The Grand Tour is promoting a pro division again this season--with a couple of changes. The format this year is to use the results of the first four events to seed a top four that will compete the Tour title and series prize money. The championship event ending the season has been confirmed as Moscow in late August. They will be competing in something like the current Race 2 -5 format. Other divisions will be playing Race 2-4 (or thereabouts.) The first event remains scheduled for Venice for May 1 & 2 but no details have been posted yet. The (Not-So) Grand Tour's participation numbers were very modest last year so it will be interesting to see how registration goes for 2010. With a preponderance of Eastern Euro and Russian teams I wonder if they'll see Venice as a holiday--or just too far away.
There's not much to report on the NPPL either. Online registration is supposed to open Feb. 15th and at that point we'll see if more team info is also available. The HB event is still about two months out though so any current data is unlikely to be too meaningful. It is perhaps a bit more interesting that the league has virtually gone silent with the departure of Camille. While the near daily email blast was somewhat annoying it made the NPPL hard to ignore. Right now the NPPL is a hopeful tournament series being run like a covert op--on a need to know basis--and apparently nobody needs to know.
The MS have opened registration for Malaga and are so far taking a page from the NPPL playbook. (Maybe.) The thing is under teams playing Malaga the open divisions show registered teams; so far 6 in D2, and 3 each in the new D3 and M5. But there's nothing in any of the closed divisions; D1, SPL & CPL. (And last year's CPL champ, SK Moscow, is registered to play semi-pro PSP in Phoenix.) As I understand it teams in the locked divisions are also on a payment schedule that has them pre-paying either all or a significant portion of their fees up front so the fact that the league can't or won't identify who is--and isn't--registered in the locked divs is curious to say the least. Especially as there's been lots of grumbling and whispering this off season with rumors that a number of locked div regulars won't be back this coming season.
I'm also interested in how 50 cal will fare. So far I've heard it will be allowed but I've yet to hear of any team receiving a 50 cal specific sponsorship or intending to compete using the 50 cal guns and paint. It would seem with all the established 50 cal backers in Euroland that would be an obvious next step.
PSP Phoenix is about a month out with the format-formerly-known-as-xball currently showing 87 teams registered and Race2-2 (5-man kinda) at 33 registered. Last year Phoenix ended up with 143 teams paid including 92 xball and 51 5-man. Last year also saw a lot of teams paying entry at the last minute but even so the current numbers must be a little nerve-wracking particularly in light of all the off season changes which were generally well received. If folks are happy with the changes and total numbers still decline it will be a sign of continuing weakness at the national event level. (Although with the new affiliates strategy it might be worth seeing if there is improvement this year over last at the regional level as the season goes on.)
So far an updated rule book is yet to be released and I'm wondering about the logistics of a 3 day event. We already know Pro and S-P are going to 90 seconds between points to save time and extend the number of matches per day on the pro field and while Phoenix has room for more fields every field added without x number of registered teams makes it that much harder for the league to stay out of the red. Is the 90 second rule soon to be a part of everybody's event?