The British Softball Federation Executive held a conference call meeting on Thursday evening, May 5. Below are the highlights of discussions and decisions.
Present: Stella Ackrell (President), Liz Graham (Tournaments Officer), Lesley Morisetti (Tournaments Officer), James Reilly (Coaching & Development Officer), Mark Wigington (Marketing Officer), Chris Moon (BASU Representative).
Apologies: Mike Jennings (Treasurer), Julie Calver (Website Officer), Vicky Hall (General Officer), Debbie Moores (General Officer).
Guests: John Boyd (BSUK).
New BSF Website
The Executive is generally happy with the new BSF website and has received much positive feedback on it.
There are still glitches to be ironed out, particularly with the Diamond Finder, and a number of questions on how to use the site have come in from members. But Liz Graham commended Jason Greenberg at BSUK for the way he has responded to problems and enquiries.
The Executive still needs to provide static content for the site relating to the BSF, including the new Mission Statement, bio information on Executive members and more general information on what the BSF does.
BSUK Joint CEO and Head of Development John Boyd told the Executive that BSUK is looking at the possibility of staging a major "Development Conference" in London on baseball and possibly softball at some point after the Olympics have concluded in 2012.
The Conference would centre on coaching, but with many other developmental and possibly commercial facets, and would be designed to attract attendance from all over Europe as well as from our own communities and to raise the profile of our sports. Speakers, instructors and clinicians would come from the US and Europe.
The Conference concept was originally built around baseball, and BSUK and the BSF will need to make a joint decision on whether it is sensible (and viable) to include softball as well -- and if so, whether both fastpitch and slowpitch should be catered for.
Initial reaction on the part of the Executive was that the Conference sounded potentially like a good idea, and requested that Marketing Officer Mark Wigington join the Working Group currently exploring possibilities.
John Boyd stressed that the Development Conference was still very much at the concept stage and viability had not been established, especially as fairly substantial sponsorship will be required.
NSL 2 proposal
There was further discussion at the meeting about the proposal to introduce a second-tier National Softball League (NSL) next year to help close the gap between B-grade teams and current NSL teams.
Although questions were raised about the BSF's ability to tell tournament organisers how to grade teams or to tell teams at what level to play, President Stella Ackrell stated that the BSF has a responsibility as the governing body to regulate competition for the overall good of the sport. Accordingly, it was proposed that:
-- The current structure, with a 16-team NSL, will remain place for this year.
-- For 2012, the current NSL will be capped at 12 teams and an NSL 2 will be created. The three teams that finish at the bottom of the NSL in 2011 will no longer be able to qualify for the Premier Nationals and will be encouraged to play in NSL 2 and attempt to qualify for the Platinum Nationals.
-- In order to prepare the community for this change, an announcement will go out soon.
A final decision on these proposals will be made shortly.
International Influence Strategy Grant
Bob Fromer from BSUK has once again put together the annual application to UK Sport via the Sport and Recreation Alliance for grant funding to support the international aims and strategy of the BSF and the British Baseball Federation.
Over the past three years, grants have been in the region of £5000 and have not only supported attendance at international Congresses for both federations and BSUK, but have allowed support for other projects that can increase our influence internationally.
This year, however, because of overall government cuts to sport, the maximum amount that can be awarded is only £2500, which will leave little room for additional projects once meeting attendance is supported.
The Executive approved the 2011-2012 grant application as developed by BSUK. In addition to funding for attendance at the ISF Congress in October and next year's ESF Congress in February, the application includes a request for funding that will allow the BSF to support the ISF in its efforts to re-instate a Slowpitch World Cup competition in 2012.
British Athletes Commission
On behalf of the BSF, Mike Jennings had approved the expenditure of £100 to allow softball's two representatives on the British Athletes Commission (Martin Cartledge for slowpitch and Rachael Watkeys for fastpitch) to attend the BAC's annual conference. As it turns out, Martin was unable to attend but Rachael will be going.
The Executive is interested in more information on the role of the BAC and whether there is any real benefit to our involvement.
Home Run Charity Challenge
The Executive gave its support to a proposal from the European-based US military slowpitch club Bebe's Kidz (they have sent a team to our Softball World Series for the past three years) to raise money for children's charities through a scheme called Home Runs for Kids.
Teams that sign up will nominate a children's charity of their choice and will donate £1 every time one of their players hits a home run. At the end of the season, the money collected will be given to the charity and teams will let the BSF know how much they raised. The top team will receive a special BSF award.
BeBe's Kidz are thinking of organising a European-wide tournament late in the season for teams that have made the largest donations, with the aim of raising more money for charity.
Development grant applications
The Manchester Softball League made an application on May 3 for a BSF Development Grant to help cover the cost of staging a BASU qualification course in Manchester, but Mike Jennings is requesting more information before making a recommendation to the Executive.
John Boyd mentioned that the BSF might receive a Development Grant application from the Bristol Softball Association for a softball festival currently in the planning stages.
Fastpitch development grant
John Boyd confirmed to the Executive that an application to Sport England for a £10,000 "Small Grant" to deliver a youth fastpitch development programme in London and the South East, submitted by BSUK on behalf of the BSF, had been successful.
Although the project is scheduled for three years, with the BSF, BSUK and some participating Local Authorities making further contributions, all of Sport England's money has to be spent in Year 1, and will be used to purchase equipment and for the delivery of after-school sessions in South West London and a number of areas in Oxfordshire.
The programme is designed to fill a gap in BSUK's own development funding from Sport England, little of which can be targeted at youth fastpitch. Yet without introducing fastpitch to more children and young people, and particularly girls, the numbers playing the sport, and feeding through to the Academy and national youth fastpitch teams, will inevitably decline.
London Fastpitch Softball League
John Boyd reminded the meeting that the London Fastpitch Softball League (LFSL) would be starting its second season on May 8 at Richings Park, with an increase from five teams in 2010 to 12 teams this year. BSUK's South East Regional Coach and Club Development Officer Stan Doney had worked very hard to get more people playing this year and to make the league a quality experience.
[LFSL's opening day was a major success, as reported elsewhere on this website.]
Although BSUK has supported and run the league in 2010 and again this year, the intention is to turn it over to the BSF and the fastpitch community after this season.
The question of affiliation by LFSL teams was discussed, and whether the affiliation fee should be based on the BSF's established rate of £90 for fastpitch teams or collected as a £10 pay-for-play fee at each event as with single-sex slowpitch teams.
John Boyd recommended that the £90 fee would be preferable but will talk to Stan Doney to see if this is possible. One issue may be that a significant number of players play on both Division 1 and Division 2 LFSL teams on each competition day and may wind up paying twice for the same event.
The next BSF Executive conference call meeting will be held on Thursday, June 2.