Opinion: Paintball League Merger Thoughts by Don Besancon

By December 19, 2011 Opinion 35 Comments

The first submission to the ProPaintball Merger discussion comes from Don Besancon. After graduating from college (his team, UCI, was the NCPA runners-up in 2008, losing the overtime point to Illinois), Don joined Sly Equipment where he now works as Director of Operations. Don has been involved in every type of paintball imaginable; ranging from tournament, scenario, retail, fields, manufacturing and tech support.

Don was invited to the ProPaintball panel. As with the rest of our panelists, Don was asked the following question: What do you think about the failed negotiations between the NPPL and PSP? Is this good or bad for paintball, and why?

Here is Don’s opinion:

“A unified league would have been fantastic thing for tournament paintball—but I doubt we’ll ever see it happen. While we have some of our sport’s best and brightest on either side of the merger table, it seems that we’ll never see a ‘true’ unified national circuit.

Both leagues have different leadership styles, intentions, and appeal. I feel that the PSP puts on a better production—with a unified, flawless ID system, a webcast with solid commentary, a format that encourages higher overall skill, and better overall event quality—the PSP is a clear winner. The NPPL is doing some things right—outside sponsors, more premium branding and graphic design, higher profile venues, and general promotion efforts. In defense of the NPPL, they’ve only been doing this for a few years—compared to the PSP’s decade.

The NPPL’s (now ‘previous’) format is dated and tired. A single game between two teams does not reveal the better of the two teams—but rather, the quality of the reffing, whose equipment worked, or who had the sun in their eyes. They need a multiple-gamepoint format—but it seems they’ve fixed that for next season.

The crux of the dilemma is very ‘American’ in nature—the idea that competition, in any market, produces a higher end product at the best price. In our case, this model simply doesn’t stand. The product has significant weaknesses on either side—most of which are caused by self-interest. Ideally (in my mind), we could have an event that was produced and operated by the PSP (and APPA) staff, playing the PSP format, with the entertainment, promotion, and venue selection done by the NPPL staff. The manufacturers would sponsor one league with more money, rather than splitting it. The players would have 5 plane tickets to buy—not ten—and have more manufacturer support. Less venues and more money will only result in better events, better promotion and exposure, and overall a better experience for players, vendors, and the public.”

Would a combined league make sense? Or, is having two leagues part of the “American” way?

35 Comments

  • Angelo says:

    I definitely think the leagues should combine.

  • Raphael says:

    Great article. People need to start voicing their opinions on the matter.

  • Kasper says:

    Great thoughts Don. We need more people like you around.

  • steve says:

    Very well put I agree 100 percent exctep I think that 6 events is the magic number

  • greg says:

    I agree with everything but the inexperience or short life of the NPPL. the people running it have been in tournament paintball for more then 20 years. Chuck Hench with the exception of the few years of the failed buyout has been running the league. Their problem (NPPL and the PSP) is the politics of saying the someone else might be doing something right and they might be wrong.

  • Terry59 says:

    Don, that was a full clip in the 10 ring!!!

  • Great thoughts Don, Keep spreading the love to the people. Hate the noise, but love the sound.

  • josh says:

    Can ProPB please ensure that the heads of both the PSP and NPPL (and major manufacturer players) read these articles by your panelists. They need to hear it from legitimate people and not endless threads on forums. The points are great and its what the people in power need to hear – they need to stop letting their egos get in the way.

  • Darc says:

    NPPL has been around way before the PSP I played in the NPPL in 1994 and on that was the base for the PSP. Yes somethings need to changee withtime but with out all who put in there hard work with them we would not be where we are today. everything has a starting point everything needs to adapt to the changing times.

    • John Denver says:

      The NPPL you speak of no longer exists, they went belly up and everything was auctioned off including the rights to the name. USPL, a newly formed league – bought the name, and changed themselves to reflect such.

      It’s like my brothers Polaroid TV – has nothing to do with the og camera manufacture except that they sport the same logo due to ching chong licensing maneuvers.

  • Dave says:

    A single league and format would be great for paintball. We, the players, will have to let the market decide. The greatest thing we have to vote with is our dollars. Play one league the next couple years and let the strongest survive. This will be for the long term benefit of paintball.

  • Benny says:

    I agree 100%. Great article. You da man DON!!

  • Dork McDorkerson says:

    You said Don has been involved in paintball a long time? Then why does he know squat about the history of paintball?

    After reading this, that’s 5 minutes of my life I’ll never get back…

  • meh... says:

    It’s a stretch to give NPPL credit for “better venues”. Two of their events are paintball fields, one of which is the same location as a PSP event, and two are venues on pavement/sand, and one is in Canada. Who wants to play 20 XBall points sliding on pavement?

    Who are the mythical “outside sponsors” NPPL has?

    And what entertainment? Do we really need a Miss PSP bikini contest?

    That leaves us with one league that puts on flawless events, and one league that makes pretty pictures. I know which one I want to play!

  • Terry says:

    Here, Here that totally needed to be said.

    Unfortunately no one wants to give up their piece of the pie. So until the PSP can take away NPPL’s venue’s and sponsors their will be 2 leagues vying for players and notoriety. PSP while a proven model needs to take a business risk and go for the “Hostile” take over of the NPPL by getting whatever sponsors and venue contacts which would force them to either not exist or exist as a divisional league.

    The NPPL at this point does understand they have a flawed product. If they didn’t they would not continue to change the format of the game every year to adapt closer and closer to the PSP’s. Business don’t just shift gears constantly. This leaves their customers with instability and unsureness of the product their receiving (Example NetFlix).

    There will always be smaller leagues that will offer 7man, pump, etc, etc… But to get to the pinnacle of this sport would mean going will what has been solid and true which is what the PSP is offering. They just need a higher level marketing group. Someone outside the industry to step up their game and take them to the next level.

    Part of paintball’s problem is they always use people from within the sport to run it. While passionate about the game these “players” are not always the most qualified to make sound decisions for what’s best for the sport and marketing of it.

    I look forward to hearing more about this topic and will follow it progress.

  • Colin Borusiewicz says:

    I believe one format around the world is really needed actually. look at major sports such as are hockey and soccer rules of both universal. but having leagues playing the same format is what we need in each country. but im shooting a little high there

  • Missy Q says:

    There are different formats for Soccer, Rugby, Cricket, Fighting, Racing, and all kinds of other sports. There’s no reason there HAS to be a single format in paintball. The problem is not that there are 2 leagues, but that there are not enough teams for both leagues to be successful. Thats a whole different problem. One answer is to wait until there are enough teams, and shrink overhead until that’s a reality.
    I really have no respect for the people that just want a league to ‘go away’. It shows a high level of bias combined with a low level of intelligence. This type of person shouldn’t even be allowed to comment, on anything.
    The NPPL are not going to go away, and nor are the PSP. There will be another opportunity for a merger at the end of 2012 and perhaps things will be different then. Perhaps if the people that are telling us they will ‘never play the NPPL again’ had ever actually played the NPPL in the first place, then they would be able to vote with their feet, but as this isn’t the case, and as NPPL teams typically seem very happy with their format and their chosen league, I would expect them to play in it again in the 2012 season.
    As usual, he guys with the loudest voices and biggest agenda’s have no actual horse in the race – they just like the attention is all.

  • banzai bomber says:

    I agree with missy q,, keeping the two leagues separate should create competion between the leagues creating a better product for the players

  • Whho??? says:

    As Don had said, this does not work. With the exception of maybe racing and fighting, all the sports listed by Missy each have one recognized professional league that is above all the others. Racing has Nascar/Formula1, and fighting has a variety of formats but each one normally has a reigning organization (mma = UFC / kickboxing = K1, etc.). On top of this, Missy’s example is useless since there’s a lot more support for these sports compared to what there is for paintball.

    Right now paintball is still on a decline, maybe once everyone has really recovered from the recession could you allow two national competing events but currently it’s wasting money people don’t have. Unfortunately this money being wasted isn’t even enough to sufficiently cover running the two formats.

    • Whho??? says:

      My vote is for a monopoly, at least for the next couple of years have one unified format.

    • Missy Q says:

      Soccer has 5-man, 6 man cups, as well as the 11 player format, 5-man and 11 are both played professionally. Rugby has Rugby league and Rugby Union, plus Super 6’s, all are solid formats with 6,13 or 15 players respectively. League and Union are both played professionally. Cricket has tests & one day games that are equally important but require different strategies to play. Know your sports before you criticise. Is one of these formats above aways more popular than the other? Sure, of course, one would always have to be, right? But you don’t get the Rugby Union guys dissing the Rugby league events or players – they have more class than that.

      Also, as regards ‘wasting money that people don’t have’. Who’s money? Yours? Of course not. What people? The NPPL people? Wouldn’t it be their choice what they do with their own money? What makes you think they don’t have it? Did you just guess, or was it just that you felt the need to make a bold statement irrellevant of any actual knowledge to back it up?

      You say that the money being ‘wasted’ isn’t even enough to cover the running of the formats. You know this how? Ever run a national league? The fact that they are both running one, and will run one again next year, disproves your point for you, yet you knew that before you posted and still went there – go figure.

      For the record – I am for a merged league and I see the advantages. It’s just the ignorance that drives me crazy.

      • Whho??? says:

        You’ve over-analyzed and misconstrued my comment, and I find it laughable.

        Let me help you a long. Hypothetically, lets say PSP and NPPL make an equal share of profits for their respected leagues. This is splitting the overall National-series profits 50/50, allowing two formats to barely live season after season – a waste of 50% of the money.

        Most teams struggle to play a full series, and both formats struggle to survive.

        Unify to one National event with everyone competing in it and watch it flourish.

      • Whho??? says:

        There is nothing “bandwagon-ing” about my stance

        At this stage in paintball, two competing National series are not helping each other.

        Don put it best: The crux of the dilemma is very ‘American’ in nature—the idea that competition, in any market, produces a higher end product at the best price. In our case, this model simply doesn’t stand.

        Please, sit down, before you keep on with this “everyone-is-ignorant-except-me” dumb attitude.

  • banzai bomber says:

    Missy I’m a little confused, on one hand you support a merger but on the other you list things that support the opposition

  • banzai bomber says:

    missy you must be an attorney, cause you can argue like a true litigator ;)

  • Missy Q says:

    I am pro-merger, for sure, but I’m also pro-truth, pro-fact, and anti-bandwagon.

  • Missy Q says:

    @wwho
    ok, I’ll try it your way, and quote your own words…

    “Let me help you a long. Hypothetically, lets say PSP and NPPL make an equal share of profits for their respected leagues. This is splitting the overall National-series profits 50/50, allowing two formats to barely live season after season – a waste of 50% of the money.”

    Profits? I thought there wasn’t enough money to run both formats, now there’s profits? OK, lets say you’re right – which 50% of the money being spent is wasted? Lets imagine that you say “the NPPL” – well then how do you figure that those guys wasted their money? Did they waste it by running their business and putting on events for their customers? How is that a waste of money?? remember now, it’s not your money to spend, it’s theirs.

    “Most teams struggle to play a full series, and both formats struggle to survive.

    Unify to one National event with everyone competing in it and watch it flourish.”

    Teams will play what they can afford to play, and without disclosure of finances, I’m not in a position to say how much either league is ‘struggling’, but then neither are you.
    I am pro-merge, as stated, but that ship has sailed for this season, right? You read that somewhere I’m assuming. So your solution is to merge anyway? Give up son, that horse died. Wait until the end of 2012 and get your hopes up again then.

    “There is nothing “bandwagon-ing” about my stance”

    I never said there was. I said I was anti-bandwagon. You assumed I was talking about you.

    “At this stage in paintball, two competing National series are not helping each other.”

    Breaking news – I must have missed this – is it in the smackbox or something? hang on while I google stuff to try to find out if this is true…

    “Don put it best: The crux of the dilemma is very ‘American’ in nature—the idea that competition, in any market, produces a higher end product at the best price. In our case, this model simply doesn’t stand.”

    I would argue that is has stood for years. I was even involved in it at one stage, and it definitely ‘stood’ then. You only have to look at progress made since there were 2 leagues vs progress made when there was one, and I mean in every area. I respect Dons opinion but don’t necessarily agree with everything he wrote.

    “Please, sit down, before you keep on with this “everyone-is-ignorant-except-me” dumb attitude.”

    I was expecting the personal attack much sooner, but was always 100% sure it was coming.
    In my defence I will say they I do find you, so far, to be ignorant of many pertinent facts. I don’t mean this as an insult particularly. Ignorant just means ‘unknowing’ in this case. You also don’t seem willing to absord any info that is contrary to your pre-formed opinion, but that’s not my problem.

  • Missy Q says:

    A@wwho – I answered all of your questions, and addressed each of your points. How about you answer some of mine?

  • freddie54 says:

    do what the nfl does afc nfc and have a super bowl

  • Don says:

    Missy Q, my intuition tells me that you’re probably someone that was intimately involved with running a league at some point….why don’t you contact Justin about doing your own merger piece? You have valid points and write well. I’m sure he’ll either let you do it anonymously or keep your identity a secret.

    –Don

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