BSF Executive Meeting Report: 23 September 2020

Mon 28 Sep 2020

The BSF Executive held its latest monthly videoconference meeting on the evening of Wednesday 23 September.  Below is a journalistic report on the main discussions and decisions.


Attendance

Present:  Jenny Fromer (President), Liz Graham (Competitions Officer), Alexis Markham-Hill (National Teams Officer), Mike Lott (Coaching Officer), Chris Moon (Technical Officer), Mike Jennings (General Officer).

Apologies:  Laura Burkhardt (Treasurer).


Return to Play

The BSF has received information from seven leagues regarding outdoor softball play under their jurisdiction this summer once this became possible under Return to Play protocols developed by BaseballSoftballUK on behalf of the BSF and approved by the government.

The Bristol Softball Association, the Publishers Softball League and the Great Britain Fastpitch League all reported little or no interest from players and teams in resuming play, with the result that nothing happened.  But play has taken place under the auspices of the Oxford, East Midlands, Manchester and Cardiff Softball Leagues, all following the Return to Play protocols and regulations. 

For the most part, this has gone smoothly, with one or two glitches.  Other leagues may have had some play, but if so, it hasn’t been reported to the BSF.

We intend to follow up with leagues to find out if there have been any cases of Covid-19 reported by anyone involved in the games that have taken place.

Meanwhile, BSUK had published guidance for Indoor play (https://www.baseballsoftballuk.com/news/view/return-to-play-indoor-guidance-launched), but had to update it on 24 September based on new government restrictions (https://www.baseballsoftballuk.com/news/view/return-to-play-updated-guidance-24-september). 

In England, indoor sessions with up to six people following all the protocols and guidance are still possible, although more people can be involved provided activity is carried out in groups of six only and the groups do not mix.  This might suit training activity, including for national teams, but would not work for games.  Currently, indoor activity with up to 30 participants remains possible in Wales and Scotland.  But this is likely to be an ever-changing situation.


BSF Budget for 2021

The Executive considered the first draft of accounts for its 2019-20 financial year and a budget for 2020-21.  These will be further refined over the coming months and presented for approval at the BSF’s 2021 AGM, to be held (either virtually or in-person) on 27 February.

For the moment, the 2020-21 budget is based on having a full and “normal” season in 2021, but this assumption may of course need to be changed.

In 2019-20, with no membership fees, the BSF’s only income was a £20,000 grant from Sport England.  But there was expenditure of just under £40,000 on items such as insurance, service fees to BSUK, financial and accounting costs, meetings and travel, marketing and events, development projects and national team costs.  The BSF’s financial year runs from 1 October to 30 September, so a good deal of this expenditure took place between 1 October 2019 and the start of lockdown in March 2020.  Other expenditure, such as insurance, still had to be paid even though very little play took place.

The result is a projected deficit of just under £20,000 for 2019-20, lowering the BSF’s reserves to about £35,000.  This is less than the BSF needs to keep in reserve, but is far better than the position would have been had we not had the emergency grant from Sport England, negotiated on our behalf by BaseballSoftballUK.

The first draft of the 2020-21 budget projects spending pretty much as in 2018-19, but even if membership numbers recover to the level seen in 2019, this would result in a deficit on the year and would bring reserves down to an untenable £22,000.  And whether the same number of affiliated teams will re-emerge in 2021, even if there is a normal year of play, is uncertain.

So the Executive may need to look at spending less in 2020-21, even given a normal season, and, as previously announced, there will need to be fee increases to help the BSF restore reserves to a healthier level over the next few years.  The discussion on what those fee increases will be began at this meeting and will continue during the autumn, though nothing very drastic is being contemplated at this stage.  But this, too, could change as the Executive analyses future prospects in more detail.

Should the worst-case scenario come to pass, and the course of the pandemic preclude play, or a full season of play, in 2021, the Executive will need to look carefully at the implications of another year with little or no membership income to ensure that the Federation can survive.


Annual Awards and Hall of Fame

The BSF will not be able to make any of its usual annual awards at the 2021 AGM, since there was no season in 2020 on which to base them. 

But 2021 is a year in which new inductions should be made to the BSF Hall of Fame (new members are now voted on and inducted every three years), and the BSF will shortly publish an article on the BSF website calling for nominations and outlining the categories for which nominations can be made.

Voting on the nominations submitted will be carried out by a subcommittee of the BSF Executive.


International matters

Slowpitch World Cup.  The question of whether the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) will stage a first ever Co-ed Slowpitch World Cup for national teams in 2021 has been devolved to a WBSC subcommittee looking at all of the organisation’s competition events in light of the fact that the pandemic has significantly affected revenue in 2020.  A Slowpitch World Cup would, by design, be a low-cost tournament and would bring a new format into the WBSC World Cup pantheon, and for these reasons, the hope is that it can go ahead.  But nothing has so far been heard from the subcommittee.

WBSC sanctioning powers.  Mike Jennings reported to the Executive that further discussions with the WBSC about their requirement to sanction tournaments or tournament participation around the world would not apply to any ESF tournaments, which would be regarded as automatically sanctioned, and would be unlikely to affect unofficial or invitational tournaments organised in Europe by ESF-member clubs or Federations.  However, Mike advised that British national or club teams planning to participate in invitational tournaments in Europe – and especially outside Europe – should ask the BSF to check on their behalf that these tournaments are WBSC-sanctioned.

Hosting international tournaments in the UK.  The organisation now variously known as the European Softball Federation (ESF), Softball Europe (SE) or WBSC Europe (take your pick!) has announced its tournament schedule for the next three seasons (2021-23), assuming that normal seasons can be held.

There are hosts and dates for all tournaments in 2021 and most tournaments in 2022, but hosts are needed for a new European Under-23 Men’s Fastpitch Championship in 2022, in which a GB Team would participate, and a number of tournaments in 2023, including that year’s Co-ed Slowpitch European Championship.

The BSF and BSUK have long been keen to host international tournaments at Farnham Park if funding can be found to do so, and depending on bids that may be made to host these tournaments at the ESF Congress next February, the BSF may look at trying to bring one of them to the UK.  But this will be dependent on a range of unknowns around the pandemic, finances etc.

Postponement of WBSC Congress.  The World Baseball Softball Confederation is asking its member Federations to vote on a proposal to postpone its biennial Congress, originally scheduled for the autumn of 2021 in Taiwan, until 2022.  Although this means that elections for the WBSC leadership will be postponed and the current regime will have another year in office, it seems a sensible proposal in view of the pandemic and the desirability of holding such meetings in person.  So the BSF will support the proposal.


National Teams

National Teams Officer Alexis Markham-Hill told the meeting that a lot of positive activity is taking place, particularly with regard to the GB Women’s Fastpitch programme across all age levels. 

Coaches from different teams are reaching out to each other to develop more coordinated programmes, and coaches based overseas are hoping to come to the UK next year to work with GB-based national team players.

Meanwhile, Alexis expects that a new GB Management Committee (GBMC) will be in place soon and can resume operations in support of all national team programmes, with – hopefully -- greater involvement from GB Slowpitch and GB Men’s Fastpitch Teams.

Finally, BaseballSoftballUK is leading the effort to create a funding application for softball to UK Sport, under the agency’s new Progression funding strand to develop podium potential in previously unfunded sports. 

The application will be for money to support the GB Women’s Fastpitch programme to develop towards qualification for and a podium place at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

BSUK has formed a consultative group, headed by CEO John Boyd, Head of Development Chris Rawlings and BSUK/BSF Fastpitch Development Manager Alyson Spinas-Valainis, to advise on the content of the application, and Jenny Fromer, Alexis Markham-Hill, Bob Fromer and Mike Jennings are BSF Executive members taking part, along with a number of GB coaches and other people involved in fastpitch development programmes.

The application will need to be submitted towards the end of October.


BSF Development Grants

The BSF Executive has approved grants of £250 each to a new programme to develop girls’ slowpitch softball for Year 6 pupils at a cluster of schools in Walsall, and to an existing programme developing girls’ fastpitch among different year groups in Cardiff.


MLB research project

Liam Carroll, who recently resigned after four years as Head Coach of the GB Senior Men’s Baseball Team, is now working for Major League Baseball and has approached the BSF about taking part in a research project to look at how softball currently operates in the UK, what our needs might be and how MLB could help support them.

When more details are known, the BSF will need to appoint someone from inside or outside the Executive to work with Liam on this project.
 

BSUK Board and Committee meetings

Jenny Fromer reported to the Executive that one of the BSF’s Nominated Directors on the BaseballSoftballUK Board, Bridget Cameron, will be stepping down shortly as she has taken a new job in Singapore.  The Executive has been asked to consider who we might want to put forward to replace her.


Next meeting

The next BSF Executive videoconference meeting will be held on Wednesday 14 October.

Anyone with matters to bring to this meeting should contact BSF Administrator Bob Fromer.  

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