NSL and the Nationals 2021

Here is a summary of what teams need to know about how the National Softball League and Softball National Championships will function in 2021 and beyond.

The National Softball League

The BSF believes that the current NSL structure -- 12 teams in NSL 1 and NSL 2, with eight qualifying for National Championships through league play, plus an NSL 3 National Championship Tournament to feed two new teams each year into NSL 2 -- is working well and is popular with players

In 2021, for the first time, the BSF plans to move to two-up, two-down between NSL 2 and NSL 1, a move that would have taken place in 2020 were it not for the pandemic cancelling the season.

In future, if demand from teams to be part of the NSL structure continues to grow, NSL 3 could move to regional or national league play providing qualification for Nationals at the end of the season.

At the moment, the league schedule for NSL 1 and 2 is played entirely within the three Diamond Series tournaments, but recent comments at the League Heads Forum  have reflected some desire to see NSL competition at more tournaments and locations around the country.  Northern and Scottish teams and players, in particular, would welcome not having to travel to the South East every time to compete in the NSL.

In future, perhaps NSL tournaments can be awarded to leagues through a bidding system, as was the case with National Championships in the past.

Dispensations for National Championships

There is a general feeling that requests for dispensations for Co-ed Slowpitch National Championships have got out of hand in recent years, and the BSF Executive has made some decisions designed to tighten up the system:

  • There will be a deadline for requesting dispensations, probably around two weeks before each tournament, and the only requests that will be considered after that are medical or other emergencies that have arisen between the deadline and the tournament.
  • No team will be granted dispensations for more than three players.
  • If a team can field six men and six women from its own roster, no dispensations will be granted.
  • Replacement players must be from the same level of play or lower.

The BSF’s intention is to apply these rules firmly but fairly to reduce abuses of the system.

Uniform Rules

The BSF has restated its uniform requirements for teams at National Championships:

  • All players must wear matching tops.
  • Players can wear trousers or shorts, but all must be the same base colour.

Improving the Nationals

The BSF’s aim is to make the Co-ed Slowpitch National Championships the pinnacle tournaments of each season for the teams that qualify and compete in them.

From BSF Executive and League Heads Forum meetings over the past few years, the following ideas for improving and enhancing the Nationals were forward:

  • Ensuring that scoreboards at Farnham Park are used on all fields.
  • Using a PA system and providing commentary for finals.
  • Scheduling longer games during group stages.
  • Using line-up cards for playoff games.
  • Providing live and on-demand webstreaming of final games.
  • Using field umpires for all games.
  • Providing more seating for spectators.
  • Holding a party or social event at the Home Plate clubhouse on Saturday night, perhaps with live music.
  • Providing more activities around the tournament such as a kids’ play area, clinics, an exhibition match etc.
  • Staging a Home Run Derby and other individual contests.
  • Creating and selling tournament T-shirts, and inviting equipment suppliers to set up stalls on site.

Some of these recommendations have already been carried out, and the BSF will consider which of the other ideas might be practically and financially feasible and will try to implement as many of them as possible.

League All-Star Nationals

Some years ago, the BSF came up with the idea for a League All-Star Nationals, where leagues from around the country sent All-Star Teams to a two-day competition.  This tournament flourished for a few years, after which interest waned. 

However, following comments at a recent League Heads Forum, the BSF will look at whether this tournament should be revived, perhaps with criteria that will support leagues in creating strong teams that represent the best of their talent.

Meanwhile, something like a League All-Star Nationals has been revived in the South West, where an informal All-Star Tournament was held at the end of the 2017 season with five leagues sending teams, and a similar tournament is planned for the North in 2021.

The BSF will explore whether it might be worth bringing this tournament back on a national level.