Future Focus - Paintball Asia 2011

Paintball power brokers future thoughts!
Future Focus - Paintball Asia 2011

We've past the midway mark of the year 2010 and tournament paintball in Asia, in the opinion of many, has shown  progress and growth. When you look at the overall picture, there have been more tournaments in 2010, with more international teams playing in these tournaments, more fields have opened than have closed and in most Asian countries there are  even more people playing various forms of paintball than ever before. While things are never perfect in the world of paintball, there is still much optimism that paintball in Asia will continue to thrive and improve.

PaintballNews.Asia has gathered some of the most influential paintball power brokers in Asia, as well as some esteemed and much respected international guests to answer some questions and give us their insights into what to expect in 2011 - Paul Lam (Malaysian Official Paintball Circuit aka MPOC, PALS & World Cup Asia), Michael Whybrew (Australian Super 7's), Sofian Daud (Malaysian National Paintball League aka MY-NPL), Ulrich Stahr (Millennium Series) and Paul Richards (Coach of U.S. pro team Tampa Bay Damage). Here's what they have to say...

(Malaysian Official Paintball Circuit aka MPOC, PALS & World Cup Asia)

Q. MPOC has seen some major infrastructure improvements during the 2010 season which included hosting the event at different venues.Can you let us in on any other major improvements for MPOC in 2011?
The hosting of the MPOC at different venues is not something new as we have done it in the early year prior to electing to doing it at Xtion Paintball only. We felt that impact of moving around cannot be fully felt without the proper infrastructure being in place. Now that the infrastructure that we will use in 2011 is that of the best used around the world, namely Europe and the USA, it seems appropriate to once again go on the road. We have already brought in the Sup'air Arenas, the handheld sport radars and in are the process of taking delivery of the professional scoreboards. Who knows... we may even bring in astro turf for venues where grass is not available.

Q. After 7 years of tournament paintball in Malaysia do you think the scene is ready for a Semi-Pro division considering many of the current Division 1 teams have been playing Division 1 for many years?
We will not have a division for the sake of having it especially when we are awaiting for a world wide ranking system that could be out as early as the end of this year (yes..you heard it hear for the first time). We will only be fooling ourselves if we believe that we have a D1 team that is of the Semi Pro caliber at this moment.

Q. You've just announced the formation of PALS China and the establishment of the China Cup as the 1st leg of PALS 2011 in Hainan. How many other PALS events do you plan to have in 2011?
Officially, there will be 4 PALS legs in 2011 bringing us to the same level as the Millennium and the PSP. China in March, Thailand in May, Philippines in July/August and the earliest ever WCA in October. There is also a high chance of 2 major PALS linked events that may take place in Singapore and India.

Q. With so many other tournament leagues and feeder events in Malaysia and regionally, how does PALS plan to stand out from other events in 2011?
These PALS events stand out for me because of the participants and goals we try to achieve for the region. These values alone set it aside from any other localised league. It is special in every sense to me especially in the way it is structured.

Q. Paintball and the law have always been at odds. Do you think it's time for the formation of an International Paintball Federation to help legitimise and support the sport worldwide?
We have been working on the UPBF - United Paintball Federation since 2005 and till today have been unable to consolidate it for one reason or another. In Asia, I have formed the informal Asia/Asia Pacific Paintball Federation (APPBF) and quite frankly believe it can be consolidated in the near future. It will have it's pros and cons.

Q. What other improvements do you hope to see for paintball in 2011?
I hope to see the right people spearheading the sport in the right direction. There's a lot of work required in this aspect but if anyone can... we can!

michaelMichael Whybrew
(Australian Super 7 Series)

Q. Australian Super 7's has seen some 2010 mid-season format adjustments with Pro now playing Race to 5. Do you expect to make any further changes to the divisional formats or rules in 2011?
We keep adapting the Series to make it more challenging for the teams and to give all the players as much paintball as they can fit in the limited time we have. We will need to see what the bigger leagues are doing first before jumping to any other major changes. I would like to see us follow the PSP more and if possible and the teams want it, take the Pro division to a Race to 7 like it is in the USA.

Q. In 2010 all the Super 7's tournaments were held in Sydney, NSW. Do you hope to bring the event back to other states in 2011?

Honestly, a long term goal would be to have a round of the Super 7s in 4 separate states (perfect world - Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and then the Masters back in Sydney, New South Wales) but the problem is finding a venue that has all the facilities to run the events properly. We have just spent a lot of money building another set of team booths for our second competition field which is used only for these events. As you may or may not know, we have a second site in Perth where we ran a leg of the Super 7s for the last couple of years. But it is hard for us to even justify the huge expense just so we can run one event for the year. Maybe if more events change over to the exciting Race 2 concept, we could justify the costs.

Q. Perth runs a Super 5 tournament league. Are there any plans to expand this format to other Australian states?
Credit to the success of the Super 5s has to go to our partners at Action Paintball Games WA hard work and the simple format that is Super 5s. At this stage because we are running 4 major events a year with the Super 7s and the scenario events we are doing in collaboration with Paintball Pete's there is not much room left for another series. If and when we can pass some of the Super 7s events on to other locations, I would love to do a more basic style of events based on a state run league as a feeder series for the Super 7s.

Q. How important do you think it's been for the development of Australian paintball to allow American Pros to guest for Australian teams in the Super7's?
It has been one of the best things we have ever done. Honestly, these guys have helped raise the level of play in Australia and that of the Super 7s like nothing else. They have helped us make the Super 7s the highest level of play in Australia. Simply put, to be the best in Australia, you must win at Super 7s. For the other proof you only need look at how we did at last year's World Cup Asia, Australian teams dominated..... 1st, 2nd and 4th pretty much answers that. On top of that, these pro American players the likes of Salvino, Aviles and Greenspan are also totally awesome guys too. I hope we can keep attracting people of this calibre to help us keep improving.

Q. You've just announced the formation of PALS China with yourself and Michael Tan and the establishment of the China Cup as the 1st leg of PALS 2011 in Hainan. China is well know as a manufacturing centre for paintball products but not for its paintball playing scene. Do you think the China Cup will help with local paintball sports development?
We are obviously hoping that the China Cup will not only help paintball grow in the local market, but also help in getting paintball properly recognized and "legal" to play in the mainland in the near future. Paintball in China has the potential to be bigger than even the US paintball market. Believe me, there is a lot of people who could afford to play paintball in China.... a hell of a lot.

Q. Paintball and the law have always been at odds. Do you think it's time for the formation of an International Paintball Federation to help legitimise and support the sport worldwide?

That would be wonderful. This is one thing that the world paintball industry really needs, especially in Australia with some of our retarded restrictive and unfair laws. We formed the Australian Paintball Industry Association about 4 years ago with a lot of Australian Paintball businesses and have had a lot of success simply because governments want to deal with associations and not individual businesses. I for one would welcome an International Paintball Federation with open arms with such goals as helping us to work with our government to improve our laws.

Q. What other improvements do you hope to see for paintball in 2011?
One set of standard rules for paintball around the world. That would be a great start. Paintball 100% legal in all of China. Paintball guns with Capped Ramping allowed in Australia. More people playing paintball and more teams at events is the other improvement I am hoping to see....100+ teams at 2011 China Cup, 60+ teams at 2011 Australian Paintball Masters and to finish the year, 200+ teams at 2011 World Cup Asia....

sofianSofian Daud
(Malaysian National Paintball League aka MY-NPL)

Q. Despite the recession, MY-NPL is still going strong in 2010. Do you have any exciting changes planned for MY-NPL in 2011?

It has been the tradition of MY-NPL to bring about exciting, constructive and competitive changes from year to year for the betterment of the league in particular and for the development of paintball sports generally.  The year 2011 is not any exception, we have a number of changes in mind but it is too early to disclose as the changes are still on the drawing table.  Believe me, by the grand finale round 5 which will be held on 6 & 7 November at Dataran Pahlawan Melaka, the changes will be announced officially.

Q. After 7 years of tournament paintball in malaysia do you think the scene is ready for a semi-pro division considering many of the current division 1teams have been playing division 1 for many years?
No doubt that the launching of the semi-pro division has been the pinnacle eagerly waited for by D1 teams in the league.  Nevertheless, the effort to ensure a larger pool and sustainability of the D1 teams in league should be primarily addressed by all concerned in the industries. Furthermore I believe the realisation of a semi-pro divison in the league should be a concerted effort by the whole industry players, not the league alone by itself.  The league is providing the avenue towards realising this vision.

Q. You've seen more international teams registering for MY-NPL in 2010. Do you think this trend will continue in 2011?
Yes indeed. We are targeting more and more teams from Asia-Pacific, especially the South East Asia region, to participate in the league as we firmly believe that the league is a good platform for the growth of the sport in this region.

Q. Paintball and the law have always been at odds. Do you think it's time for the formation of an international paintball federation to help legitimise and support the sport worldwide?
The formation of a sincere, honest and non-greedy international federation is all the industry needs at the moment to assist the legitimacy of the game worldwide. At the same time, the formation of local associations and clubs is also encouraged. I sincerely hope the formation of the Malaysian Paintball Federation shall pave the way for other countries to follow suit and take the lead.  

Q. What other improvements do you hope to see for paintball in 2011?
I hope to see more and more involvement of the private sector in the sport. At the same time the industry players must show more and more commitment and effort to enhance and develop the game, instead of making instant profit only.

ulrichUlrich Stahr
(Millennium Series)

Q. Having visited Malaysia and taken part in the World Cup Asia paintball tournament last year, do you think Asian tournament paintball is progressing in the right direction?

I have been to Malaysia for paintball many times and have supported the World Cup Asia right from beginning. This incredible tournament is growing each year and attracts teams from all of Asia. It generates growth in many Asian countries and sets an example for other Asian countries, who want to develop their own national paintball markets. In this regard, WCA is not so important as a stand-alone event, but as the pinnacle of the whole PALS. Paul Lam and his partners in PALS are motivating lots of other field operators and tournament promoters in the region for ambitious goals. Definitely the place to be in Asia.

Q. Do you see any areas for improvement in the Asian region?
Paintball in Asia is already doing very well. Growth is accelerating from year to year. Regarding tournament paintball I see potential for improvements in:
1. How national leagues are set up -
In an ideal world these would be organised as non-commercial operations, run by national federations as in any other team sport.

2. Which rules are used in international tournaments -
Even if promoters in Asia use mainly the Millennium Series rules and the Race To format in their tournaments, they change/distort them slightly too easily. For example, it doesn't make sense to use a higher ROF, when everywhere else in the world the ROF has been scaled back intentionally. And there are other examples.

3. How the quality of reffing is not in the focus of organisers -
For several years now we from Euroref organised ref courses and trained Asian refs in countries like Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines and Thailand. After some years not so many of these trained refs are still around and not all of them are up to date how the actual application of the rules (which are basically still the same) have changed over the last seasons. So in order to increase the pool of trained refs in Asia and to further improve their quality, we strive together with our partners from Asiaref, headed by Mr. Junaidi Kalil from Malaysia, to convince organisers of international events to offer courses with our experienced trainers and instructors, either in conjunction with international tournaments or with local ones. Sometimes there is even opportunity for local refs to hone their skills at major league paintball, like at the last Millennium Series event in London, where we accommodated another fellow refs from Malaysia within our reffing crews, courtesy to Mr. TC Gan from Skirmish Asia.

Q. There's been whispers of a world-wide player/team ranking system being developed. Is this something the Millennium would consider supporting and using?
Yes, it is true, the Millennium Series has such a ranking system in the pipeline. The Millennium Series has always been very supportive to aspiring paintball enthusiasts in emerging markets and we will continue doing so.

Q. Paintball and the law have always been at odds. Do you think it's time for the formation of an International Paintball Federation to help legitimise and support the sport worldwide?
Exactly, and we have already an International Paintball Federation in place, called UPBF. Part of UPBF is the Asian Pacific Paintball Confederation (APPBF), which has been launched at World Cup Asia 2006 in Kuala Lumpur. Helping member federations in legitimising the sport in their respective countries is just one of many tasks of APPBF.

Q. What other improvements do you hope to see for paintball in 2011?

The single most important issue for future development of our sport is to find a way, to get equal support from all parts of the paintball industry (manufacturers, distributors, dealers, tournament promoters, field operators), without them exerting too much influence on our course and speed of growth. In some markets competition and ego problems between market leaders are already limiting further success. One way could be to attract more outside (out of paintball industry) sponsorship, maybe this is an area, Europe and America have to learn from Asia?

paulrichardsPaul Richards
(Coach of U.S. pro team Tampa Bay Damage)

Q. You haven't been to Asia yet but I know you keep in touch with what's going on in the region. Do you think Asia has the potential to catch up with the class of paintball played in America and Europe?

Sure, but it's going to take time and a lot of hard work. There are already some solid teams but what's really lacking is a depth of experience across the divisions. It's easier where tourney paintball is already well established - like the U.S. & Europe - to develop a new team because they are surrounded by good teams and players up and down the divisions. What the Asian player needs is more opportunities to train, learn and gain experience competing against the best teams in the world.

Q. There's been whispers of a world-wide player/team ranking system being developed. Is this something you think the NPPL or PSP would consider supporting and using?
While I don't speak for either league my opinion is neither one of them has given it much thought. In both cases the fees associated with their I.D. card/player registration requirements are important revenue streams. In the last year the PSP has focused on laying the foundation for something like that with the affiliate leagues and other local leagues that generally apply PSP rules and use the APPA system but the focus is North America. That sort of talk has mostly come out of Europe in the past. I do think if competitive paintball continues to see movement in the direction of standardizing the format & rules it will at least lay a foundation for international player registration but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

Q. The NPPL has brought back the 'All-Star Game' in D.C. and used what's been dubbed the S7 format. Is this a format the teams wanted to trial and could we be seeing some similar changes to the NPPL playing formats in 2011?
I have heard there is a group within the owners that favors the format but I have yet to hear how they would introduce it into league play. Given that the NPPL's competition. the PSP, already offers a similar variation in their Race 2-2 format I don't know if becoming more like the other guy is what 7-man really wants or needs. Beyond that there are questions like how will it alter preliminary play? Will everyone play fewer opponents? Will there be added rounds of play? Will it be more paint intensive? I guess we'll find out.

Q. Paintball and the law have always been at odds. Do you think it's time for the formation of an International Paintball Federation to help legitimise and support the sport worldwide?
It's an idea whose time will come but once again I'm not expecting it any time soon. Once again much of the impetus pushing the idea is coming from Europe. My guess is that the real roadblock is funding and a close second might be what sort of hierarchy of authority would result? If my point of view was that of a large, independent and influential league I would think twice before participating in setting up a federation that could encroach on my authority.

Q. What other improvements do you hope to see for paintball in 2011?

I hope that any coming improvements turn out to be actual improvements but mostly I hope lots of new peeps try paintball and have a great time playing the game.

There you have it! Some great insights from some of the biggest names in paintball from Asia, Australia, Europe and America. PaintballNews.Asia would like to thank Paul Lam, Michael Whybrew, Sofian Daud, Ulrich Stahr and Paul Roberts for taking time out to respond to our questions. It certainly sounds like 2011 is going to be another interesting year for paintball.

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