On the 4th-6th of February, 21 Affiliated Federations delegates attended the 36th Annual ESF General Congress, hosted by the Belgium Softball Federation in Antwerp (BEL). The Congress commenced on Friday with extensive Committee meetings, which proved to be productive and interesting. After a review by Totoni Sanna of the development year, President of the International Softball Federation, Mr. Don Porter gave a brief update of the activities within the worldwide organization, commended the hard work of the ESF Federations in keeping softball at the forefront in their respective countries. Mr. Porter also mentioned that there is a need to review the possibility of collaborating with baseball or any other sport in a move to regain Olympic status. Mr.  Joe Alfonse (ASA State Commissioner of Massachusetts and representing the ASA) was also present and in a small presentation along with VP Operations Ami Baran, described the possibilities of cooperation through the ESF/ASA agreement between the ASA states and the ESF countries, which will deal in a number of initiatives from coaching, umpires, equipment and players. The Marketing Committee, headed by Michael Schmidt received a very warm response from the delegates after explaining how the marketing issues of the past year will help the plan for next year and gave some more input as to the future aspirations of the ESF including live streaming, merchandising and more. Another interesting and vital Committee that made some difficult decisions was the Technical and Competitions Committee, headed by Gabriel Waage. Following the decision of the last ESF Congress, starting from 2011 the European Championships will abandon the two pools system (there will be no more promotions or relegations) to move to an innovative new format. Twenty three (23) national teams will play in one big tournament for the title of European Champion. Semi finals and finals will be broadcast in live streaming, as well as Play-by-Play, which is being adopted in all ESF Competitions. It was also decided that the Page System (which prevailed over the Cross Play Off in an exciting vote) will be used for the finals.  This Committee also discussed a proposal to unify the two Men’s Cups (Champions Cup and the Cup Winners Cup) in one tournament, starting from 2012. An important decision for development of European Softball was to modify the European Championship Minime Girls (Under 13) in a big tournament open not only to national teams but also to all European clubs, in order to have a higher number of participating teams to help increase the number of players in this age group. This proposal was approved with enthusiasm by the delegates. The new tournament has been named The Massimo Romeo Youth Trophy. The Financial Committee went through the Budget quickly and efficiently with Eddy Van Straelen leading the way to a hopeful productive and money making 2011. On Saturday the Congress allotted the 2011 Cups to different organizers. In 2011 we will be organizing 4 Championships and 7 Cups in different categories (male/female/coed – fastpitch/slowpitch – youth/senior). The Calendar of all ESF official Events can be found on the ESF websitehttp://europeansoftball.org/node/151. The delegates were in for a big celebration during the Congress as the new procedure for drawing pools at the Congress was initiated. It was an exciting event with VP Gabriel Waage leading the way with two young Belgian players who picked the teams that would compose the Championships Women and Cadet Girls (Under 16), due to the new format of those competitions. Here the groups: EChW (European Championship Women): Group A (GBR, ITA, SWE, CRO, HUN, DEN)Group B (NED, ESP, BEL, UKR, POL, GRE)Group C (RUS, AUT, SVK, BUL, SUI, TUR)Group D (CZE, GER, FRA, ISR, SLO)EChCG (European Championship Cadette Girls): Group A (NED, BEL, FRA)Group B (RUS, SVK, POL)Group C (ESP, GBR, GER)Group D (CZE, ITA, SRB)After the retirement of Patrice Bienfait (FRA) from the position of Secretary General during last years  congress, the Congress voted by unanimity, Francesca Fabretto (ITA) as the new Secretary General of the ESF. Gilbert Tobback (BEL) received his recognition plaque from the ESF President Andre Van Overbeek after being inducted into the Hall of Fame at a previous ESF congress.

The congress also voted for the location of the 2012 ESF congress which will be in Malta.