At the combined ESF/CEB Congress on February 4 in Belgrade, Serbia elections for the executive board of the European Softball Federation (ESF) and the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) are on the agenda. While the new ESF President is basically known with Gabriel Waage from the Czech Republic as the lone candidate, there is a three-man race in CEB.
Reigning CEB President Jan Esselman (Netherlands), Petr Ditrich (Czech Republic) and Didier Seminet (France) are looking to become the new chair for the new executive board of governing body for European Baseball. All three were so kind to answer a couple of questions to Mister-Baseball.com about various topics. These are the answers:
Mister-Baseball.com: Please introduce yourself to the audience for Mister-Baseball.com?
Jan Esselman: I am Jan Esselman from Haarlem , Netherlands. Serving CEB for 24 years as former member, secretary and chairman of the Technical Commission. Since the 2013 congress in Bled I am President of CEB.
Petr Ditrich: I am the president of the Czech Baseball Association (CBA) for a long time. Baseball is my job and passion. I have devoted much of my professional life to baseball. Not everyone knows that I worked as headmaster of a high school before.
Didier Seminet: My name is Didier Seminet. I’m the President of the French Baseball & Softball Federation since 2010 and co-founder and President of the Association Francophone de Baseball et Softball since 2014. I’ve been involved in Baseball & Softball for a long time, first as a player then as a leader or various baseball/softball organizations. I am 50 years old, have one daughter and am leading a company specialized in safety coordination.
Mister-Baseball.com: What qualifies you to become President of the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB)?
Petr Ditrich: I have experience with managing a federation. CBA has gone through great development. I was part of the whole development process, I still remember the beginnings and I can imagine the situations of smaller federations. I consider this as very important, because we have a lot federation in this stage. We have built a good baseball infrastructure in the Czech Republic. We have enough international fields. Thanks to this, we were able to hold European Championship in 2005, University World Championship in 2008, World Championship in 2009 and European Championship in 2014. And every year some other extra action. Now we are preparing for the European Championship under 23, where we will be playing with 16 teams. I worked in CEB in various positions including as acting president in 2012-2013 years.
Didier Seminet: I think I have the leadership that is needed for the future of European Baseball & Softball. Under my presidency the French Baseball & Softball Federation has thrived, growing from 8,500 to 12,675 players while its budget rose from 850k€ to 1,4M€. I guess the figures speak for themselves.
Jan Esselman: I am the President of CEB and the Members know me.
Mister-Baseball.com: If you’re getting elected, what will be your program for the first year in office?
Didier Seminet: I think that the first step is to work on combining of the Confederation of European Baseball and the European Softball Federation and get to know every National Federation to understand their needs.
Jan Esselman: The most important tasks of the new elected Board will be
- To discuss and arrange a merge of CEB with ESF within 2 years.
- To arrange the European Qualifier system for the Tokyo 2020 games in conjunction with the WBSC.
Petr Ditrich: I will not promise unrealizable thinks; I prefer daily work. The program should be based on federation requirements. We have a potential but we have to use it. The new CEB leadership must have a lot of support from the big majority of the member federation. Not just from big federations, but from all federations around Europe. It makes no sense to win the election by a few votes like last time. No president can assert the program by himself. He must rely on cooperation with his board. Personal ambition must be put aside. Simply put to be a president is not my first priority. I can help with my long time experience especially in organization and competition. For this reason I am looking for vice president positions too.
Mister-Baseball.com: Internationally with the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and in Europe as well with the majority of the federations, baseball and softball will be governed under one umbrella. There have been talks between CEB and the European Softball Federation (ESF) about a merger for some time. Would you be interested in bringing CEB and ESF together? If yes, what would be the advantages and what will be your measurements to make this happen?
Jan Esselman: Now that on the world level the merger is almost completed and in the next WBSC congress in October 2017 in Botswana the WBSC statutes will be approved the continents should follow soon. The sports will always exist separate but the management and administration of CEB and ESF should merge within the coming two years. The new elected CEB Board will gather with the new elected Board of ESF on the Sunday morning 5th February in Belgrade with the goal to establish a management group of baseball and softball leaders of both continental federations to discuss and arrange a merger.
Petr Ditrich: WBSC has done a big result in the inclusion of baseball on the program of the Olympics. Not many people believed but it was managed. Especially the WBSC baseball division has great economical results. Let´s look at the Premier12 as example. The new CEB board has to support the European leadership of WBSC. It is a great opportunity for all of us. Baseball and softball have been connected at the global level already. The majority of the federations in Europe are combined. Logically there must be a connection on the continental level too. The next WBSC Congress will be about the new structure.
Didier Seminet: Of course, that was the first topic I talked about when I launched my blog (www.europeanbaseballsoftball.org) in December 2016. Maybe it seems obvious to me because I come from a combined Federation. Baseball and Softball are like brother and sister, they need to work together. Most of the European Federations are combined, the International Federation is, it’s just the natural order to head towards a joint “European Baseball & Softball Confederation”. You can find more about my opinion here: https://baseballsoftballeurope.com/2016/12/22/why-european-baseball-softball-have-to-combine/
Mister-Baseball.com: The Euro League Baseball (ELB) was established last year to bring professional baseball to Europe. However, it was done without sanctioning of CEB. Will you be talking to the organizers to bring the ELB into CEB? Is a real professional league a possibility?
Petr Ditrich: We cannot skip stages of development. We will be able to have a real professional league at the moment we have a lot of professional clubs and professional players. The professional league should generate profit to owners. At the moment it is nice dream. I see an opportunity in the new club competition of WBSC who want to invest in the competition. We lose one year and hopefully we can start in 2018.
Didier Seminet: A professional league is a possibility for European Baseball. This is something that needs to be discussed within the new CEB board first but I’m willing to discuss opportunities and options with EBL stakeholders.
Jan Esselman: Without financial support of WBSC and MLB or huge sponsorships there is no chance to build a professional league in Europe. The performance of the ELB up to now is not conform a professional league, mainly caused by the lack of finances. CEB is formed for and prepared to support any baseball activity in Europe. To create a real European professional league needs huge amounts of money which are unfortunate at this moment not yet available.
Mister-Baseball.com: What will be your steps during your term to increase the number of baseball players in Europe?
Didier Seminet: We need to work on the development of National Federations through a funding programme as well as on growing the interest of fans, media and sponsors through great and marketable events.
Jan Esselman: To reach that we need the help of our members, the National Federations. Our development plans can only be a success together with them. There are several ideas to be implemented and BeeBall is a perfect tool to continue.
Petr Ditrich: The number of players is based on the work of each federation. Every federation is different and has specific possibilities. Generally we have to support young categories. Youth is our future. But again this has to be done throughout each federation.
Mister-Baseball.com: What would be on your agenda to increase the visibility of European baseball competitions?
Jan Esselman: The last four years CEB brought the competitions in line with the qualification for the World Championships. Successful was the split in A, B and C-level in all Championships and tournaments of National teams and Club teams. To use the example from WBSC the CEB must investigate a Premier 6 competition between the top National teams Seniors in Europe.
Petr Ditrich: At least an internet live stream from every tournament is not utopia. We have to play more attractive games. Every country should have the opportunity to show up in home game every two years. According to this, we are glad that the European Championship U23 will be played in Austria and Slovakia too.
Didier Seminet: I think that video recording and broadcasting of our flagships events is a start to increase fan, media and sponsors interest. We need to spend time, energy and resources on promotion which is a key issue of the development of the game in Europe.
Mister-Baseball.com: The CEB offices are currently in Zagreb, Croatia. Will they stay there or do you propose a change?
Petr Ditrich: Simply, Zagreb office works well and there is no reason to change it. We should give more work there.
Didier Seminet: There is no plan to move the office.
Jan Esselman: We were able to open the Zagreb office 2014 with the financial help of the Croatian authorities. It’s a great help and big support in the administration for the Executive, the General Secretary and the Commissions of CEB.
Mister-Baseball.com: In the past CEB has asked to submit applications for a full-time executive position. Will you be in favor of hiring employees to run the day to day side of CEB?
Didier Seminet: CEB already has Kristina who is working part-time for the Croatian Baseball Federation and part-time for day-to-day activities of European Baseball. As of now CEB doesn’t have the financial resources to hire a full-time executive position. CEB needs employees but that would not be wise to hire personal if the funding is not secured. Some National Federations – FFBS is one of them – are ready to offer some of their staff to work for CEB. Their work would create an income for CEB (sponsorships, tv rights, development funds, etc.) that would then offer the possibility to hire part-time or full-time jobs.
Jan Esselman: CEB postponed early 2016 the hiring of a professional employee because the level we were searching for asked for a too big amount from our reserves. To be able to implement this part of our development plan we need financial support from our Members and from the WBSC. For the future of CEB this step is crucial. If this support is created we will not hesitate and do so immediately.
Petr Ditrich: Yes, it is the foundation. We already have a half-time employee in Zagreb. We will quickly raise it to full-time. I consider it as administration position. Every organization starts with the first employee. And we’ll manage it before the competitions start in 2017.
Mister-Baseball.com: Thank you!