The International Softball Federation has announced its intention to revive international slowpitch competition in 2012.
ISF President Don Porter, at a meeting in London on April 6 with representatives from the BSF, the GB Slowpitch Team and BSUK, revealed plans for a combined Slowpitch World Cup for co-ed teams and Masters (35+) men's teams, to be played at the ISF headquarters complex in Plant City, Florida in late January 2012.
The Masters competition will be run by the US-based International Senior Softball Association (ISSA), while the ISF will organise the co-ed competition, which will not have any age restrictions.
The ISF ran two previous Slowpitch World Cups in Plant City -- in 2002 for men's and co-ed teams and in 2005 for co-ed teams only. GB Slowpitch Teams participated in both, and a GB Team won the co-ed competition in 2002, while the 2005 tournament was won by a Scottish-based pick-up team. But neither competition was well-attended, and very few countries apart from the US, GB and Ireland sent teams.
Now the ISF hopes that the Slowpitch World Cup can be expanded and can lay the groundwork for more extensive international slowpitch competition in future. The decision to revive this event is part of an ISF campaign to promote other softball disciplines apart from fastpitch following the decision to drop women's fastpitch softball from the Olympic Games.
The next step in making the revived Slowpitch World Cup a reality will be a planning meeting to be held soon in Plant City, to which a representative from British Softball will be invited. Don Porter has indicated that British help will be essential in planning formats, rules and other details for the competition, and in encouraging other teams from Europe to attend.
The key to a more successful Slowpitch World Cup than in 2002 or 2005 will be getting more countries to send teams and getting higher-calibre entries from the US and Canada, which between them have more slowpitch teams than the rest of the world combined. The amount of effort that the ISF is prepared to put into promoting the competition will be crucial.
Meanwhile, the GB Slowpitch Team programme and the BSF will need to decide whether they want to enter teams in both competitions or possibly -- if the rules and timing of the two tournaments allow -- send a combined squad to compete in both.