State of the USPL, an Open Letter

IMG_0186The USPL and 7-man format have been a hot topic in our Pro Paintball Smack Box. Throughout the course of the 2009 season, the paintball community has argued the pro’s and con’s of paintball supporting two national circuits and the viability of the sport on the pro level. No stranger to stirring the proverbial pot, the Information Merchant has put together a thought provoking open letter to the USPL. Peer into the crystal ball and see “what could have been” and “what was” in the sport of Paintball. This is one article you won’t want to miss.

An Open Letter from the Information Merchant:

In an ideal world there would be two national (US) paintball leagues and both would be able to support themselves and further the sport. That is an ideal world. Given the realities and constraints of this world, consolidation and unification is the only option for national-level paintball (the feasibility of a regionalized structure is out of bounds in this letter, as I hope we all want a platform for national competition). To that end, I would like to humbly ask you to ask yourself, ?Is what I am doing really best for paintball??

I don?t know if 7-man will die without the USPL. I do know that the USPL isn?t saving it. The league is alienating the support base with sub-par events and is ?proving? 7man to be unsustainable as a national circuit. I don?t know if that is a false-positive, but after the failures of Pure Promotions and Pacific Paintball, and now the USPL with the combined strengths of Chuck, Tom, Bart and all the other intelligent and/or experienced individuals putting their efforts towards that league, 7man’s inability to be run successfully at the national level will be a given. The longer the USPL exists, the harder it will be for another 7man league to start up in the future. (And this ignores the rumblings that the USPL is moving to a match-based format of play, so even the saviors of 7man are going nontraditional to try to save their league. Put another way, the league formed to save 7man is rumored to be forsaking 7man in order to save the league).

It is irresponsible to suggest that it is our duty, as paintballers, to (blindly) support paintball in all its forms and formats. Supporting all of paintball, as it is today, is hurting the sport. It is dividing our (very limited) resources is bad for our sport. We have enough companies (i.e. sponsors) and enough teams interested in national competition to support one league. All we accomplish by splitting up is to create distraction, diffuse resources and prevent any one group from pulling itself up, not to mention the increasing likelihood, if not actually probability, that we will cause both leagues to fail.

I can?t help but think about what could have been done this year if we had unified under one banner and really supported the sport. The PSP probably lost $100,000 to $150,000 in entrance fees to the USPL and another $100,000 in sponsorship. Imagine what the PSP could have done with that;

  • NPPL Championship Paintball on XBOX 360
    NPPL Championship Paintball on XBOX 360

    Right now $100,000 people are out of work and taking $50,000 jobs. The PSP could have hired a salesmen, a PR rep, to approach non-endemic sponsors, something the NPPL was having moderate success with (Army, Marines, video game industry, energy drinks, car companies?). There is no saying whether this would have borne any fruit. If not, it is $50,000 lost, but if so, it would have been that much more money and exposure coming into paintball, that much more mainstream attention coming into paintball.

  • PSPMAO09_Sat_0909
    Will webcasting take paintball to the next level?
    The PSP could have expanded their webcast. The PSP webcast is our best avenue for attracting new national players. with more cameras,more interviews, more content, more statistics, it would have been an even greater draw. The more people who watch, the more people who have an increased likelihood to play.

The PSP could have put more effort into getting all the regional leagues around the country behind them, creating one unified structure. This could have involved getting pro teams to attend those events, to promote the PSP and X-Ball (and themselves). This effort may have involved donating entrance fees to the prize packages of the regional events. These activities would help the regional leagues attract more players (thereby making more money). It would get more local players into the sport, helping local stores and fields. And it would further increase the likelihood that some of those teams end up playing the PSP. We need to introduce the best regional teams to the PSP if we hope to continue to have a PSP. This is all part of the larger unification of paintball.

We could have had more teams and better events with better webcasts which would make paintball more attractive to sponsors, who could have been courted by a full time professional salesperson. We would have given back to the players, to the sponsors, to the regional leagues and to the sport. And we would have taken some steps towards unifying paintball across the country. And in so doing we would have helped local stores and fields and leagues and local players.

That is the opportunity cost of the USPL, right there. The damage that has been done may be irreversible (will Rockstar ever come back with a $90,000 sponsorship proposal?).

Sit back, all you owners of USPL pro teams, all you divisional teams supporting the format, all one tourist teams looking for a good time playing one national event per year, sit back and ask if what you are doing will lead us down the road where this all goes away? I believe it does. I believe it will. I hope you reconsider the blind support of paintball in all its glory and restrict yourself to only supporting paintball that helps support the sport.