Changes in store for the GB Senior Team?

GbHlSqThis should be another exciting year for the Great Britain Senior Men’s baseball team.  They are scheduled to participate in the European Baseball Championships in September, hoping to defend their remarkable second-placed finish in 2007.  However, the management structure of Team GB could be about to undergo a considerable change.  Mister is reporting that General Manager Alan Smith and Head Coach Stephan Rapaglia are set to resign from their posts prior to the upcoming British Baseball Federation Annual General Meeting. 

A lack of funding is once again the driving force behind change within British baseball. 

Smith and Rapaglia are proposing that the Head Coach salary should be eliminated and that part of the money is then redirected more broadly to the European Championship budget.  The British Baseball Federation’s draft Financial Statements show that expenditure on the National Team Coach position accounted for £7,500 in the 2009 calendar year, amounting to 28 per cent of the total BBF expenditure.  Taking away the salary in 2010 would reportedly save £5,000.

MisterBaseball also states that Smith and Rapaglia’s proposal includes an undertaking that 25 per cent of the roster should be British based and that “National team players would have to be required to contribute to the costs for their participation in the EC”.   

The BBF AGM will take place on 28 February at Birmingham City University and an information pack was made available for general download yesterday.  There is plenty on the agenda, not least the consideration of proposed constitutional amendments and 20 ‘Motions to the AGM’, but the National Teams Report under Item 4 seems the likely place where Smith and Rapaglia’s proposal will be raised.  More details about the AGM will be published in the near future at 

The BBF Board recently invited feedback from interested parties on how it should spend its money and the matter of funding the National Team was one of the main areas mentioned.  A sizeable proportion of the budget has been directed towards the GB set-up in recent years.  In real terms that budget is still much less than is required to compete in the main international tournaments and that has made the team’s success all the more remarkable.  A second-placed European Championship finish in 2007 and a creditable performance in last year’s World Cup amount to achievements that are unparalleled in the history of the Great Britain National Team. 

In terms of National team’s performance, the BBF have received a rich return on their investment, which is of great credit to Smith and Rapaglia.  Still, some within the BBF community are unhappy that funds are directed to the National team when relatively few members of the Team GB roster play in the BBF Leagues.  The two questions that then need to be asked are: what are the overall benefits gained from these international successes and could more be achieved for British baseball by spending the money in another way? 

Successful domestic and international set-ups should go hand-in-hand, but that’s a difficult balancing act to manage in a developing baseball nation, albeit one with a long history, when the overall level of funding is so limited. Following the World Cup campaign, Rapaglia wrote a thoughtful piece about the future of the Great Britain National Team and how this fits in with the domestic set-up.  It’s essential reading, although it doesn’t provide any clear-cut answers because they do not exist. 

Ideally the National team should be largely pooled from the British leagues and it’s clear that Rapaglia and Smith would love to take this route; however the level of competition and number of participants in the domestic scene simply doesn’t allow for this unless you’re prepared to accept fielding a considerably weakened team.  For example, the ‘BBF league’ members of the World Cup roster, including Richard Klijn and Alex Malihoudis, headed off to other European leagues last year prior to the World Cup so that they could prepare for the event by competing at a higher standard of play. 

Allowing the undoubted progress of the National team in recent years to go to waste would be a real shame. The current investment has raised Team GB’s performance immeasurably: a worthy cause in itself and also something that has provided several BBF league players with opportunities (e.g. being part of a World Cup roster) that they would have not received otherwise.

Improving the domestic league is absolutely a key objective for the BBF, but little could be achieved in this regard on the relatively small amount of funding that currently goes to the National Team set-up.  Raising the standard of play in Britain will involve greatly increasing the number of participants and facilities available to use.  Needless to say, an annual sum in the region of £5,000 isn’t going to go far in fulfilling those objectives.  

On a ‘return on investment’ basis, spending the money on the National Team therefore appears more effective.  The reported proposal by Smith and Rapaglia also serves as a decent compromise from the previous position.  Expenditure on the National team from BBF funds would decrease slightly, putting a bit more back into the domestic pot.  Reducing the roster quality through a quota system is never ideal, but setting it at 25 per cent is a workable solution. That should allow us to put together a good team while giving a few more British based players the opportunity to be involved.  The gradual process of improving the standard of British domestic baseball can then go on alongside a National team set-up of decent standing rather than badly compromising one or the other, which is surely in the best interests of all involved.  That said, BBF members obviously have every right to make up their own minds on how the money should best be spent.

We will now have to wait and see whether these proposals are tabled and what reaction they receive from within the BBF.

4 thoughts on “Changes in store for the GB Senior Team?

  1. John Clark

    Good post Matt. There certainly are a lot of question marks surrounding the best way to get the GB Teams up and going and with the resources available it would be quite a challenge. Maybe its time to invest in the youth GB programs more and hopefully develop these kids for years to come.

    The AGM information pack certainly makes for some interesting reading and certainly hope those involved can work out what’s best for Baseball in the UK going forward.

    The situation with the field the National teams use looks like something that will have to change. There are enough fields just as good or better. Maybe the GB teams when playing/training should rotate what fields they use.

  2. Owen

    Interesting reading and with no baseball in the Olympics I guess funding is very tuff.

    I do wonder the following:

    2nd place in 2007

    How much did it cost in total for this team to be put together and to come 2nd?
    Was this team really that good or is the level of baseball in Europe poor?

    Baseball World Cup 2009

    I would assume that the level of foreign players obtained did not really get any better due to budgets?

    It was almost harder not to qualify than qualify from round 1!! World Cup rosters (apart from Cuba)were alot weaker than WBC rosters and we should not kid ourselves about that. Many games were close but still.


    Making a diamond along with the facilties is obv not very cheap in this country and the chances of several quality fields springing up is very slim. Until this happens it is hard to develop the game in the country and raise standard of play. Regular players can be frustrated by this and then say why are we funding the GB Team. Maybe this is where the quota idea comes in?? To me this does not solve the problem as winning is key.

    Are we at a crossroads where it has to be decided with no Olympics and just European Championships is it worth having a Team GB and the costs which go with it? Could that money be better used on other projects?

    Should Team GB be self funded and therefore select who they want?

  3. Jimbob

    The BBF Information Pack should be an embarrassment to all those involved with the sport. Why would any company or individual want to be associated with a sport where there is such a significant level petty pickering and dispute?

  4. John Clark

    Spot on Owen about the World Cup and the facilities we have at the moment. You just have to look at many of the fields and they are limited in size and practice facilities. Not many fields have a batting cage and few can be used in all weather conditions – cricket nets do not count by the way. I’m sure the British baseball public would rather see money being spent on structures and investments then paying people to positions.

    The whole funding thing is becoming a bit of a weak excuse and I’m sure sponsorship could be a better way to go. The Rawlings deal is a great start and hopefully clubs can get discounts by using there equipment and put up some signage in return.

    The quicker people get over baseball ain’t coming back to the Olympics the better. Building on the National League, Youth Leagues, and GB Youth Academies will lead to better British based talent playing in the Euro Champs. There are enough coaches and talent going around the leagues to see better results. It’s just that the work level needs to be picked up and make time for the future. Pretty sure if you picked a GB based group of players who practiced every week together for a couple of months they’d be more then competitive. It’s just the changing of the attitude that needs to happen and a few sacrifices.


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