At the 2017 CEB/ESF Joint Congress, two new presidents were elected to lead each organization. Both Didier Seminent, President of the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB), and Gabriel Waage, President of the European Softball Federation (ESF), believed that the most productive way to advance both sports across Europe was to join forces.
This was not the first time such propositions had come to pass for these organizations. Just one year later however, by a show of hands at last week’s joint Congress, the member federations unanimously approved the creation of a WBSC Europe umbrella organization under which both entities could co-exist. The new organization will continue to be led by Seminent and Waage, who have been appointed co-chairmen of WBSC Europe.
The co-chairs released a statement that said, in part, "We are confident that the new WBSC Europe body will both streamline and reinforce the promotion of baseball and softball throughout Europe."
To guide the transition, a 10-member Interim Executive Board of the WBSC Europe was also appointed at the Congress. Their job, over the next year, will be to complete the structure and constitution of WBSC Europe. Their work will be presented at the 2019 Congress for ratification.
Representing the WBSC, Treasurer Angelo Vicini said, “The WBSC appreciates that the CEB and ESF have been working together to unite the two continental organizations in order to have one strong governing body for baseball and softball. Surely it can serve as an example to other continents. Today's historical congress is an important one.”
What does that mean for the sports moving forward? There are about two years of legal and logistical concerns to get through before the official formation is complete but, in the interim, the organizations are sharing data, developmental plans and international events. They are also conducting public business under the name WBSC Europe, wherever it makes sense. As Vicini put it, “…the organization of continental events, in a professional manner, with the support of the WBSC."
The organization wasted no time in getting their supporting partners on board. At the Congress, they signed their first agreement with the WBSC partner company Teammate Sports Company. Teammate will supply the balls for official tournaments.
The joint steering committee, which had been in place throughout 2017, has already begun coordinating their first event. The Super6 Tournament, which will take place this September in The Netherlands, will be the first official WBSC Europe tournament. The invited teams have all accepted and were announced during the Congress. The top six teams from the Women's Softball Championship in 2017: The Czech Republic, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Russia and The Netherlands, will play while the top six teams from the 2016 European Baseball Championship: Belgium, The Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands face off.
The conference finished with a look toward the joint goals of the WBSC and WBSC Europe.
"The European continent, in terms of quantity and quality of sports is surely one of the most important continents amongst geographical areas”, treasurer Vicini remarked. “For this reason it is fundamental that baseball and softball demonstrate its importance. After years of hard work in order to be part of the sports program in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, today the WBSC has a new important challenge to face, the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. It certainly is not easy but we have already begun the work and have a clear and confident strategy. We must focus on this goal. It is absolutely necessary to be part of this event. It will guarantee continuity to our Olympic participation in 2028, giving us the possibility of becoming a permanent Olympic sport. In this journey the European continent is fundamental."
It is clear that the WBSC sees Europe’s game as an integral part of the Olympic success everyone in the baseball and softball community, worldwide are depending on to move the game forward.
Paris2024 is on our home turf. It will become imperative that we lead the charge toward getting the Paris Olympic Committee to request baseball/softball as a local addition to the Games. The formation of WBSC Europe is an important step in that direction.