No GB National Teams will be competing in official European tournaments this summer for reasons directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In two instances – the European Under-23 Men’s Fastpitch Qualifier and the Massimo Romeo Youth Trophy Tournament for Under-13 Fastpitch Teams – Softball Europe has already announced the cancellation of those events.

However, other GB Teams have recently made the difficult decision to withdraw from the following European Championship tournaments which may – or may not -- go ahead:  the European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship, the European Men’s Fastpitch Championship, the European Women’s Fastpitch Championship and the European Men’s and Women’s Under-18 Fastpitch Championships.

With Covid cases still relatively high in Europe, vaccination programmes progressing more slowly than in the UK and a complicated set of regulations around testing and quarantine for travel to different countries, Softball Europe will make a Yes/No decision on whether each of the remaining tournaments on its calendar will go ahead 45 days before the start of each event, with the first such decision (for the European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship) scheduled for 1 May.

But -- and with the full support of the BSF Executive -- the GB National Teams that have withdrawn from European Championship competitions have decided that they cannot wait for Softball Europe to make those decisions.  Instead, they have decided to withdraw from competitions after careful consideration of the health risks (with most athletes unlikely to have been vaccinated before their tournaments take place) and of government regulations and restrictions around international travel, including the complications for players, staff and families that could arise from quarantine requirements, which could lead to increased costs. 

Another consideration for age-group teams was the unreasonable burdens that could be imposed on staff members having to act in loco parentis in extremely difficult and unprecedented situations.

European Cup competitions

Meanwhile, six British club teams were entered in Softball Europe Cup competitions, all of which will take place – if they are able to go ahead -- in August. 

One team – the Great Britain Fastpitch League (GBFL) women’s team Free Agents – has already withdrawn from the European Women’s Cup Winners Cup.

But five teams are waiting to see if the situation in Europe improves before making a final decision.  They are the GBFL women’s team The Mix in the European Women’s Cup, the GBFL men’s team Meteors in the European Men’s Super Cup, and the NSL1 teams Knights, Chromies and Pioneers in the European Co-ed Slowpitch Super Cup.

Difficult decisions

All of the withdrawal decisions made so far by British teams have been difficult, and they have been received with sadness but also understanding by Softball Europe, which has already had withdrawals by teams from a number of other countries as well.  No penalties will be imposed this year on any teams that withdraw from European tournaments for Covid-related reasons.

While Softball Europe is hoping that there can be some international play this year after having had to cancel all its competitions in 2020, officials are aware that many of its tournaments, especially those scheduled for June and July, may fall victim to the fact that the pandemic is not yet behind us, despite the promise offered by the development of effective vaccines.

Looking ahead

For the GB National Teams that have withdrawn from European Championships this year, the priority will be to develop programmes that can keep up momentum and move the team forward before its next official European event, and the BSF has asked all the teams concerned to submit their thoughts on how this can be done.

The next European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship is scheduled for 2023 – but if this year’s Championship is cancelled, and if the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) schedules a Slowpitch World Cup for late in 2022, Softball Europe may stage a Qualifier for the event next summer.

Meanwhile, a European Men’s Slowpitch Championship is scheduled for 2022.

The GB Men’s Fastpitch Team will also have to wait until 2023 for its next European Championship, but the GB Women’s Fastpitch Team will have an important European Championship in 2022, a qualifier for the group stage of the next WBSC Women’s World Cup.

The GB Under-18 Men’s and Women’s Fastpitch Teams will not have another European Championship until 2023, but the GB Under-13 Cubs will hope to play next year, as the European Massimo Romeo Youth Trophy is an annual event.

Following the cancellation of this summer’s Under-23 Men’s Fastpitch Qualifier, Softball Europe has not yet scheduled what will be its inaugural event for this age group, but news is expected soon.