On Saturday at the St. Tropez event I bumped (figuratively) into M. Laurent Hamet in the VIP as I prepared to scout an Art Chaos match. M. Hamet is a leading board member of the Millennium Series. A very influential figure in French and European paintball. The founder of Facefull magazine and the boss at Adrenaline (Sup’Air) Games. Among other things. He is also the primary force behind the EPBF and a principle mover behind efforts to form and build national & international paintball federations. And he wanted to talk. I was happy to listen.
It seems he wanted to pre-empt any negative opinions I might have about the MS. (I have posted some less than flattering comments in the past.) He also wanted to be able to explain the Millennium’s perspective vis-a-vis European paintball and the state of competitive paintball. All well and good and I was grateful to have him volunteer any and all thoughts he had on those subjects. Most surprising–beyond his interest in promoting his, and the MS’s, views to VFTD (and make no mistake it was potential future blog content on his mind) was the change that came over him when the subject moved beyond the Millennium to the EPBF (European Paintball Federation).
He talked about the Millennium style of reffing. I asked about the logistics of setting up the fields. He explained the system behind the development and rating of Millennium (and future MS) referees. It’s not unlike what the PSP began doing a few years ago but the MS has a real advantage in that they have established national federations to help train officials and provide trainees from a wider yet more integrated pool of prospects. How they separate team members (in the divisional reffing ranks) and take nationality into account inasmuch as they want diversity represented on any given field. (A tacit admission that there have been issues and/or accusations of bias or favoritism in the past.) [Ulrich Stahr league rep in charge of officiating or something & the CPL Ultimate said similar things while poo-pooing the validity of any such claims in the past. Whatever the truth of the matter it is clear that unspoken league policy is to minimize the potential for and appearance of suspect reffing in every way possible.]
We talked about the logistics of running pan European events. How the MS made due with a fraction of the PSP’s annual budget. (I am inclined to think at that stage he was pleading a measure of poverty rather like a Vatican Archbishop but I could be wrong in that I haven’t tried to crunch even a hypothetical set of numbers.) In sum he is a very pleasant chap (when he chooses to be) and made an excellent flack for the league. (I do not, btw, mean that in a pejorative way either.) Part of his purpose was to spin the MS as positively as possible without going overboard and he did it well. I came away from our conversation more fully informed and perhaps more sympathetic to the league generally. Although that was really the result of the other portion of our conversation.
When M. Hamet talks about the EPBF and the future of competitive paintball operating (and internationally recognized) under a tiered umbrella of national, regional and international sports federations it is clear that this is where his passion currently resides. The EPBF is both model and flagship for the sports federations initiative Hamet is spearheading. Below the EPBF would be affiliated national federations within Europe. Sharing equal billing would be a possible Americas PB Federation and/or an Asian PB Federation serving as umbrella organizations to the collective of regional national federations. The whole to eventually elect reps to a single, unifying international body. To the American mind it may seem somewhat odd if not pointless but is the way most of the rest of the world is organized--and the way many national governments operate & recognize various sports in an official capacity. Whatever one may think of the Millennium’s place in such a scheme or Hamet’s multiple loyalties there is no doubt about his sincerity when it comes to the project of building such a future for competitive paintball. There is a tension in his voice and subtle light in his eyes when he talks about the progress made and the potential benefits it will bring to the game and its players around the globe.
Sadly I am naturally wary of anyone or anything that seeks power and/or control over others. (Probably why I'm a closet anarchist.) Despite my prejudices however the simple truth is this is a model that can work. And on its face there is nothing wrong with pursuing a well worn and widely accepted path to greater recognition and the prospect of broader acceptance for the game and its players. Some might find it less than ideal that the current power players are pushing for a particular future but if not them then who? Progress, real progress, is most often made by those with an investment or stake in the outcome. Realistically, putting in place over time representative institutions will remove (to one degree or another) the direct influence of industry & promoters. On the whole it promises to better serve the game than the present situation and Hamet is to be commended for his efforts.