The British Baseball Federation (BBF) has just announced that the National Baseball League will be reduced down to 6 teams for the 2015 season.
The six teams will be: Bracknell Blazers, Essex Arrows, Herts Falcons, London Mets, Southampton Mustangs and South London Pirates.
The NBL had seven teams in 2014. The one team which does not appear in the 2015 lineup is the Harlow Nationals. Does this mean that they have been relegated to the Triple-A League or have they been dissolved? The latter is a very likely scenario as the BBF Annual General Meeting in November revealed that the Nationals have outstanding debts not only to the federation but to other parties. The team was founded in 2011 and won the NBL Championship in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Last year they finished in fifth place.
Today’s announcement would also suggest that the 2014 Triple-A National Champions, Cambridge Royals, have either not applied for entry to the NBL or their application has not been accepted.
source: Project COBB
The table above shows how the composition of the NBL has evolved between 2000 and 2015. The reduction in the number of NBL teams for 2015 seems to go contrary to the overall growth in the number of BBF teams which has doubled since 2000 from 35 to 71 and currently stand at a 20-year high as announced a few months ago. Are teams finding it daunting to enter the NBL due to the higher calibre competition, the higher costs of running an NBL team, or some other reason? The benefits of having a team in the NBL are enormous in terms of growth, promotion, publicity and everything else linked to competing in Great Britain’s top league tier. Hopefully clubs around the country will recognise the enormous boost to their club from entering the NBL and we will see an increase in the number of teams aspiring to compete in the NBL.
Another note from looking at the chart is that it would be fantastic to see the Northern and Midlands teams return to the NBL. With the emergence of the Cambridge Royals, Hull Scorpions and several other teams, hopefully this is something which will happen sooner rather than later. An NBL made up of between 12 or 16 teams would seem to be a reasonable target in the coming years if it is going to compete with growing leagues such as the German Bundesliga which currently has 15 teams in its top league tier.