NSL & the Nationals 2018

Here is a summary of what teams need to know about how the National Softball League and Softball National Championships will function in 2018 and beyond.

The National Softball League

The BSF believes that after the first full year of NSL 2 in 2017, the NSL structure is working well and is popular with players, and the BSF wants to give this structure another couple of years to bed in before adding to it or making changes. 

So, for the next couple of years, there will be one-up, one-down between NSL 1 and 2, moving to two-up, two down in 2020.

Meanwhile, as many as eight additional teams (so far) have expressed an interest in getting into the NSL structure by joining NSL 2.  So, for the next couple of years, the BSF will run a qualifying tournament at the end of the season, ideally alongside the NSL Nationals, with the top two teams from this tournament replacing the bottom two teams in the NSL 2 league standings. 

In 2020, if demand continues, an NSL 3 could be created, with its own league schedule.

At the moment, the league schedule for NSL 1 and 2 is played entirely within the three Diamond Series tournaments, but comments at the League Heads Forum 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.

It was suggested that perhaps NSL tournaments could be awarded to leagues through a bidding system, as was the case with National Championships in the past.

The BSF Executive will look at options for expanding the NSL, both geographically and in terms of the number of dates, teams and divisions, and will bring suggestions back to the membership.  But for the next two years at least, the intention is to stick with the current system.

Platinum Nationals

With the Co-ed Slowpitch League Nationals and the NSL Nationals now played on separate dates, the League Nationals should in theory have Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Divisions.  But there was no Platinum Division in 2017, perhaps in part because of the rapid growth of NSL 2.

For 2018, the BSF will offer four leagues – Bristol, Manchester, Windsor and the GLSML -- the chance to send two teams each to the Platinum Nationals.  The 2017 Gold winner will also be invited, and other leagues can propose teams as well.  This Division will run at the 2018 League Nationals, but only if a minimum of six teams enter.

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 for 2018:

  • 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 in 2018 and beyond 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.

To give these requirements some force, the BSF is proposing to add a £50 “uniform surcharge” to fees for National Championships in 2018, with the surcharge to be returned afterwards to all teams that comply with the regulations.

In doing this, the BSF will ensure that the rules are made very clear to all teams involved, and will be prepared to exercise some flexibility around them so that uniform requirements do not become onerous.

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 recent BSF Executive meetings and the League Heads Forum, the following ideas for improving and enhancing the Nationals have been put 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, as in 2016.
  • 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.

The BSF will consider which of these 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 the 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 six leagues have committed to the event for 2018.

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