Sunday, April 8, 2012

The MS: the Big Picture

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.


Nick Brockdorff said...

I agree fully - the EPBF is a great idea.

It remains to be seen if it becomes democratic.... but I think it will.... when it reaches critical mass in terms of member federations, the EPBF will have no choice.

For the rest of the world (everwhere but the US), a national federation is the key to a lot of things:

- Financial support from government
- General accceptance as an official sport, by both government, press and population
- Press coverage by "real media"
- Olympics participation

The last part, is a horse that's been beaten to death in paintball for many years... but what many sceptics fail to see, is that paintball - by far - exceeds many olympic sports in terms of participation... but our complete lack of organisation as a traditional sport, means we are disqualified from the outset.

The EPBF forces a lot of european countries to build a national federation, if they want a seat at the table, and Laurent has made the right call, by adopting an "if I build it they will come" attitude in this instance.

Anonymous said...

Did you guys talk about the 'unexpected updates' to 2012 field kits from Sup'Air/AG?

Baca Loco said...

We didn't and I didn't ask. If I had realized we were also getting the shrinking field kits I would have asked. Since it was only the snake props and I didn't expect to get anything beyond the "technical" advance talk I didn't bother.

Anonymous said...

What the F is the point of this blog entry ?

Dissapointed said...

Agree with above. I can't believe you didn't ask for an explanation about the ridiculous upgrade kits. Even if you thought you'd get nothing good. At least he'd be reminded that people haven't forgotten.

Nick Brockdorff said...

It will be interesting to see if AG dares to make a field design this season (MS or PSP), that highlight the advertised benefits of the new snake bunkers..... and until they do (I don't think they will), I think you will be hard pressed to get anyone to admit the new snake bunkers are failures.

I also think Laurent is way too smart to spill the beans on them, to a guy of Bacas stature.... you cannot expect to control a selfproclaimed closet anarchist ;)

So, in that light, I think it would be pointless to ask about the new snake.

As for the shrinking bunkers, I gather that realisation came after the conversation?

Though personally, I am amazed that no paintball media has asked AG about it as of yet.

But that just goes to show you, how paintball media being reliant completely on paintball companies advertising, is a vicious circle, that means none of them ever become more than glorified press release hogs :)

Baca Loco said...

Yes, Nick, I was unaware of the shrinking field kits until HB.

Full Bore said...
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Full Bore said...
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Full Bore said...

Shrinking fields? Obviously AG has scaled down the bunkers to the expected size of the players, just like the accommodation at the "Riviera Cup"!

Reiner Schafer said...

"I can't believe you didn't ask for an explanation about the ridiculous upgrade kits. Even if you thought you'd get nothing good. At least he'd be reminded that people haven't forgotten."

I think you just did. I'm sure he visits VFTD regularly.

houdini said...

I have brought up the urgent need for an International Paintball Federation in this blog and personally to Ulrich Stahr but from the Euro side have had little positive response or news.

If a sport like 'boule' can get organised enough to create an international federation, then I don't know why the paintball community cannot do the same.

To me it's quite simple - stakeholders in this grand plan have to stop pushing the "affiliate with us and our way or go away" attitude and work on a less imperialistic unification of paintball that concentrates on encouraging the implementation of National Paintball Associations, as support from these associations is required for any International Federation to be recognized.

Affiliation and sanctioning of events from a national, regional and international level shouldn't be biased to one event organization or another. It should aim to include any event organisation, as long as they meet some basic criteria.

As paintball is still in its early days of development as a sport, these criteria must be kept very broad to allow for the natural development of the sport, more participation of many 'stakeholders' and thus more support for common goals, which should be to see paintball played in every nation and at all sorts of levels, both amateur and professional.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Houdini speaks the truth!

Other sports federations also allow for various ways to play the game.

However, at some point, for the good of the sport.... we have to arrive at one format as the "real format", while all others then become something you do for fun, rather than as "the sport".

It's also an interesting question, whether federations should encompass "all paintball", incl. something like UWL... or whether participation numbers is less important than clarity about what paintball is.

Reiner Schafer said...

Nick, if federations encompass other formats (like the UWL), then how could they arrive at one "real" format?

Nick Brockdorff said...

Exactly Reiner - that's the dilemma.

Everyone has been saying for years, that we need "one format" to be a "real sport"....

...Few seem to realise, that it will divide paintball into two separate entities entirely.

Personally, I don't have a problem with such a division at all and believe it would be healthy for both types of paintball. I think a big part of paintballs "problem" is that it has tried to encompass too much and we need a more clearly defined profile.

But, none the less, it's an interesting debate:

Should paintball be defined by the use of a paintball gun alone, or do we want a more narrow definition?

Reiner Schafer said...

Paintball can be defined by the use of a paintball gun. Competitive tournament paintball however should have a much narrower definition and should probably be the only thing national federations should concern themselves with. In my opinion, they should also stay away from anything not played on fields not symmetrical and not easily spectated and refereed (ie anything in the woods).

Nick Brockdorff said...

So, what you are saying, in terms of federations, is that they should be a representive body for airball (or other symetrical fields) tournament play only.

In time, the two different kinds of paintball, will be more like football & rugby, rather than 2 kinds of the same sport.

houdini said...

If you're worried about formats let's look athletics or tennis as an example.

Athletics has multiple formats of running races based on distance.

Tennis has multiple formats of tennis matches based on player numbers & even sexes (they even change the size of the court for doubles matches.)

There's no reason why multiple formats of paintball can't be included under one roof. Sure there would have to be a universal practice of officiating put in place but this is something that I think would evolve naturally.

Reiner Schafer said...

Nick, I don't play paintball anywhere other than woods (or similar recreational fields. I don't play on airball fields (anymore), but even I know that you can't run really fair, equal, well refereed tournaments on anything other than relatively small symmetrical fields. If federations want to be serious about establishing paintball as a serious "sport", then they need to make serious decisions about what they will have under their umbrella. Accepting any and every format that shoots paintballs and calls itself a competition just to bolster numbers, is not the way to go, in my opinion.

houdini, in tennis, virtually all competitions are played on the same court, just the player number changes (and slight rule adjustments), much like in paintball when tournaments have varying number of players per side).