Meet the organisers of the London Charity Softball League!
We love sponsoring the London Charity Softball League which gets bigger and more popular every year! But it’s only possible thanks to the four-strong organising committee of volunteers who work tirelessly all summer and beyond to make it happen. We asked spokeswoman Vanessa Furey (of consumer charity Which?) to introduce the dream team, share some highlights and who they might be tipping for victory on Thursday…
The charity softball league is coming to the end of its 13th season and already planning on how we can make the 14th bigger and better than ever. What we love is just how many people want to be a part of it!
The league is the brainchild of Leo Visconti who decided he wanted to do something to get his colleagues from across his organisation to work together, and others were interested too. We started out with just 9 teams and grew rapidly year on year purely through word of mouth.
This year we've had to limit it to just 88 teams but many of them are made up of several organisations meaning that over 120 charities take part in the league, with lots on standby for next year.
It's run by a committee of volunteers, which works really well as we have a range of different strengths that complement each other.
Leo is Mr Fix, he sorts out all the relationships with the sponsors and also hands out the yellow cards when any issues come up. He's firm but fair and a stickler for the rules.
Paul Mehta is our stats man, hence the nickname Stato. He pretty much keeps the league running on a week by week basis and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of seasons past. He's come so close to winning a few times but it's yet to happen, we're all keeping our fingers crossed for him for next year... unless he's in our leagues.
Rob Wyatt (Earp) is the new guy on the committee and has been a brilliant support all season keeping teams in check and coordinating the pitch bookings in Hyde Park. He's essentially our logistics guy and always on hand to help solve a problem.
And me, well I guess I'm the campaigns and comms one of the group. I look after our social media and try to promote what the teams are doing, getting them excited for the new season. I joined the committee after leading our campaign to keep Hyde Park free to play sport. Not only did we stop the Royal Parks charges, the whole campaign brought the league closer together.
Our proudest moments have been seeing organisations come together to collaborate on things that wouldn't have been possible without the league. And we've lost count of how many relationships and babies the league has led to, hopefully another generation of softball players!
We've also seen people go on to play outside the league with clubs in Softball UK's leagues. Claude Snape, who only took up softball due to the charity league, has even played for Great Britain and won numerous medals. With Rio coming to an end, it's great to see softball making it in to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Fingers crossed some of the people starting out in the league might catch the bug and go on to great things!
As I mentioned, the league came under threat just a year after the London Olympics when the Royal Parks allowed a company to charge £30+ an hour to use the area in Hyde Park. This felt wrong and a campaign, supported by over 20,000 people soon saw us fighting back, not just for us but everyone else who uses the space or who wants to create something like the softball league. We rely on using free space to make the league accessible to anyone, and we'd love to see more places in London for people to play sports without paying a fee.
The committee are obviously completely impartial when it comes to who wins, but with Leo finally taking part we'd be happy to see him finally get his hands on some silverware. But after months of planning and weeks fighting against the great wet and windy British summer, we are just happy to be able to let our hair down and enjoy the evening with everyone who has helped to make the league so special.
Many thanks to Vanessa and all the organisers; we’ve got the easier job (along with fellow sponsors Blue Step Solutions and Snap Print Management) of keeping the crowds refreshed on the day and we’re looking forward to the celebrations!
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