After careful consideration of the current uncertainty surrounding snap border closures and quarantine restrictions due to COVID-19, the Men’s and Women’s Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball tournaments will not be contested in 2021.
The news follows the re-scheduling of the events to an April slot, however, the volatility and uncertainty around varying states’ responses to COVID-19 outbreaks present too great a risk to impose on both participants and stakeholders.
International calibre players have also filled key positions in the previous two Summer Slams and with the New Zealand national squad most recently forming a large part of the six teams.
Border restrictions have made it difficult to secure the extra players required to ensure quality opposition and well-balanced teams.
“In the past two editions of The Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball events, our High Performance team has worked hard to ensure we have evenly matched teams made up of some of the best players in the world,” said David Pryles, Chief Executive Officer at Softball Australia.
“Under the current scenario, it’s difficult to ensure that balance of skill across key positions, particularly in the battery.
“We want to avoid a situation where we’d inadvertently place an athlete in a position out of depth and skill level to an international audience.”
Furthermore, the current climate made it difficult for many of the men’s players to fully commit to their inaugural Summer Slam.
“This is understandable as we’re asking athletes to fund their own way to Blacktown after a tough period where many have lost full-time work and are only now returning to a sense of normality.
“With no international competition scheduled the Men’s program, it’s difficult for us to subsidise some of the funds for the Men’s tournament.
“Hopefully, with another 12 months notice, we can work on growing the pool of players willing to commit to the weekend and put their talents on show on live television.”
Importantly, Softball Australia has received confirmation from FOX SPORTS Australia they will support both tournaments for an early 2022 timeslot with live broadcast funding secure for what will be the third edition of the Women’s Summer Slam and inaugural Men’s Summer Slam.
The broadcaster remains committed to beaming high-quality softball to their audience, particularly important for the sport which will be omitted again from the Olympic cycle in 2024.
“We are so thankful to FOX SPORTS Australia who have ensured us the Summer Slam, and Australia Pacific Cup, will be part of their broadcast schedule in the first quarter of 2022,” added Pryles.
“While we remained focussed on winning Gold in Tokyo 2021, we need to look beyond our fifth Olympic appearance.
“Securing coverage of our marquee events to a live audience is a huge boost for our sport’s profile, particularly after Paris 2024 has elected not to include softball.
“It also gives us an opportunity to celebrate our fantastic women’s program following an Olympic campaign, they deserve every bit of recognition we can expose them to.”
Softball Australia’s partners in the Australia Pacific Cup and Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball will also receive the same exposure through broadcasts they were entitled to in 2021 as thanks for their ongoing support of softball.
“Our thanks to Travelodge Hotels, East Coast Car Rentals, Kumho Tyre, SONIQ, GAME Clothing, and La Trobe University for their understanding of our position in re-scheduling recent events, we’ll be fulfilling our obligations to them in regards to uniform branding and broadcast exposure in the 2022 tournaments, regardless of contract status at that time.”
There is plenty to play for in 2022 with the Travelodge Aussie Spirit set to compete for the title of World Champions during the World Games in Birmingham, USA from 7-17 July, the World Baseball Softball Confederation recognising the winner of that tournament as World Champions following the Tokyo Olympics’ postponement.
The Aussie Steelers will also aim for a second world title with the WBSC Men’s World Cup taking place in New Zealand from 19-27 February.
“We’re very much looking forward to international softball returning in 2022 and hopefully we can kick that off here in Australia with the Australia Pacific Cup and Summer Slams back in full swing.”
Softball Australia can confirm both the Australia Pacific Cup and Men’s and Women’s Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball events will be played at Blacktown International Sportspark in early 2022.
Those who have purchased tickets to the 2021 Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball tournaments will be refunded directly within the next 2-4 business days.