Softball and baseball pledge to work together in Europe

A joint statement issued by the Presidents of the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) and the European Softball Federation (ESF) has pledged that the two sports will work together on a regional basis in Europe for development and Olympic reinstatement. The statement came after top officials from CEB and the ESF, including CEB President Martin Miller (right) and ESF President Andre van Overbeek (left), met during the annual CEB Congress, held on March 10-13 in Brussels, to evaluate the position of the two organisations in relation to each other and the development of baseball and softball in Europe.   Separation Since the decision to remove both sports from the Olympic programme, made at the International Olympic Committee session in 2005 in Singapore, softball has resisted calls from baseball to work together on Olympic reinstatement and other issues. The position maintained until recently by the International Softball Federation was that a joint approach on Olympic issues would be detrimental to softball's chances of reinstatement, since baseball had a number of issues that made Olympic participation problematic which softball did not share. During the BackSoftball Olympic reinstatement campaign run by the ISF from 2006-2009, the ISF tried to insist that joint baseball and softball federations -- which are a majority in Europe -- should separate. However, this position has softened over the past year and the ISF and International Baseball Federation (IBAF) have recently worked together to preserve the place of both sports in the Asian Games. This spirit of renewed cooperation is now being reflected in Europe. Joint Statement On Friday evening, March 11 a joint statement from the two organisations was read at the CEB Congress. It said: Our shared conclusion is that after many years of separate development, it will now be far  more productive for the two sports and their Continental Federations in Europe to work  together to promote and develop baseball and softball, grow participation and broaden the  impact of the sports on the European sporting landscape. Agreement has been reached today for the CEB and ESF to work together, starting with: Development -- especially youth development and projects to raise the public profile of the sports.Facility development, including dual-use facilities where both sports can be played and can cross-fertilise each other.Combined events where both sports can be showcased and information on technical aspects such as scorekeeping and statistics can be shared.Joint ventures to secure EU funding.Joint Congresses, beginning in 2013 (more than half of Europe's national baseball and softball federations are joint federations, so a Joint Congress is a common-sense approach).Both organisations will now set up Implementation Teams that will work together to define  and deliver joint programs, projects and initiatives. Although the proposed co-operation between the CEB and ESF is vital for the growth and  development of baseball and softball in a European context, where both are generally  viewed as minority sports, there is a wider significance to the alliance. We are convinced that the most important shared objective of both sports -- to regain a  place on the Olympic programme -- will be significantly furthered by the approach of a joint  bid as one sport for that specific purpose. There are increasing signs that baseball and  softball are working together around the world, locally, nationally and internationally,  including at the level of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and the International  Softball Federation (ISF). This is a welcome development that can only be positive for the potential to achieve  Olympic reinstatement together. We hope that the agreement we have reached in Europe  can contribute to that end.