The British Association of Softball Umpires (BASU) held its AGM on Saturday 9 February in Bristol, with a record attendance by umpires from around the UK.
The meeting reviewed another successful year in 2018 and set down some markers for the 2019 season, particularly around issues of safety and safeguarding.
The main headlines are:
- BASU will ask the BSF to make it known to all tournament organisers that unless there is a qualified First Aider present and available at a sanctioned tournament, the BASU Crew Chief can stand down the umpires.
- BASU will also ask the BSF to require a statement in Tournament Packs for all sanctioned tournaments in 2019 emphasising that umpires will first warn, then eject any player who, in their judgment, is incapable of playing safely due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
- BASU has agreed in principle that all its member umpires will undertake an annual DBS check from 2019 onward, pending clarification on procedures and costs (if any). BASU will also appoint its own Safeguarding Officer before the start of the outdoor playing season.
Assistant Umpire-in-Chief Lesley Morisetti, who chaired the meeting, reported that 2018 had been another successful year for the organisation.
BASU umpires were active at over 20 slowpitch tournaments in the UK in 2018 with 17 different Crew Chief, as well as at seven Great Britain Fastpitch League (GBFL) dates, the London Cup international women’s fastpitch tournament and one international slowpitch tournament (the Softball World Series). As a group, BASU umpired 2,721 games and there was a decline in the number of “guest” umpires used during the year.
In the case of the Slowpitch NSL Nationals, the cost of using a two-umpire system for all games was jointly subsidised by the BSF and BASU to provide a better experience for the players as well as providing umpires with more experience in using the system. Very positive feedback on this was received from players.
BASU was also well represented abroad in 2018. Pete Saunders, Lesley Morisetti and Darrell Pitman represented GB at the ESF Slowpitch Super Cup in Riccione, Italy, with Chris Moon serving as the Assistant Umpire-in-Chief. Pete also represented BASU at the WSBC Slowpitch World Cup in Florida last November.
Chris Moon has been appointed as the ESF Slowpitch Training Officer and as the ESF’s Slowpitch Umpire Commissioner.
Darrell Pitman, Jana McCaskill and David Hurley represented Great Britain in ESF fastpitch tournaments, with Bridget Cameron getting major recognition by being selected to umpire at the WSBC Women’s World Championship in Japan.
In financial terms, BASU ended 2018 with slightly less money in its reserves, due to additional spending on kit and umpire training, but Treasurer Steve Getraer reported that the overall position was still very healthy.
However, the number of BASU members, at 69, was slightly down from what had been a historically high number in recent years, and some of those members did not call any games on a national level in 2018. Umpire numbers are declining not just in Britain but in Europe, which is a potential cause for concern in future.
Seven BASU umpires called at least 100 games in 2018, led by Umpire-in-Chief Jes Sandhu with 151, but just 13 umpires accounted for over 50% of the games that BASU officiated.
BASU courses were run for seven different leagues in 2018, and the Advanced Umpire course, lengthened to two days and run in conjunction with the Windsor First Ball, went well and concentrated on training in the two-umpire system. This year’s Advanced Course will be run in conjunction with the GB Slowpitch Open on 13-14 April, with eight invited participants.
Questions were raised about whether there could be observers at the Advanced Course, and whether an Advanced Course could in future be held in the North, and the BASU Committee will consider both issues.
In future, the organisation will be looking at the possibility of running courses online, and at simply asking experienced umpires who have previously done courses to re-qualify by answering quiz questions. But live assessments at least every two years will still be an essential element for umpire qualifications to be renewed.
BASU also wants to step up efforts to provide mentoring for less experienced umpires at tournaments, a long-time BASU aspiration that has been difficult to fulfil because of a lack of available umpires to carry it out, especially at larger competitions. “If we can get the mentoring part right,” BASU Secretary Pete Saunders said, “we will be able to develop and sustain umpires.”
The question of how BASU can help regional leagues to develop and support umpires was also raised, and the BSF has been asked to put this question on the agenda for its annual League Heads Forum meeting, which will be held prior to the BSF AGM on 23 February.
New umpires can often be intimidated by the prospect of umpiring higher-level games, either within leagues or at tournaments, and one suggestion was for BASU to offer rules clinics for league players and coaches to help clear up common misunderstandings about why some decisions are made.
BASU Fastpitch Officer Bridget Cameron reported that 2018 had been the best year yet for representation by BASU umpires at fastpitch tournaments on a European and World level.
While there will be no formal fastpitch umpire course in 2019, short clinic sessions on rules and strategic elements of the format can be offered to players and coaches during Great Britain Fastpitch League days, and clinics or courses elsewhere can be arranged if there is sufficient interest.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
All but one of the Officers on the BASU Committee in 2018 were re-standing, and the only change will be a new Kit Officer. The BASU Committee for 2019 will be:
Umpire-in-Chief: Jes Sandhu
Assistant Umpire-in-Chief: Lesley Morisetti
Secretary: Pete Saunders
Training Officer: Chris Moon
Treasurer: Steve Getraer
General Officers are:
BSF Representative: Chris Moon
Fastpitch Officer: Bridget Cameron
Kit Officer: Yuki Ono
Social Media Officer: Position vacant
A good portion of the meeting was taken up with discussion over issues related to safety.
Six players suffered head injuries at one tournament last year where a qualified First Aider was present in theory but not always available when needed, and BASU members were unanimous in their feeling that if a tournament is to be sanctioned by the BSF, and appear in the Events list on the BSF website, then a qualified First Aider must be present and available from the start to the end of the event.
The meeting approved a motion that if this is not the case, the BASU Crew Chief will have the option of withdrawing umpire participation from the tournament, and the BSF will be asked to make sure that tournament organisers are aware of this.
Another safety issue that has been discussed before at BASU AGMs is the danger to themselves and others posed by players feeling the effects of too much drink or in some cases recreational drugs. Given the prevalence of alcohol within the culture of British slowpitch softball, there is little hope of enforcing the ISF rule that smoking and drinking are not allowed in dugouts during games. But while the judgement about whether a player is capable of playing safely can often be a difficult area, the feeling of the meeting was that umpires should err on the side of caution and will warn captains and if necessary eject any player who they think may pose a safety risk. Again, the BSF will be asked to make sure that this intention is known by tournament organisers and communicated to team captains via Tournament Packs.
With regard to non-sanctioned tournaments, the meeting decided that BASU umpires can officiate at such tournaments, and can do so wearing BASU gear in order to maintain authority, since the issue of whether a tournament is sanctioned is a matter for the BSF.
BASU will make a donation equivalent to one game fee from each member to the widow of BASU umpire Don Chester, who passed away in 2018, leaving a young family.
BASU has purchased new shirts in both navy blue and powder blue for members, but for the time being, older-style shirts can still be worn. BASU provides shirts, jackets, caps and ball bags for members to purchase, but not trousers or shoes. In future, BASU will look at providing permanent branded water bottles for members as a means of reducing plastic waste at tournaments.
For the first time in 2019, BASU will take up the BSF’s optional accident and medical insurance as a group.
The BSF and BASU currently share the cost levied by the ESF for British umpires to travel to European Championship tournaments. The BSF has asked BASU to consider also sharing the cost of sending umpires to European Cup competitions, and supporting umpires who are selected to umpire at World Championship events. Further discussions on this between BASU and the BSF will take place.