BSUK looks forward with confidence to the next Sport England funding cycle
Tue 8 May 2012
BaseballSoftballUK is entering the final year of its 2009-2013 Whole Sport Plan funding cycle. The staff and the BSUK Board are currently drafting the application for the next round of Sport England grant funding, which will see the organisation target new goals and initiatives for growing baseball and softball participation over the period 2013-2017.
BaseballSoftballUK has enjoyed a run of positive news lately that will help make a strong case for re-funding during the next Whole Sport Plan period in 2013-2017.
This winter, BSUK has received "green light" ratings from Sport England following both a management audit and our annual Self-Assurance submission, which confirms by a process of rigorous documentation that BSUK governance is sound in areas such as strategic planning, financial procedures, human resources and organisational policies.
In fact, BSUK's Self-Assurance work was labelled by Sport England as a submission "of high quality with no significant matters arising". By all standards employed by the national funding body, BSUK is regarded as fit for purpose.
And in February, the exciting news was announced that the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, run by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association, has provided BSUK with a grant of $160,000 (£100,000) to help finance the development of dedicated baseball and softball facilities at Farnham Park near Slough. When partnered with Sport England's own facilities grant, total investment in the Farnham Park project will amount to more than £300,000.
Planning permission has been secured from South Bucks District Council and construction is already underway.
44% growth over 33 months
Aside from facility development and good governance, it is BSUK's work in growing participation in baseball and softball that Sport England will scrutinise most carefully when it comes time to decide on the amount of future funding investment.
BSUK Joint CEO John Boyd and his development staff have recently presented to the company's Board of Directors a candid appraisal of current progress against targets at the end of 2011, after 11 quarters of work in the 16-quarter funding cycle.
Overall, with five quarters of work remaining in the current Whole Sport Plan, BSUK is on track to meet its targets. There has been a 44% growth in the number of British baseball and softball teams since April 2009, which equates to 215 new teams playing the sports.
BSUK still has 115 new adult softball teams and 14 adult baseball teams to bring into the sports by March 31, 2013 to meet Whole Sport Plan targets. But when juxtaposed with the prospective leads that are being pursued by development staff, John Boyd anticipates that BSUK is on track to have doubled the number of teams playing baseball and softball over the four year period, from 570 teams (489 adult and 85 youth) in 2009 to 1,179 teams (984 adult and 195 youth) by April 2013.
Two steps forward....
One element that makes the final numbers a little uncertain is that in addition to new teams created, BSUK's figures must also account for teams and clubs that fold. "Attrition is a real concern in any minority sport," John Boyd said. "Our staff spend as much time helping existing clubs to expand and entrench as we do working with start-up teams. But the attrition rate is less in baseball and softball than in many other sports."
Retention of existing participants is an important part of Sport England's "Grow, Sustain, Excel" model for success under the current Whole Sport Plan. And the British Baseball and Softball Federations have as much influence as BSUK, if not more, on whether their affiliated teams return to league play from year to year. As such, the Federations are working closely with BSUK to re-brand and promote their affiliation offers in an effort to highlight the value-for-money provided by the national governing bodies.
Finish line in sight
"We're in the final push to meet our four-year targets, and we're very pleased with the progress we have made in the last 11 quarters of work," John Boyd emphasised. "But not all the participation numbers are rosy: we still have significant headway to make in the higher education sector, and more generally in the South East and North West regions."
BaseballSoftballUK met its youth participation targets in just the first two years of the current funding cycle. So while the agency continues to promote and develop youth baseball and softball, the key focus now is on the adult game, with a particular emphasis on the number of adult slowpitch softball teams needed to meet the overall target. Slowpitch is the easiest route into the sports for beginner participants since the speed and difficulty of play is less demanding than in baseball and fastpitch softball.
BSUK's progress against all interventions and targets can be followed online via their "Balanced Scorecard". Moreover, the agency is planning to launch a new section on its website in 2012 nicknamed the "BSUK Box Score". This will present information, updated periodically, that depicts growth in participation, recent satisfaction survey results and various other metrics helpful to charting progress in the development of British baseball and softball.
"Our staff have grown more adept and our processes have become very refined over the last four years," added John Boyd. "We are constantly sharpening, focusing and improving, and we feel very confident heading into our Sport England consultations as the next funding cycle approaches."
Help from clubs and leagues
Of course, it is individual clubs and leagues that have the greatest impact on the growth and development of British baseball and softball. BaseballSoftballUK encourages all existing organisations to explore their capacity for expansion.
In 2010, BSUK established its "Point Person system" for communication and collaboration with clubs and leagues. The agency is hoping that every amateur baseball or softball organisation in the UK, whether or not they are affiliated to the British Baseball or Softball Federation, will seek guidance and support to further develop their offerings to players, coaches, volunteers and fans.
John Boyd concluded: "We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are a community with a shared purpose, and it will take the lot of us working in concert -- BSUK staff, Federation volunteers, club leaders, players, coaches, outside volunteers, et al -- to truly put baseball and softball on the UK map."
In setting out our funding request to Sport England in the 2013-17 Whole Sport Plan, BSUK will still be concentrating on getting more people playing baseball and softball and improving the experience for current players. But there will also be proposals for a number of new areas of work.
Talent Development: The purpose of our bid for what Sport England calls "Excel" funding is to be able to provide a seamless progression from community sport to the talent pathway that allows individual athletes to achieve their ambitions in baseball or softball at whatever level that might be. This area of work will lead to more talented athletes working regularly with better coaches and reaching their full potential, either on GB teams or in high-level domestic competition, and is vital for retaining talented athletes within our sports.
Seasonal Coaching Expertise: In order to enhance our talent development pathway and create better qualified coaches, we need to be able to bring in high-level coaching expertise on a short-term, seasonal basis since the focus of our current staff provision does not allow for this need to be met through this resource.
Federation Governance: Since BSUK and the Federations work in partnership, it is of critical importance that all three organisations' have effective governance. Currently, the Federations lag behind BSUK in this area. As good governance is an essential component of the sustainable development of sport, it is imperative we support the Federations to develop into professional, strategically focussed and transparent organisations.
London Baseball and Softball Week: This is the plan to stage a week of international and domestic competition events in 2013 at the newly-developed Farnham Park and Milton Keynes baseball and softball facilities as part of our marketing strategy for raising the profile of the sports and reap additional value from our facilities investment.
Venue-Based (Epicentre) Hubs: Building on the facility investment BSUK received in 2009-13, we plan to use the newly-established sites at Farnham Park and Milton Keynes to develop strong local links and local community play at hub sites.
Up-scaling Charity Work: Building on effective work in the charity sector in 2009-13, we are seeking to further develop our offer to this sector to significantly increase participation. The concept involves large-scale national companies raising funds for charitable donation through playing softball and we plan to roll out this work on a bigger scale in 2013-17.
New Disability Work: BSUK plans to work with relevant equality partners to develop an offer for people with learning difficulties, with the aim of these participants largely joining existing competition structures. This focus is based on our understanding that there are limited sporting opportunities for people with learning difficulties.