In the recent weeks it became all too clear that the current way to qualify for the European Champions Cup has its flaws.
The Dutch competition is set up in such a way that the winner of the regular competition earns a ticket to the ECC. The other ticket goes to the team that reaches the Holland Series (Dutch championship series).
After the regular competion the four best teams head to the play off round robin. So it can very well be that the winner of the regular competition does not make it to the Holland Series. So why does a team that did not even play the final has the right to play in the European CHAMPIONS Cup? In fact this happened to the current European champion L&D Amsterdam Pirates last year. The team won the regular competiton but failed to reach the Holland Series… but still could play in the ECC. A better way to win a ticket to the main European baseball tournament would be clinching a spot in the Holland Series. But perhaps things will change next year. The KNBSB has been reviewing the current play off system and announced that the current set up will change.
But another obstacle in qualification for the European Championships Cup is the way that that tournament has been set up. Italy and the Netherlands both send two representatives, depending on the spot that they finished in in the previous year. But next to the Italian representatives, San Marino can send a team every year no matter if the team finishes dead last. The club is playing in the Italian competition, the IBL (Italian Baseball League). But there is a glimmer of hope. During the restructuring of the European Cup it has been decided that San Marino will be regarded as an Italian club and will have the right to participate in the CEB cup (at least) for three years (starting in 2015). But with the team finishing third in the 2015 European Champions Cup, it still could participate in the 2016 edition. And by finishing fourth in the 2016 edition, the team can participate again in 2017. In this way the IBL will always have three representatives even though San Marino is now regarded as an Italian team. In my opinion it would be better to implement a rule that each national competion can have two representatives at most.
What will happen after 2017 when it will be the last year that San Marino can participate at the CEB cup at least, is not quite clear. I have sent emails with that question to the CEB, but so far I haven’t got an answer yet.
But even if San Marino would finish in fifth place and would be “demoted” to the CEB cup, there is still another country that would win the CEB cup that will take its place in the ECC.
And with that, a third hurdle must be taken. Right now, there is always a chance that the reigning European Champion will not qualify for whatever reason. For example L&D Amsterdam Pirates. That club won the European title earlier this year (as you could read above). Last weekend, the club barely made the Holland Series and clinched a spot in the European Champions Cup. But if L&D Amsterdam Pirates would have lost their final play off game, the club would be ousted and Vaessen Pioniers would be the second participant in the Holland Series. That would have meant that L&D Amsterdam Pirates could not have defended its European title next year…. Why? Because the reigning champion does not qualify automatically. In several soccer tournaments, the winner is qualified for the next season/edition to defend its title. It is like that in the Champions League and also during the nations World Cup. So why not in European baseball? When the reigning champion has a secured spot, it can still mean that any European country can have three representatives, but that will only be because two other clubs from the national competitions will qualify and the reigning European champion (from any European country) can participate . If this “rule” would be in place right now, and L&D Amsterdam Pirates would have missed the Holland Series, it would have meant that the Amsterdam based team would still play in the ECC next to Curacao Neptunus and Vaessen Pioniers. A much fairer procedure for the reigning European champion.
Perhaps it is a good thing if the CEB would think about certain issues of the qualification for the ECC. It would not hurt if the reigning champion had the chance to defend its title in the next year.