Following is the Lane Wright interview. It doesn’t cover all the questions submitted nor even all the questions I wanted to ask him. With respect to the questions I avoided those that were purely speculative or hypothetical, for the most part. Or fluffy. Definitely no fluff. Or any fishing or baseball questions. In general I focused on Lane’s role with the PSP and secondarily, tourney paintball. This interview was handled as a series of questions submitted by email with a follow-up via phone for clarifications and to harass Lane a little bit on those questions he preferred not to answer. I've broken up the interview into sections to accomodate the ADD crowd. All the questions and answers are included without additional comment.
Thanks for taking the time to respond to a few questions from VFTD and its readers. This is a first for VFTD and I’d love to make it a regular–perhaps annual event. However, enough of the small talk as this is supposed to be a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails interview though I’m not gonna try and slip in any gotcha type questions. There is no avoiding some topics however.
1. Let’s begin with the recent news about Smart Parts. Will this have an effect on the PSP?
I am sure it will have an effect. They are one of our larger sponsors. Losing a sponsor will always have an effect on a business that needs sponsor money to sustain itself. At the moment though, I am more concerned with my personal friends dealing with a terrible situation. And secondly, dealing with the reality of the economy as it applies to our industry. PSP will move on. I’m concerned for Adam and his employees and the rest of the industry.
2. What about SP’s presence as a premier sponsor and vendor?
I believe those days are gone for the near future. They have to do what is right for their business and the people who still depend on them to provide for their families. That is and should be their first priority.
3. Moving on let’s go to rules and specifically the ROF. The PSP dropped the ROF in 2008 and again for the 2009 season. You publicly indicated that industry manufacturers (PSP sponsors) were a big part of the drive for this drop. The hope was that a "trickle down" effect to local fields would help make the game more attractive to potential players. With a season and a half gone by, have you had any feedback from these industry leaders to confirm that this is indeed happening? Is the plan working as it was hoped it would?
I have indeed had positive feedback from people. This was never intended to be a quick fix. It didn’t get broken in a year and it won’t get fixed in a year. If I didn’t think it was a positive move, we would undo the changes.
4. Here we are at the end of the season and there’s a relatively recent thread on the Nation speculating about more changes to ROF. Is more change to the ROF rules coming? And if no plans currently exist is the option open for future change?
There had been no discussion what so ever about ROF changes. That was a typical Internet rumor that went wild. Once it gets going, I have to respond. But like so many things that turn into “big issues” this one started from absolutely nothing.
5. While the subject is rules let’s talk about the classification rules for a minute. How do you view the function of the classification rules? What do you want them to accomplish?
Classification rules are meant to provide the wide array of teams interested in competing at our tournaments a relatively protected competitive grouping. I want the rules to accomplish the goal the rules are meant to accomplish.
6. As you know I’ve criticized, not so much the concept of classification, but it’s current application. If one function of the classification rules is to move players up to fill the upper divisional ranks; is it working? Shouldn’t we be seeing those divisions begin to fill out and add team numbers? And if we’re not–and we aren’t--why not?
The goal is not to move players into higher classifications. That ends up being a function of the system, but it isn’t the intended purpose. The classification rules have been in a constant state of flux. Some people see that as being a bad thing. I understand their position. I see it as PSP trying to adapt the rules to the current situations - as they arise or as we see them coming. I think that if we simply set out rules and never adjusted them, people would say we were arrogant and didn’t listen to the players. No matter what the rules are, no matter where the line is drawn, someone will always be the worst team in D1, or the worst player in D2. That doesn’t mean they aren’t classified correctly. The Lions are the worst team in the NFL. But they are indeed a professional team.
In my opinion, one of the main reasons we are not seeing the top classification fill is based on finance and philosophy.
The teams are not getting the financing needed to survive as they have in the past. The teams and players are not willing to adjust how they operate and instead go away, either as a whole or player by player.
And philosophical thing is that players/teams no longer have the burning desire to move to the highest level. They have begun to look at this as some type of business for them, I guess. It’s ridiculous. When D2 teams are talking about ROI on a purely monetary level it is crazy. This sport is nowhere near that level. So many teams today seem to be perfectly happy with mediocrity. They are perfectly OK with being a good D2 team. I can’t let them get their personal kicks out of outclassing a division because it plugs up the lower end. With no place for new teams to come in and compete, we are doomed. All of us.
There are many reasons for the assumed failing of pro teams. I don’t think classifications rules are anywhere near the top of the list.
Until our sport is mature enough to have contracts, drafts, and a governing body that recognizes that the league as a whole is bigger than the entities that comprise it, we will deal with rising and falling pro ranks. And no, money doesn’t come before those things. That’s idealistic and wishful thinking by anyone who says it does.
7. Any chance the league will reconsider the utility of using the classification rules for redistribution purposes in the off season? And, yes, that was a loaded question and if you disagree with the premise, on what basis do you disagree?
I don’t even understand the question. I certainly can’t answer it.
8. Moving on, a related subject is the UCP (Universal Classification Program). I think there’s probably more than a little confusion over just what the UCP is, and what’s it’s supposed to do. Care to take a crack at a brief explanation?
The UCP is the first crack at trying to set up a system of classification for all tournament play. It is a huge complicated task. It is needed. It isn’t going to be easy. We took the first step this year. We created a system. As the year went on, it became apparent that our first draft wasn’t perfect. No one is forced to use the UCP system. People who run their own events can do whatever they want with their classification rules. Some people acted like we forced them to do something and that is very bothersome to me. We took a stab at something that we saw was needed. We made an educated and experienced attempt at doing it right. We will make adjustments during the off season and try to make it better. And we will keep following that procedure.
9. In places where categories of play overlap the local, regional and national tournament scenes is there a concern that the result will be competition for teams between UCP members and hierarchies instead of cooperative integration?
Yes. It doesn’t have to be that way if people will look at the big picture and be cooperative. Too many people in our sport think about tomorrow and next week and apparently have no intention of being around in 5 years. I don’t always succeed. But I always try to thing about long term ramifications. I’d rather bite the bullet today, knowing that 5 years from now I will prosper. Paintball seems to be full of people who don’t like to think that way. If certain people stick together, certain people who run key leagues around the country and think long term, we can make this transition and be a much better sporting industry in the future. It will work. Not for everyone, but for those who are willing to look at the long term big picture. It has to happen and we have to do what it takes to make it happen - even if that means giving a little ground today.
10. Do you think the UCP needs to provide exclusive relationships with the local and regional groups based on territories or is it viewed as flexible enough to bring in everyone under its banner?
I don’t know the answer to that. It is a great question. I am concerned with it. Obviously, the simple answer is yes. Establish regions, find the guy capable of doing the best job in a region, and go at it with him as the man in that area. I hope there is another way to do it. We’ll see.