Mr. Curious tells me there's a veritable stampede of interest from both sides of the Atlantic in playing PSP Pro in 2013. If even half the teams making inquiries are serious it isn't gonna work. Heck, it doesn't work now. The two party crashers at Cup only managed it because it was possible to add an extra day to the schedule and unless PSP is contemplating 4-day Pro events moving forward there needs to be another solution. (4-day events for Pro only increases the costs for everybody, promoter and teams alike.)
Right now 12 teams works well within the framework of the current tournament structure. Mr. C says the league is kinda sorta maybe leaning toward 15 teams--in part because the party crashers are looking for permanent spots too. So what would it take to expand to 15 teams? An extra day works logistically. Does it work financially or schedule-wise? How many teams will have players that, over the season, can't take all those weekdays off? There can be only one feature field--the webcast already costs a small fortune and the feature field already fills the day's broadcast. Could some matches be moved to an alternate field? Say the D1 field? Sure, but that becomes dependant on how many D1 teams are competing. Or do you start bumping D1 matches for the bumped Pro matches? Using Pro refs or divisional refs? Without intending any disrespect to the divisional refs officiating a pro game is on another level. (And then there's the matter of where the rules applied diverge--and they do.) Does the league begin to train new Pro refs--and just how do that do that if those refs aren't on the Pro field? So far I'm not seeing any obvious answers.
Okay, beyond the mechanics of making a larger division work there are also the unknowns to consider. It's still only November and VFTD is running a poll on which pro teams won't survive to start the new season. A lot of things are up in the air including just how and where a fair bit of sponsorship is gonna fall. And until the teams know more they can't decide what comes next. And what about the teams clamoring to get in? What sort of commitment are they prepared to make? Anyone after a Pro spot has to commit to the whole year in advance, don't they? How do you make decisions to let anyone in before you know what will happen with the teams already there? I'm still not seeing any obvious answers.
What about suggestions the Pro division already has some have-nots among its rank? Is adding unproven teams a remedy or a risk of further diluting the quality of the competition? It's a tough call either way.
Of course this wouldn't be VFTD if all I had were questions so I'ma throw out a couple of ideas for how to handle this Pro division dilemma too. (Not saying--yet--it's the best possible outcome, just the first that came to mind that seems to be workable--and expandable.)
Start by locking the Pro division at 12 teams. That's right, 12. Now you don't need to worry about event logistics blah blah blah. The issue becomes how to handle the current interest in being part of the Pro division. In addition a locked league creates a limitation on access, a scarcity, something not available to everyone or anyone. Nor does it have to stay permanently at 12 but right now 12 works. Reintroduce the semi-pro division and lock it too. Maybe begin with 8 teams or even 10 if there is sufficient interest. And introduce promotion and relegation. In doing that the league would create a path to Pro status. That path would assure that the best teams achieved Pro spots and by locking both semi-pro and Pro you protect those teams--at least as best the league can--and encourage sponsors to support those teams as the only ones either already Pro or with the possibility of going Pro in the near term. That's the basis for a generic solution.
To respond to the situation as it exists right now here's what I'd do. Locked at 12 means the World Cup party crashers are on the waiting list. If any of the 2012 season long participants drops out, breaks up, self-relegates? then the open spot(s) are filled from the waiting list. World Cup records determine the order of their access. If nobody drops out they go to semi-pro. (Yes, I realize this risks antagonizing some sponsors now but once the rule is established it solves future procedural problems and one likes to imagine, despite evidence to the contrary, that paintball has a few rationale members within its industry who may not like that answer but understand it.) As to the teams that want in, make them prove their fitness and commitment to the longer haul. The league isn't about accommodating their whims, it's about being top to bottom the finest competitive paintball series period. I would also provide some path to the Pro division for TopGun Union not because I think they're ready but because in recent seasons the D1 series winner has come to expect that success brings that opportunity. If that means, at best, a spot on the waiting list that would be unfortunate but still necessary. Lastly depending on what the semi-pro division numbers were looking like I'd offer spots to the top finishers in D1 in order of their finishing position until I'd filled the new Semi-pro division.
It is admittedly less than perfect. Such a course would leave some peeps and teams unhappy for the time-being. It might even be unfair to one or two. And there is no telling how it will play in future seasons. After all the PSP has done the Semi-pro thing before--just not quite like this. Nor is this "solution" guaranteed to resolve every issue that might arise. What it does do is minimize Pro division changes today based on the whims of a few teams who may or may not be committed to the PSP. It also creates a more permanent process for gaining Pro status while also doing everything possible to assure the teams that become Pro are the best available and committed to the PSP.
The invoice with my consulting fee is in the mail.