BSF Executive Face-to-Face Meeting Report: 13-14 October 2018

Tue 16 Oct 2018

The BSF Executive held its annual face-to-face meeting on the weekend of 13-14 October in London.  Below is a journalistic account of the main discussions and decisions.


Attendance

Present:  Jenny Fromer (President), Laura Burkhardt (Treasurer), Stella Ackrell (Administrator), Liz Graham (Competitions Director), Mike Jennings (General Officer), Steve Getraer (General Officer).

Apologies:  Chris Moon (BASU Representative).

Guests:  Bob Fromer and Joelle Watkins (BSUK).


League Heads Forum

The annual BSF League Heads Forum, a meeting of Slowpitch League Heads and members of the BSF Executive to discuss current topics and issues in softball, usually takes place in mid-November in Birmingham. 

This year, however, the BSF has struggled to find a venue, and is considering holding the League Heads Forum during the morning preceding the 2019 BSF AGM on Saturday 23 February.  The AGM will be held somewhere in the south of England, but a location remains to be determined.

A quick poll of League Heads has suggested that most are in favour of moving the League Heads Forum to the AGM day, and an announcement confirming this will be made soon.


2019 Calendar

The BSF is in the process of compiling the 2019 Softball Calendar, and confirmed dates for next year will shortly be entered in the Events Listing on the BSF website.

Two main issues affecting next year’s Calendar are:

  1. The BSF would like to avoid scheduling any major events on the weekend of 29-30 June 2019, because that’s the weekend that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will be playing at the London Stadium, and many members of the British softball community may want to attend, or watch the games live on television.  But this means that there is one less weekend available for tournaments next summer, and the immediate problem this gives the BSF is when to schedule the Single-Sex Slowpitch Nationals to avoid conflicts with other tournaments.  A solution is expected soon.
     
  2. Dates have been agreed by the BSF and Diamond Series organisers for the three Diamond tournaments for next year, which will include NSL 1 and NSL 2 league play.  But no date has yet been named for next summer’s European Slowpitch Championship, and the BSF can only hope that when the date and venue are eventually chosen, they will not overlap with any of the Diamond weekends.  The ESF may be able to identify a host and dates for the Championship in November

Going forward, the BSF will set dates for National Championships and other tournaments that host national competitions (such as Diamond tournaments hosting the NSL) before opening up the Calendar to other events.  While this will be done as sympathetically and flexibly as possible with regard to the constraints on other events, BSF dates will take precedence.


Affiliation fees

The BSF Executive considered and approved a proposal at the meeting to restructure BSF affiliation fees for 2019.

Currently, there are 10 different affiliation fee categories, each with a different fee, and the new structure will simplify this to four categories.  Some categories will have voting rights, while some associate categories of membership will not.

BSF affiliation fees have remained the same for the past few years, and need to go up overall, because of inflation and Sport England requirements.  However, the new fee structure will mean that affiliation fees for some categories of teams will go down in 2019 while others will go up.  In addition, a new provision will be added to the fee structure to encourage the formation of multi-team clubs.

The BSF will announce the full proposal shortly on the BSF website, and will welcome feedback.  The final proposal will be brought to the AGM in February for a decision.


Help needed for BSF tasks and roles

The British Softball Federation and the GB Management Committee are currently critically understaffed and are struggling to fulfil their projects and obligations.  So the BSF is putting out a call for volunteers to come forward – not necessarily to join the BSF Executive, but to take on specific tasks or roles.

BSF President Jenny Fromer told the meeting, “If these roles aren’t filled, then we either won’t be able to do many of the things we have planned, or we will have to use limited resources to buy in people to fill these roles.”

A full list of the roles or tasks for which the BSF is hoping to find volunteers has been published on the BSF website here and in the October issue of Hot Corner.

The BSF will re-assess the position after seeing how many people come forward to volunteer their services on behalf of softball.


National Softball League

Competitions Director Liz Graham reported that NSL league competition ran well in 2018 for both NSL 1 and NSL 2, and the new tournament for NSL 3 that was held at the NSL National Championships in September was also a success, with two teams winning promotion for NSL 2 for the 2019 season.

The only problem with regard to NSL league play was the policy that Diamond Series organisers enforced last year with regard to the provision of softballs, and the BSF will speak to the Diamond organisers to see if a better solution can be found.

With regard to NSL 3, the current plan, approved at the BSF meeting, is to run another NSL 3 Tournament in 2019 to promote two more teams to NSL 2, and then establish an NSL 3 league structure in 2020.  This would involve eight-team Northern and Southern Divisions playing league fixtures at various regional tournaments and qualifying four teams each for NSL 3 Nationals. 

However, if demand warrants and things move quickly enough, there is a small chance that the NSL 3 league structure can be put in place for 2019.

Details of the plan for NSL 3 and the NSL structure as a whole, including promotion and relegation, will be published soon on the BSF website.


National Championships

Liz Graham reported on a couple of issues that arose at BSF National Championships in 2018.

With regard to the League Nationals in August, there was a long-running saga around the attempt to establish a Premier (formerly known as Platinum) Division at the event, which would have consisted primarily of Division 1 or outright league winners from a range of leagues. 

Ultimately, not enough of the eligible teams confirmed their willingness to play, and the 2018 League Nationals had only Gold, Silver and Bronze divisions.  Based on what happened this year, it is not clear that a Premier Division can be established with any certainty in future.

The BSF has decided that for next year, the League Nationals will be played as an open tournament for all qualified and invited teams.  Play on Saturday will be in seeded round-robin pools, which will break into Gold, Silver and Bronze competitions on Sunday – and also into a Premier division if the teams entered and Saturday results make this possible.

The BSF will reserve the right to structure the tournament according to its view of the best interests of the teams taking part.

At the 2018 NSL Nationals, the only problem was that two of the final playoff games in the NSL 1 Nationals were forfeited.

The BSF is very keen to have its National Championships played to a conclusion, including all final placing games, and in future will levy a £100 fine on any team that fails to complete scheduled games at a National Championship unless injuries simply make this impossible.  Failure to pay the fine by a deadline to be established will disqualify the team from Nationals in the following year.

A final problem that the BSF would like to address at all National Championships is the enforcement of uniform regulations to improve the look of the competitions.  The BSF will set the standards, make sure these are known to teams, and will talk to BASU about the role of umpires in enforcing them.


Softball World Series

The 2018 Softball World Series Tournament was very successful, and a poll of teams after the event showed a strong preference to keep the event at its current venue – the Imperial College Heston Venue in Cranford – rather than move it to Farnham Park.

The BSF noted that fees for the tournament, which have been static for several years, will need to rise as the BSF currently makes a substantial loss on the event and ground hire costs at the Heston Venue will have VAT added to them next year for the first time.


Minimum standards at tournaments

The BSF is concerned that all tournaments it sanctions and includes in its website Events List are maintaining minimum standards, including the provision of dedicated First Aid, the provision of Tournament Packs with mandatory and relevant information and ensuring that all players under 18 wear helmets when batting and baserunning and catcher’s masks when catching.

The BSF is planning to revise its website, and will create a new section featuring minimum standards for tournaments and a template Tournament Pack.


BASU

The BSF will be raising some issues with the BASU Committee, including:

  • Criteria for the selection of an Umpire of the Year by BASU for the BSF’s annual AGM awards.
     
  • Support by BASU (in conjunction with the BSF) for BASU umpires selected to officiate at WBSC World Championship competitions.  At present, BASU and the BSF together support travel costs for umpires officiating at official European tournaments, but up to now only the BSF has supported these costs for WBSC tournaments.
     
  • The use of BASU umpires at tournaments that the BSF does not sanction or from which sanction has been withdrawn.
     

Storage

The BSF would like to improve security for equipment that it stores at Farnham Park, especially softballs, and will purchase lockboxes for this purpose that will be sited in its container space in the Farnham Park storage compound.


GB Management Committee update

Bob Fromer reported to the Executive on the latest activities of the GB Management Committee.

On Friday 5 October, the GBMC convened a meeting of Head Coaches from the GB Senior Women’s Team and the Under-22, Under-19 and Under-16 Women’s Teams to plan a joint training and competition programme for next year, which will climax for the Senior Women’s Team with the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier in September 2019.

On Saturday 20 October, the GBMC will hold its annual meeting with all national team staff at the BSUK offices in London.  Debriefs will be carried out with the staff of five of the eight GB Teams that were in official competition in 2018, and general sessions will cover a range of topics and include a webinar on concussion and concussion protocol.

The GBMC is currently reviewing reports from national team staff and surveys submitted by players and parents, and points from these reports and surveys will be incorporated in debrief sessions.

As mentioned earlier in this report, the GBMC is seriously understaffed at this point and is looking for volunteers to join the Committee.


Webstreaming collaboration

Joelle Watkins, Head of Commercial at BaseballSoftballUK, attended part of the meeting on Saturday to present a proposal for a partnership between the BSF and BSUK to webstream events and create other video material in 2019 and beyond.

BSUK intends to purchase hardware that will enable sophisticated coverage of live events with a three-camera set-up and will create the expertise needed to deliver these broadcasts.  The BSF is being asked to guarantee that it will purchase coverage for a minimum of three events in 2019 at a cost considerably below that charged by commercial video production companies.

The hardware and expertise can also be used, in theory, to create other types of material, including promotional and training videos.

Although some details remain to be discussed, the BSF Executive has decided to enter into this partnership in 2019.


Slowpitch development in Denmark

The BSF has received a request from the Danish Softball Federation, via ESF Slowpitch Officer John Austin, to supply coaches for a weekend clinic in late November that the Danish Federation wants to use to accelerate the development of slowpitch in the country.

Since the further development of slowpitch in Europe is a key BSF aim, we will be happy to help, and the Executive has already identified a number of coaches who are willing to make the trip.  The ESF will pay flight costs, and the Danish Federation will cover in-country costs.

The Danes are particular interested in covering pitching, batting (how does slowpitch batting differ from fastpitch or baseball?), planning practice sessions and the rules and techniques of Indoor softball.


Use of helmets at slowpitch tournaments

A recent issue in the slowpitch community has been the requirement imposed by some leagues where the use of helmets is mandatory that all participants in open tournaments held by that league must conform to the league’s rules in this regard.

Objectors to these local rules have cited the fact that the BSF has not made the use of helmets mandatory in slowpitch except for under-18 players.

The Executive reiterated its general policy on helmets, but also confirmed that leagues or tournaments are free to make their own rules regarding the use of helmets by adult players and that players need to conform to those rules if they want to play.


Finances

BSF Treasurer Laura Burkhardt reported that the Federation had begun its most recent financial year, which ended on 30 September 2018, with the intention of spending a large part of reserves that had accumulated after several years of underspending its planned budgets – and that the BSF had largely succeeded in doing so.

This means more money was spent this year on intended purposes such as enhancing the NSL Nationals, including the use of webstreaming, and providing website coverage of national teams when playing abroad.

The main remaining area of underspending this year was in development, with a continuing low take-up of BSF Development Grants, and no coaching programme run this year for B-grade and C-grade teams.  The BSF intends to be more proactive in this area, and is looking for a volunteer to oversee its coaching and coach development projects.

There was also an underspend on equipment purchase for national teams, but only because spending in this area will take place in the 2018-19 financial year.

BSF accounts for 2017-18 are nearly finalised and will go to the auditors before the end of the year.  The Executive will now turn its attention to setting a budget for 2018-19 that will be presented to the AGM in February.


Insurance

General Officer Mike Jennings told the meeting that the BSF may be changing insurers for next season.  But regardless of whether the Federation is dealing with the same or new insurers, the most urgent need is to make sure the insurers understand the ways that softball operates in terms of team composition and affiliation and the safety and civil liability elements involved in the sport. 

“Full disclosure,” Mike said, “is the only way to protect our members from not being covered when an incident occurs.”

Another question to be sorted out with the insurers is whether BSF teams playing in non-BSF tournaments, including overseas, are covered by BSF insurance at those events.  It seems clear that if cover is to be in effect for such tournaments, teams need to notify the BSF, who can in turn notify the insurers, when teams travel overseas to play.

Mike also told the meeting that fewer leagues and independent teams are taking up the optional medical insurance the BSF provides than in the past.


2019 BSF AGM

The 2019 BSF AGM will be held on Saturday 23 February at a location to be determined in the South of England.

All of the current members of the Executive are re-standing (see list below), but because they have all completed a two-year term, their positions are open and other candidates can stand for those positions.  Officers re-standing are:

President:  Jenny Fromer
Administrator:  Stella Ackrell
Treasurer:  Laura Burkhardt
Competitions Director:  Liz Graham
General Officer:  Mike Jennings
General Officer:  Steve Getraer

The BASU representative on the Executive for 2019, currently Chris Moon, will be appointed by BASU at their AGM on 9 February 2019.

The position of National Teams Officer is currently vacant.

As noted above, the BSF is issuing a call for volunteers to take on various tasks or roles, but with the exception of the National Teams Officer role, joining the BSF Executive Committee is optional for those who come forward.

The 2019 AGM Pack will be distributed to all affiliated teams, League Heads and others late in January or early in February and will contain, among other things, the BSF’s fee and budget proposals for 2019, Officers’ and National Team reports and full details of the plan for creation of an NSL 3 league competition.


2019 BSF Awards

The BSF will shortly be issuing a call for nominations for its annual awards that will be presented at the 2019 AGM.  These include:

  • The Glover Cup for outstanding long-term services to softball by an administrator or organiser.
     
  • The President’s Club Award for outstanding performance or development by an affiliated club or team.
     
  • The League Glover Cup for outstanding development achievement by an affiliated league.
     
  • The Umpire of the Year Award, to be nominated by the BASU Committee.
     
  • The Tournament of the Year Award.
     
  • The Youth Team of the Year Award for outstanding performance or development achievement.
     
  • The Betsy Holden Award for outstanding achievement by a young person in developing or promoting the sport.

Coaching and volunteer awards are now given out at the BaseballSoftballUK Coach Summit, which will be held in 2019 on Saturday 26 January in Milton Keynes.  BSUK will request nominations for the following categories, of which only the first two are softball-specific:

  • Youth Softball Coach of the Year.  This award is for outstanding contribution to coaching young people in softball in Britain.
     
  • Adult Softball Coach of the Year.  This award is for outstanding contribution to adult softball coaching in Britain.
     
  • Young Coach of the Year.  This award is for the coach aged 22 or younger deemed to have made the biggest contribution to coaching, managing and supporting baseball and/or softball in England in 2018.
     
  • Participation Coach of the Year.  This award is for a coach who has engaged new participants, not in a traditional club setting but within BSUK national programmes and/or participation projects.
     
  • Services to Coaching Award.  This award is made to the individual who best personifies what it means to be a baseball or softball coach: someone who understands their sport and can use the lessons learned on the pitch to motivate and engage others.
     
  • Volunteer of the Year in softball or baseball.  This award is for a volunteer in a non-coaching role who has given up a substantial amount of time to support their local club, team or league and who has made a significant impact on the development of our sports.


University softball affiliation

There has been a significant increase in the number of British universities that have softball clubs and teams that take part in intramural and/or external competition, including BaseballSoftballUK’s National University Championships.

The BSF Executive has noted the work that BSUK has done in fostering and supporting university softball, but feels that more can be done to bring players from university teams into the softball mainstream.

The BSF plans to do the following:

  • Offer affiliation to university teams (at no or minimal cost) to facilitate communication and to make university players more aware of the wider softball world.
     
  • Create a page for university teams on the revised BSF website.
     
  • Donate trophies for the National University Softball Championships and offer a place to the winner in a national competition.
     
  • Discuss university softball at the League Heads Forum and AGM next year to make softball leagues more aware of university programmes that may be on their doorstep.

Discussions between the BSF and BaseballSoftballUK about some of these actions will take place soon.


BSF website

As noted above, the BSF wants to improve its website in terms of both look and functionality.

Jenny Fromer, Stella Ackrell and Liz Graham from the BSF Executive have functioned as an ad hoc committee to look at the possibilities, and have decided to tweak and amend the website rather than start from scratch or introduce radical changes.

A list of the key changes that the BSF would like to make have been presented to Tim Stride at BaseballSoftballUK, who will help the BSF to execute the changes, and he will suggest what the next steps should be.

Meanwhile, the BSF plans to create and circulate a survey to get feedback from members on website usage, and will set up a focus group to evaluate the changes once they are made.


Next meeting

The next meeting of the BSF Executive will be a conference call on the evening of Thursday 8 November 2018.

Anyone with items to bring to the meeting should contact BSF Administrator Stella Ackrell

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