSF will sound out opinions from other countries participating in the Cadette Championships this summer and will then consider whether to submit a motion on the subject to next year's ESF Congress.

BSUK Chair

BSUK Chair Geof Ellingham will step down from his post at the BSUK AGM in November, and two candidates have applied for the post.

The BSF Executive gave its approval for both candidates to go forward for interview, and appointed President Stella Ackrell, Treasurer Mike Jennings and Tournaments Officer Lesley Morisetti as possible interview panel members, depending on how many from each federation are required.

Slowpitch pitching video

Both the European and International Softball Federations have expressed interest in a video programme to teach slowpitch pitching, and they have turned to Britain, as the leading slowpitch country in the world outside North America, to make such a programme.

Former GB Slowpitch pitcher and Head Coach Mark Saunders and former GB pitcher David Lee, both with media backgrounds, have volunteered to create the programme.

BSUK's Communications Department has offered £200 towards the project, and the BSF has now pledged match-funding of up to £200 as necessary in the form of a Development Grant.

Cost estimates and a programme outline are expected shortly.

Financial support

The BSF Executive has agreed to provide financial support for small cost overruns on two highly successful recent projects run by BSUK on behalf of the BSF: the Combat coaches' tour from May 9-16 and the London Cup International Fastpitch Tournament held at Richings Park on May 28-29.

Development Conference

BSUK has been discussing the possibility of staging a major international baseball and softball coaching and development conference in London after the Olympics in 2012 and a Steering Group has been formed to define the parameters of the project and determine its viability.

The BSF has requested that Coaching & Development Officer James Reilly and Marketing Officer Mark Wigington join the Steering Group as part of a process by which the BSF will decide whether to support the initiative.

Next meeting

The next BSF conference call meeting will be held on Thursday, July 7.

Anyone with items for the agenda should contact BSF General Officer .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).