Thursday, September 4, 2008

Brave New Paintball World, Part 3: The Beginning?

If you're still reading you can breath a sigh of relief as this is the final installment. In case there's any confusion here's a short outline of where things stand.

1) Ditch the multi-division national tourney format
2) In its place, the Pro Circuit
3) PBIndustry sponsors the Pro Circuit
4) Re-focus existing resources and relationships to create 4 or 5 regional series for all levels of play except the pros. (Or integrate existing regional series under a unifying PSP umbrella.)
5) the Pro Circuit becomes a tour "visiting" the existing regions once each season
6) season finale like World Cup becomes a true championship event as regions send their best representatives to Cup to compete for real national titles.

Right, let's flesh this out a bit one point at a time. (I'm gonna base this off a PSP assumption on the basis that PSP already has a successful World Cup and, I think, more of the potential regional building blocks exist in the xball format but I remain totally in favor of another league and the 7-man format.) This isn't intended to be comprehensive. The goal is simply to suggest a viable alternative, to think about where paintball is going and what paintball needs outside the outmoded (stagnant) (failing) framework of the past.

1) For a bunch of reasons. The current structure exists to support the Pro event (at least that was the genesis of the current tourney structure) but it demands an unwieldy scale that can't survive on either too few teams or function on too many teams. The expense to the lower division teams limits their opportunities, places the bar to national competition too high for many teams and directly competes with local and regional tournaments which actually inhibits grassroots development of the sport. A move away from an all-encompassing national series will improve tournament paintball particularly when part of the process is a unifying rule set, format, and standards & practices packaged with the payoff of a true championship(s).
2) The "new" Pro Circuit is the pre-existing pro bracket or whatever form is agreed upon; open, expanded, etc. It becomes the only division playing a national series in the sense the pros continue to travel to event sites around the country. (What's the real alternative? There aren't that many pro teams even today. And besides, I hear PSP has a plan in the works intended to be used within the present structure that will integrate seamlessly with this conception and enhance it. [Sorry, that's another one you'll have to wait for an official press release.]) On the plus side pro level competition becomes more important as it becomes less directly accessible. A Pro Circuit experience becomes a special annual event designed to showcase the epitome of the sport and bolster the different regional series.
3) How this works is, admittedly, a complicated proposition but the core concept is that the sponsoring vendors and PBIndustry follow the Pro Circuit. The result is an annual appearance in each region that coincides with the Pro Circuit appearance and means that instead of expecting the same teams and players to spend money at multiple events you reach a different customer base at each event and in all likelihood draw a much larger local turnout than is the norm at most of the current events.
4) There are already some xball based regional series. The goal is to establish a unified rulebook, universal (to the league and its members) standards and practices including refereeing programs and use the regional series to replace the national series for all the am divisions of play. Where regional series exist bring them in if they want to be part of the Pro Circuit and participate in World Cup and where they don't exist find partners and begin to make it happen. The expertise already exists and there is no reason each region must conform in every detail of how they operate. The upside is enormous. Build a regional base that is more affordable for the players and teams, you develop local rivalries, the teams support their region and once a year when everybody gathers for World Cup the resulting competition is a true championship. In addition the Pro Circuit makes the pro teams and players more relevant because they are no longer a commonplace feature of every event. Pro Circuit stops become uniquely special as does WC.
5) The Pro Circuit visits each region once a year. Each region functions independently of the others. Where a CFOA type arrangement works in the east a west coast regional series may operate out of only a couple of locations and that's fine. The draw is the format, the association with the other regions and operating under the PSP umbrella that delivers a Pro Circuit stop and an opportunity for the real best of the best to compete for a WC title. There's plenty of flexibility. When the Pro Circuit comes to town it is held in concert with a regularly scheduled regional series event. Consider the effect a Pro Circuit stop could have in generating interest and excitement and serving as validation of the regional series and competition. A distinct Pro Circuit also increases the promotional and marketing value to the supporting PBIndustry.
6) Imagine the level of excitement and interest pulled from every competing region when the best teams in each division from every region come together to fight for a real honest-to-god World Cup title. And best of all if the promoters of Cup want to also offer a big annual celebratory tourney for anyone who wants to come, like it is today, they still can. The more the merrier. In that way WC remains the greatest event in paintball and becomes an active marketing exercise that promotes the league, the regional affiliates, pro paintball and tournament paintball in general.

There ya go, kids. Sure, there's nits to pick and details that have been glossed over and plenty of possible objections but those are all beside the point. The reality is the status quo might, and I mean might, be sustained for a while but is that really good enough? I don't think so. And yes, this plan means those with power now may have to divest themselves of some of it. (On that score the issue is what do they want out of tournament paintball?) However, in exchange they will get a leaner more efficient tourney series that builds at the grassroots level and allows then to focus their attention on the Pro Circuit which will retain all the future potential that was the goal of the original NXL.
There's more but either you buy into the concept or you don't.

Um, I don't quite know how to break this to you but I'm gonna do one more post on this subject. That one will be about building a productive relationship between the pro teams and the league(s)--which doesn't come close to existing now.


Anonymous said...


Over the years I have met you many times and you definately no who I am on a personal basis. I am in the industry as a sponsor who has dealt with you on various teams. I have read most of the articles you have written over the years as I truly do enjoy your opinions. All though one dimensional at times you have a very good head on your shoulders and what you have written in the past I feel has always been very thought out as well as thought provoking. In saying that I have to say that what you have just proposed is exactly what needs to happen to ensure the success and longevity of this sport/ business/ hobby or what ever it may be to the readers of your column. Now as you mentioned there are many fine details that would need to be worked out to ensure this as a success. But IMO what needs to happen is to somehow (and this has been tried in the past and proven impossible at times) is to get all of our industry leaders in one place and have the discussion we all need to have. Which is how do we keep this sport and industry alive and flourishing. Pro paintball is on its way out very soon if there are not some major changes made. I have my differences with both the NPPL and the PSP but if something like this would happen it would have the full support of the majority of this industry. Now we just all need to figure out how to get all o us on board. That my friend is the battle that will be hard fought but well worth the pain and suffering.

Best Regards,

Industry Man of Mystery

raehl said...

I think you're going one step too far with this. Eliminating D1/D2 shouldn't be part of the plan.

Here are my issues.

- Distribution of talent: If you go to any region, and look at the top 10 non-Pro teams in that region that might make up the top division in that regional series, the difference in talent from the top team to the 10th team is huge. CFOA proved this already - they couldn't sustain Advanced XBall because Gridlock beat everybody so bad that nobody else wanted to play, and with no one else wanting to play, no Advanced XBall. You need national level D1, D2 and maybe even D3 for the very simple reason that the teams that are that talented are spread all over the country, and without the ability to play the other D1/D2/D3 level of talent teams all over the country, those teams have no one to play at all.

- Willingness of teams to pay for what the national leagues offer: At least on the PSP side, there is no shortage of teams who are willing to pay $2,500 an event to get what PSP events offer. Top-notch reffing, national-event feel, somewhat of a trade show, etc. If people are willing to pay for it, why not give it to them?

- Financing the Pro division: Coupled with the item above, the glaring hole I see in what your proposing there is paying for the Pro division. You are right - the traveling circus props the Pro division up. It works because the traveling circus provides a value to teams that they're willing to pay $2500 for. And some of that money goes to pay for giving the Pros a place to play. But if you take away the national-level stuff that teams are paying $2500 for and instead sub-in a regional-level event, you can't charge teams $2500 anymore - regional events are worth $250-$1500, depending on format and details. And at that price point, there isn't any money to pay for the Pros to show up.

Those issues aside, I think you're pretty close to what needs to happen. We've been running something similar in the college league for 8 years now, and it works well for us.

Baca Loco said...

Two points: paying for the Pro Cicuit and maintaining a D1 & D2 national presence.
Point 1--that's in part why I need to write the additional post; to address that very thing among a couple others.
Point 2--however much distance is between our views here it appears to relate directly to our disagreement over my series of D1/classification posts. Additionally a critical component of the concept as I see it is to tear down the bulk of the national structure. That said, I could see a case being made on behalf of D1 perhaps as part of a transition period.

Man of Mystery--one dimensional? Ouch. Otherwise thanks for the kind words. Btw, I bet I could guess your identity in one guess. :-)
What Paintball needs is an Ultimate Referee.