New President elected at quick BSF AGM

Wed 1 Mar 2017

A new President and Administrator were elected at the 2017 British Softball Federation AGM, held on Saturday 25 February at the Metropolitan Police Sports Club in Bushey, Herts, and two interesting development proposals for slowpitch softball were put before the meeting by BSUK’s Joint CEO John Boyd.

However, the AGM was one of the quickest on record at just a little over two hours in length, with no motions brought to the meeting by either the BSF Executive or the membership.  A total of 65 people attended, and 60 ballot slips were given out to members eligible to vote – though when it came to the Election of Officers, 59 votes were cast.

In the absence of outgoing BSF President Stella Ackrell, who was overseas, BSF Administrator Lesley Morisetti chaired the meeting.  Apologies were received from BSF Tournaments Officer Liz Graham, General Officer Steve Getraer and from Mark Salter and Julie Spittle.


Elections​

After eight years in post, BSF President Stella Ackrell has stepped down, and the new President will be Jenny Fromer, who was running unopposed and was endorsed on all 59 ballots cast.  Stella Ackrell was elected to the position of Administrator, replacing Lesley Morisetti, who is standing down after a year in the role. 

Six other Officers were re-elected to the positions they currently hold, and Chris Moon was reaffirmed as the BASU representative on the BSF Executive at the recent BASU AGM.

So the BSF Executive for the next 12 months (the first five Officers listed are Directors of BSF Ltd) will be:

President:  Jenny Fromer
Administrator:  Stella Ackrell
Treasurer:  Laura Burkhardt
National Teams Officer:  Jana McCaskill
National Competitions Officer:  Liz Graham

General Officer/Farnham Park Liaison:  Steve Getraer
General Officer/Bookkeeping and Reporting:  Mike Jennings
London Liaison Officer:  Alan MacFarlane
BASU Representative:  Chris Moon

Unfilled positions are Marketing & Communications Officer -- where the primary need is for someone to run the BSF’s social media accounts -- and Welfare Officer, and the Executive will attempt to co-opt to fill these roles.  Mike Jennings also announced that an additional General Officer would be useful specifically to help the BSF deliver the annual Softball World Series tournament, and anyone interested in helping with this should contact him on: j_mike_jennings@hotmail.com.

The new BSF President, Jenny Fromer, will not formally take up her post until 1 April.  Jenny has been Joint CEO and Head of Operations at BSUK for the past 12 years, and by custom, BSUK staff members do not serve on the BSF Executive.  However, Jenny will be leaving her post at BSUK at the end of March.

Topics presented and discussed during the course of the meeting are below.


Structural Review

Mike Jennings brought the meeting up to date on the proposed merger of the British Softball Federation, the British Baseball Federation and BaseballSoftballUK into a single organisation, which had been approved in principle by the Boards of all three organisations last year following an extensive Structural Review process and the presentation of a draft plan for the new organisation.

However, since that time, as Mike put it, “the goalposts have moved” because of changes in funding and requirements on the part of Sport England which could affect the structure of the proposed new organisation.  Although the BSF Board remains in favour of the merger, the BBF has not endorsed the plan and so the merger has been put on hold.

The proposals will be looked at again this year after Sport England funding and the focus it now requires from BSUK are known at the end of March.


Reports

Reports from National Competitions Officer Liz Graham and from all seven GB National Teams were included in the AGM Pack sent out before the meeting and published on the BSF website, and there were no comments or questions on any of these reports.  They can be read here.  

The report from BSF President Stella Ackrell was not included in the AGM Pack but has since been published on the BSF website and can be read here.  

In her report, Stella summarised the achievements of British softball in 2016 both at home and overseas, and gave her thanks to the “great people that I have had the pleasure to work with on the BSF Executive in 2016 and over the last eight years.”


Finances

BSF Treasurer Laura Burkhardt presented a summary of the BSF’s accounts for 2015-16 and the proposed budget for 2016-17 (the BSF’s financial year runs from 1 October-30 September).

The BSF budgeted for a planned deficit of around £9000 in 2015-16, Laura said, but wound up with a surplus of around £9,000 instead.  This was mainly due to fewer BSF Development Grants being applied for than anticipated, less spending on coaching and other development projects than had been budgeted for and the fact that legal costs expected with regard to the proposed BSF/BBF/BSUK merger did not materialise.  In addition, the BSF’s share of support costs towards BSUK’s new Fastpitch Development Officer, Johanna Malisani, were less than planned because she took up her post halfway through the financial year.

“This means,” Laura told the meeting, “that there will be more money to spend in the current financial year,” and the BSF has budgeted for a planned deficit of around £16,000 – which will still leave reserves at the desired level of approximately 80% of annual fee income.

The increased spending in 2016-17 will be mainly on upgrading the BSF’s database and communications, enhancement of National Championships, an upgrade in player bursaries since all seven national teams are likely to travel to official ESF or WBSC tournaments this year, a full year’s share of support costs for Johanna Malisani and potential legal costs if the merger proposal is revived.

Two questions from the floor concerned rising costs for insurance and for BSF National Championships.

With regard to insurance, Mike Jennings explained that the cost of the basic Civil and Public Liability insurance was not in fact going up for member teams, because this is included in BSF affiliation fees, which are not rising this year.  The increased costs for Accident and Injury insurance, which is optional, have been minimal.

Entry fees for National Championships, which are still broadly in line with other major tournaments, are mainly a function of grounds costs, which are expensive at Nationals venues.

The accounts and budget were approved by assent.


National Teams

BSF National Teams Officer Jana McCaskill ran through the results achieved by our teams overseas in 2016, which included a first-ever fastpitch gold medal in Europe for the GB Under-19 Women’s Team and H2O and Chromies finishing first and second respectively in the European Slowpitch Cup.

She then explained to the meeting what the GB Management Committee (GBMC) does in supporting and overseeing national team programmes, including carrying out fundraising initiatives of the kind that allowed the purchase of a sophisticated pitching machine last year that all national teams and others can use.

The fact that we will probably have seven national teams travelling this year to eight different European or World events, Jana said, shows how well the BSF and the GBMC have done in developing national team programmes that do well on the international stage.


Umpiring

Chris Moon, BASU’s representative on the BSF Executive, told the meeting that several two-day BASU Qualification Courses have already been booked by leagues for the pre-season period, but that some leagues have yet to establish dates.  Individuals looking to attend a BASU course can look for possibilities in the Events listing on the BSF website or on the BASU Facebook page.

BASU is also holding two one-day Advanced Courses this year, one in the North and one in the South, which are by invitation.

BASU always needs more umpires, Chris concluded – “so go and take a course!”

Mike Jennings, who serves at the ESF’s Technical Commissioner and Director of Competitions, told the meeting that with so many active national teams, we also need more umpires to achieve ESF and ISF qualification in both fastpitch and slowpitch.  In Europe, not only do we need to provide an umpire for every competition our teams enter, but Ireland is now asking to “borrow” two of our umpires to fulfil their own European obligations.

“Established BASU umpires,” Mike said, “need to think beyond the confines of the UK.”

Finally, BASU Fastpitch Officer Bridget Cameron reported that a successful fastpitch umpiring course had been held last year alongside GB Fastpitch League competition, but that more fastpitch umpires will be needed as the format expands.  Anyone interested in trying fastpitch umpiring should contact Bridget (bridgetcam@gmail.com).


Tournaments

Most of the tournaments scheduled for the 2017 season are already on the Events listing on the BSF website, but some new competitions were announced at the AGM.

The Blitz Tournament, a major new co-ed slowpitch tournament for A, B and C-grade teams, will be run on a university campus in Colchester, Essex on the weekend of 24-25 June, with university accommodation available.  More details will be on the BSF website shortly.

The London Advertising Softball League (LASL) will be holding its annual tournament on Saturday 22 July in London, though the venue is still to be confirmed.  This tournament is for Ad League teams only.

Another series of single-sex slowpitch tournaments for men’s and women’s teams will be held on Sundays in Nottingham this year.  Men’s tournaments will be held on 21 May, 18 June and 24 September, with women’s events on 17 June and 23 September.  Details are now in the BSF website events listing.

The Greater London Softball Mixed League holds two one-day tournaments each summer, and these dates will be announced soon.

Finally, a new Indoor Tournament is being planned for Maidenhead in December.  More details will follow in due course.


BSUK Session

After a short break for tea and coffee, the AGM resumed with a session presented by BSUK Joint CEO and Head of Development John Boyd.

John began by asking those attending if they could name some of the things that BSUK does, and the result was quite a comprehensive list, including:

  • Hit the Pitch programmes for companies, universities, schools, clubs and community groups.
  • Indoor leagues in Manchester and London.
  • University softball (and baseball).
  • LGBT tournaments.
  • Schools development.
  • Little League (for softball and baseball).
  • Coaching and coaching events.
  • Facility development and maintenance (Farnham Park, Milton Keynes, Manchester and others).
  • Talent programmes (Academy and High Performance Academy).
  • Adult slowpitch tournaments (such as the MLB Tournament).
  • Fastpitch development.
  • Safeguarding.
  • Sourcing funding from Sport England and elsewhere.
     

John then presented two new slowpitch development ideas for the meeting to consider.

The first idea, based on the recognition that on many slowpitch teams one person fills the roles of captain, manager and coach, is a three-hour Captain’s Course that can be run in various locations around the country – and/or perhaps as a Webinar.  The course will be designed to provide support for slowpitch team captains, particularly new captains, in the different aspects of their role.

The idea was well received by the members, but there was pushback against the idea that team captains should have to pay to attend the course, even at a suggested fee of £15 to cover expenses.  However, Mike Jennings suggested that the BSF might be able to help BSUK build a funding structure for the project.

The second idea was setting up a series of Academy sessions for adult slowpitch players, since the current Academies run by BSUK are for baseball and fastpitch (though a number of slowpitch players already attend fastpitch Academy sessions).

This idea was also well received, and a number of suggestions were made around it, including advanced sessions aimed at NSL players and women-only clinics aimed at the positions women generally play on slowpitch teams.

BSUK will hope to announce details for both of these initiatives shortly.


AOBs

A number of points were raised during the section on Any Other Business towards the end of the meeting:

Under-18 Consent Form.  After several questions raised in recent weeks, the form which allows parents or guardians to consent to players under the age of 18 playing in adult teams has been amended so that one form can cover the entire season rather than a form having to be completed for each event.

Regents Park.  BSF London Liaison Officer Alan MacFarlane reported that Regents Park, which is a key venue for several London leagues, is imposing a 5.3% rise in pitch fees this year which will bring the cost to £72 per pitch per night.  While there is nothing that can be done about this, Alan suggested that it might be worth BSUK, who pays the fees up front to Regents Park and gets them back from users, only advancing a percentage, since pitches are often poorly maintained and are sometimes unsafe as a result, and we shouldn’t be paying pitch fees when this is the case.

Development grants.  Mike Jennings reminded the meeting that the BSF runs a rolling programme of development grants for clubs and leagues, generally up to a maximum of £250, and that applications in recent years have not taken up all the funds available.  Application forms for these grants can be obtained from Liz Graham (liz@softball.org.uk).

Safety equipment.  Mike also reminded those present that it is compulsory for players under the age of 18 playing in adult slowpitch teams to wear helmets while batting, running the bases or coaching and to wear masks when catching.  Teams or leagues needing to purchase equipment to meet these requirements can apply to the BSF for a grant of up to 50% of the cost.  Requests for grants should be sent to BSF Treasurer Laura Burkhardt (laura.burkhardt@britishsoftball.org).

BSF coaching initiative.  The BSF, through former GB Slowpitch Team Manager and Assistant Coach Sara Vertigan, will again be running a scheme this year whereby aspiring B-grade and C-grade slowpitch teams can apply to have a coaching session delivered by a GB Slowpitch Team coach or player, followed by the same person working with team on game management during tournament or league play.  All of the costs involved are met by the BSF.  Teams interested should contact Sara Vertigan (dizzy_16@hotmail.com).

Reporting injuries.  When an injury occurs in the course of softball play that requires medical treatment of any kind, the incident should always be reported using a form that can be found here on the BSUK website.  In addition, the BSF highly recommends that details of any injuries that occur during league play should be recorded and reported to the league, and that all leagues should keep Accident Books so that details are on file in the case of subsequent insurance claims.


Annual Awards

The BSF normally makes a series of annual awards at the AGM, from nominations received in different award categories.

This year, due to some confusion around last-minute nominations, award winners were not named at the AGM, but were decided at a BSF Executive meeting that followed the AGM.

The award winners for 2016 are:

Glover Cup:
Alan Le Marquand for conceiving and running a series of successful slowpitch development initiatives and events.

President’s Club Award:
Jon Reynolds for playing a key role in the creation and development of the new MK Diamonds Softball Club.

League Glover Cup:
The Great Britain Fastpitch League, which has progressed in terms of size, organisation and quality over the past two years under the leadership of Lee and Jan Grafton and Kenny Pregnell.

Youth Team of the Year:
The GB Under-19 Women’s Team, which won GB’s first-ever fastpitch gold medal at the European Junior Championship in 2016.

Tournament Umpire of the Year:
Darrell Pitman, for dedication and quality in both slowpitch and fastpitch umpiring.

Betsy Holden Award:
Laura Hirai, who not only played on both the GB Junior Softball and Baseball Teams in 2016, but has done outstanding work in promoting both programmes internationally.

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