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State of the NPPL
June 2002 League Meeting
By Bill Mills

The 2002 Chicago Open marked the halfway point through what has been one of the NPPL’s most politically chaotic seasons.  In the midst of the league being reborn to be a truly player owned and operated entity, the league was unable to reach a sanctioning agreement with Paintball Sports Promotions – the two parties officially split.  After renegotiating, the NPPL agreed to sanction the Chicago Open, as well as the rest of the year’s events which included the Atlantic City Open and World Cup.  The sanction of the last three events was contracted conditionally dependant on a specific list of site and event requirements being met – something the league has not done in several years, and an important move forward in requiring the event promoters to be more accountable to the players.

Since taking office as league president in 2001, Chuck Hendsch has not sat idle.  He has overseen the reincorportion of the league into a legal business entity, and a number of promotional partnerships such as the NPPL’s sponsorship of the television show Splatter Factor, as a means to promote not only the league, but the sport of paintball in general.

The present league leadership consists not only of Hendsch but also a steering committee that was elected at the 2001 Gettysburg tournament.  For as much as the league has done recently, there is still much left to do.  The corporation is presently owned by Hendsch, however he intends for the league ownership to lie with the teams.  In order to convert the corporation from a single owner to multiple shareholders, a charter and bylaws will need to be written, and the exact structure will need to be designed.

League restructuring was one of the topics to have been addressed at a meeting during the 2002 Chicago Open.  Each team interested in league participation was to have sent a representative to the meeting held the Saturday night of the event at eight PM.  Surprisingly, only approximately 30 people signed up to attend the meeting.  Even more surprising, only 6, not counting Hendsch and league marketing representative Camille Baker showed up.  For several people involved in the league this poor showing was not only disappointing but also infuriating.  In various internet message boards, players have complained loudly over the last couple of years that they are not being represented in how the NPPL tournaments are run.  Now that a core group of players has worked hard to bring back the league and it’s control of events, these same players who complained that they were not being heard can’t be bothered to take the time to voice their concerns and take the league to it’s next step in growth and evolution.

Hendsch, while frustrated by the low attendance also felt that it was due in part to scheduling – many teams were resting up for the semifinals, or still out walking fields.  Undaunted, Hendsch used the meeting to recap what the league has achieved over the last year, as well as lay out goals for the future, in something of a state of the union address.

Hendsch first took the time to thank Rocky Knuth, Camille Baker and Paul Alders for their tireless help during the NPPL/PSP split and renegotiation.  Hensch pointed out that now is an important time not only for the league, but also for paintball in general.  He cited industry figures which show that the sales of paintball products has grown 20% in just the last year, and that there are now over eight million players in the United States alone.  Hendsch pointed out that many “extreme sport” athletes are crossing over to paintball.  This is a key for our sport, as all other major extreme sports remained flat, or actually showed a decline in the last year.

Hendsch outline the long term mission of the NPPL – “To become the world wide governing body of the sport of paintball, to ensure safe competitive play for our members and teams, and to support our players and the paintball industry by showcasing paintball as a major sport with integrity and professionalism at the highest level."

An important part of that mission is “taking paintball mainstream,” by showcasing pro players and teams as is done in other sports.  Hendsch saw the league’s sponsorship of the Splatter Factor television show as a major step in that direction.  Early ratings estimate that approximately 205,000 people watched the show’s debut episode.  Additionally the NPPL is working on a deal with Upper Deck trading cards to be able to produce trading card sets of all professional paintball teams, as well as make single cards of any NPPL player.

A major push for the league over the next year and beyond will be the sales of memberships.  NPPL players are encouraged to join the league to receive their photo ID card that will be required at a future point to play, as well as to receive assorted player benefits.  The benefits are planned to include discounts on airfare, hotels, and other travel expenses for NPPL sanctioned events, as well as a subscription to ZoneUp, the league’s newsletter.  League membership is priced at $25, as compared to a $5 per event temporary ID card fee. 

With the Assistance of Paintball 2 Xtremes editor John Amodea, the NPPL web site – NPPL.com has been and will continue to be rebuilt, and is getting features that will allow it to be better utilized for important league communication, including the ability for Hendsch and Baker to directly post late breaking announcements.

The Professional Reffing Organization, which was launched in late 2001 by the NPPL has also grown over the last year, providing more referees at NPPL events.  PRO provided referees for the Police and Fire Olympics in Southern California.  Not only was this positive exposure for the league and PRO, according to Hendsch, but it also opened the door for recruiting.  PRO will be actively recruiting and training referees from amongst police and firefighter organizations.  Hendsch sees the development of independent, professional referees as critical to the mainstream acceptance of paintball as a professional sport.

Presently, with the low turn-out of people volunteering for league positions, most anyone interested in helping the league grow can be appointed to a position.  The league is in immediate need of a prize committee to handle how prizes are distributed at each event.  Also needed are committees to oversee sponsorships, tournament site selection and requirements, and international relations – working with similar leagues in other countries.  While the steering committee and rules committee already exist, new members may be in order.  The steering committee will also be tasked with league structuring.  Hendsch favors a model that gives ownership to teams that play the full five events in the series, while teams that play only part of the series would compete as members.

According to Hendsch the league needs to be negotiating it’s 2003 sanctioning arrangement as soon as possible, by September at the very latest.  Many of the problems that happened during the Spring 2002 split happened because negotiation was done at the last minute and continued on even during the season.

Hendsch also expressed frustration with some players and industry members who continue to attack either the NPPL or Paintball Sports Promotions both verbally and in online message boards.  “These two organizations need to stop bashing one another and defend one another,” he said.  “There is too much finger pointing.”  He stressed the need for the two groups to work together and build each other up.

Another NPPL meeting will be scheduled to occur during the Atlantic City Open in August.  Players interested in taking up positions within the league leadership, as well as teams wishing to be represented at the meeting are encouraged to contact Chuch Hendsch (chuck@nppl.info) or Camille Baker (camille@nppl.info).
 


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