Thursday, May 14, 2009

The German Tsunami

By now you've all heard about the German legislation aimed at, among other things, banning paintball. But did you know rumor has it that privately most of the European paintball peeps consider the effort to fight a lost cause? Which may be a realistic take on the industry's lack of any political influence--unlike, say, the real gun lobby. So either the ban is a fait accompli or else only a sufficient public outcry might deter the politicians and cause them to modify the final legislation. Fortunately, there are a lot ballers in Germany and around the world trying to make their voices heard.

That's not the tsunami though. Not by a long shot. Take a minute to think about the ramifications of a German ban on paintball. (Purely the practical apart from a future trend politically.) What does Paintball lose immediately? A lot of players, teams and a still developing market. But the German market isn't just the German market. How big a hit do the MS and Grand Tour take if German teams disappear or are drastically reduced? Two of Europe's largest distributors are based in Germany. I'm told one of the smaller paint makers ships hundreds of skids of paint annually to Germany. And that Germany, when considered separately from Europe as a whole, is a top five market worldwide all on its own. Are you beginning to see the tsunami yet? In a time of general economic weakness within PBIndustry the loss of the German market could easily be the straw that broke more than a few camels' backs. It will, if it happens, cause a significant contraction in the European branches of the big U.S. players they can't afford right now. The potential ramifications really do reach every corner of the globe.
So, if you were thinking that's really tough for the Germans but it won't affect me--we all might need to reevaluate.

Which leads me to the biggest VFTD tease ever. You will not want to miss tomorrow's post; The Ultimate Paintball Conspiracy. I confess to being a conspiracy buff but that doesn't mean they don't exist. And a German ban could push the conspirators further down the path they are already considering. Fortunately nobody in Paintball can keep a secret and the word has gotten out. It could be the biggest story of the last decade.

UPDATE: sources in Euroland called to tell me to get it right so here I am, getting it right. My only excuse is that thing's been changin' mighty fast over there lately as this latest information has developed in the last 48 hours. Seems paintball folks have organized and using the services of a PR firm may have made some inroads in the last day with the help of a lot of players rousing public opinion. No deal is done and the ban could still pass but what seemed two days ago to be a lost cause might yet carry the day.

FOLLOW-UP: Please check out the comments as Missy (who knows her stuff) disputes the scale of the German market's importance and consequently the scale of the impact should a German ban ultimately happen. While I aim to have fun here at VFTD it is never my intention to steer you wrong so I appreciate Missy taking the time to correct a possible error. The latest news looks more positive so hopefully we won't have to find out what the real impact of a paintball ban in Germany might be.


SSRoman said...

I have a feeling the Cigarette Smoking Man is behind this.

Baca Loco said...

Make ze jokes now while you still can because eet iz no laughing matter.

Reiner Schafer said...

The whole thing befuddles me. A total ban of paintball and lasertag because these are war simulations. Yet target shooting with real guns will still be allowed. OK, maybe that's different than shooting projectiles and light beams at people, but in the scheme of things, "training snipers" isn't exactly innocent.

Now if you're a real gun fanatic don't get your panties in a knot. I know that MOST people target shooting aren't training ot be snipers, but then again, MOST people playing paintball and lasertag aren't training to be mass murderers either.

It sucks to watch this go down and feel like there is very little anyone can do.

The fact that we as a sport/hobby don't have a self-policing authority in place doesn't help. I've been saying for years that if we don't get something in place to police ourselves, governments will start doing it for us sooner or later. The SCUBA industry realized that very early on and formed PADI. Diving is much more dangerous than paintball, but gets very little government intervention. I do realize that the image diving has is a little different than our sport where we are pointing air guns at each other and shooting projectiles. But the point is, there is no one around to speak on behalf of all of paintball in an official capacity, other than maybe a self appointed manufacturers' ensemble. We've left ourselves open for this kind of action taken by the German government.

Missy Q said...

There's no way, and I mean no way, that Germany is a top 5 market. There are no fields to speak of. In fact, I'm not sure that it would even be top 5 in Europe as regards gross dollars. Max's is the large distributor, and he's a big customer for the industry for sure, but much/most of what he sells goes into eastern europe, as germany is typically the 'bridge'.
Germany has teams, and a decent high-end market, but thats the top 5-10% of the pyramid. Not trying to dumb-down the problem, just address the sensationalism a little.
If Germany goes down, and hopefully it won't, the effect you speak of will not be nearly as disastrous as suggested.

Baca Loco said...

That's good to hear, Missy. Obviously I'm not privvy to lots of inside industry numbers so I appreciate you taking amoment to correct that claim. Since the source is usually impeccable the error was probably mine.
While the overall effect might not be so sweeping--hopefully if it happens it won't be--aren't there a couple of U.S. based companies (that may or may not be in some financial trouble) heavily involved in Germany?

Mario said...

Yay! The ban is NOT going through, check it out at