Local playing rules

MSL games are played according to WBSC rules (Version 2018-2021). These rules were redrafted in 2018, with simplified text, and a few rules re-numbered, which is reflected here. We have a small number of local additional rules, and there are some WBSC rules which are not enforced. Some of these differences are local to MSL, while others are in common with other leagues in the country, and are found at tournaments.

In the following, a “Rule” is a WBSC Rule unless stipulated as a “local rule”, while a “Reg” is an MSL regulation. “Rules” relate to the playing of the game, while “Regulations” relate to conditions of membership of the league.

Local additional rules

These are extra rules which do not relate to any existing WBSC rules.

MSL has adopted its own version of the inclusive gender rules proposed by the BSUK LGBTQ+ Committee. These rules recognize that people defining as gender non-binary are defined as neither male nor female. Further, we recognize that trans* players can identify anywhere along the gender spectrum.
When rostering to play in MSL, players will have the option of identify their gender as “male”, “female” or “other”, and if the last of these will indicate the size of ball they opt to hit. Players identifying as male will be termed “large ball hitters (LBH)”. Players identifying as female will be termed “small-ball hitters (SBH)”. All other players will indicate which of these two categories, LBH or SBH, they wish to register as. No assumptions regarding gender identity will follow from this choice.
For all rules and situations where formerly a distinction between “male” and “female” was made, the distinction will now be between in terms of “BH size”. Note that teams must still consist of equal numbers of LBHs and SBHs (5 of each or 6 of each if playing with extra players), the batting line-up must alternate between LBH and SBH, and the fielding rules requiring an even mix still apply.

1. DECLARATION OF GUESTS/YOUTH PLAYERS. At the beginning of the game, captains must indicate to the umpire and to their opposing captain which players are playing as guests. They must also indicate if any of their players are under 18.

2. COURTESY RUNNER. The WBSC rules make no mention of courtesy runners, other than to indicate that a batter-runner may be substituted in the normal way. In MSL (as elsewhere in Britain), the convention is to permit an injured batter to be replaced by a courtesy runner (rather than a substitute) having got to 1st base, once the ball is dead. (Effect: the courtesy runner cannot take over running the bases while the ball is live, for example if the batter has hit big). If a batter is able to get further than 1st base (other than as the result of a 2-base award), they are deemed not to require a courtesy runner. The courtesy runner must be the last batter of the same BH size to have been out or, if there have been no outs in the whole game, the last batter of the same BH sizee due up at the time. If the batter so defined is currently on base or at the plate or becomes the on-deck batter, they may be replaced by the next batter who fits that definition.  The reasoning behind this quite explicit rule is to eliminate the possibility for either side to choose who the courtesy runner should be and thereby try to gain an advantage. It also introduces an element of randomness so that the same runner is not always used. A courtesy runner is, as the name suggests, a courtesy, not a right, and will be allowed only with the opposing captain’s permission. A courtesy runner should not be requested for a player who is merely slow, and captains should consider using a substitute if available. A player who comes into the game with a pre-existing injury should not normally be granted a courtesy runner, especially if playing 6&6. Note that the batter must be able to reach 1st; a courtesy runner from home is not allowed. It is not up to the umpire to decide whether to allow a courtesy runner or not.

3. PLAYING ONE-SHORT. The WBSC rules do not allow for a team to play one-short. MSL however will permit teams to start one-short (i.e. with 9 players, or 11 if playing with EPs), and to continue to play if injury (though not ejection) leaves the team one-short. A team playing one-short must take an automatic out in place of the missing player in the batting line-up. This is usually the last place of the appropriate BH size in the batting order, but need not be. (The original ASA rule on which this local rule is based stipulated that the auto-out must be in place of the last batter of the appropriate sex. This part of the old rule is not adopted: the auto-out can be anywhere in the line-up.) When playing one-short the automatic out should precede any guests playing down in the batting order, in case a late-arriving rostered player is to take up the vacant position in the batting order. If a team is playing with EPs and due to injury the number of available players drops to 11, the team must play one-short, i.e. they may not revert to 5&5. If a team is playing one-short and suffers a further injury and cannot replace that player, the game is deemed to have been lost.  To clarify, if the ejection of a player (rather than injury) leaves the team one short (including if playing with EPs), they may not continue to play one-short, and the game is deemed a loss. Also, if a team playing one short is involved in a tie-break in extra innings, and the automatic out coincides with the player due to start the inning on 2nd base, that base is left open, but no out is recorded.

4. LATE ARRIVALS. Contrary to Rule 3.2.1b, players need not be present at the start of the game: late-arriving players may join the game at any time. In the case of a team playing one-short, the late arrival may enter the playing area only once the ball is dead.

5. BATTERS MUST WEAR A HELMET as defined in Rule 2.1.8. If a batter enters the batting box without a helmet, the batter will be ordered to go and get their helmet. If they refuse, they will be given out (Rule 5.4.4a.ii).

6. DIGGING IN. Batters may not dig in at the batter’s box. Batters may smooth the dirt out, and may rotate the balls of their feet to get a grip (though not excessively), but may not kick dirt out or plant their toe into the ground. A first offense will result in a team warning, followed by ejection for subsequent offenses.

Local rule changess

7. OFFICIAL SOFTBALL – In addition to Rule 2.4.3, we require that two new official MSL balls, one 12″ and new 11″, be provided by the home team. 

8. PLAYERS MUST WEAR A GLOVE. Rule 2.5.1a says any player may wear a glove; we have a local rule making wearing a glove mandatory.

9. LINE-UP CARDS. We do have line-up cards (Rule 3.1.14) (or ‘team sheets’) to be submitted at the end of the game, but do not require them to be exchanged at the pre-game meeting (1.1.8), list uniform numbers or identify the manager (captain) (3.2.1). Nor do we require all starting players to be present at the start of the game (3.2.1b). The requirement (3.2.1a.i) to list full names should be followed.

10. FITNESS OF GROUND (Rule 3.6.2a) We have local rules regarding calling of games (See Captain’s Handbook, Regs 3.5.2 and 3.5.13).

11. REGULATION GAME (Rule 1.2) A game may be called if conditions make playing dangerous. Besides the plate umpire, games may be universally called off, or, if there is no neutral umpire, by a majority of 10 players from each side. While WBSC rule 1.2.1f calls for an incomplete game to be replayed from the beginning, our local rules call for the game to be completed from the point at which it was halted, un less less than two innings have been completed.

12. TIED GAME (Rule 1.2.1d). A regulation tie is not replayed, but recorded as a tie.

13. FORFEIT(Rule 1.2.7c) The score of a forfeited game shall be 20-0, or, if forfeited after it has started, the score at the time of forfeit if this represents a bigger losing margin for the team at fault. Any home runs scored before the game is forfeited shall count towards the home run trophy.

14. BATTING ORDER (Rule 5.4.1) All guests must bat as low as possible in the batting order, subject to the rule regarding BH size of batters. Exception: a guest may enter the batting line-up as a substitute at any place in the line-up, subject to the rule regarding BH size of batters, as long as the player they are replacing has completed at least one turn at bat. Note that this exception does not permit a guest to replace an automatic out in the line-up. When playing one-short the automatic out should precede any guests playing down in the batting order, if a late-arriving rostered player is to take up the vacant position in the batting order. If during a game a guest batter is found to be in the wrong position in the line-up the following options are available:

  • (a) If appealed before the batter has made their first plate appearance, then the subsequent batting line-up must be reordered so as to conform to the guest rules.
  • (b) If appealed while the batter is at the plate for the first time, the guest batter must exchange places with a batter lower in the line-up such as to conform to the rules: that batter continues the at bat with the current ball-strike count.
  • (c) If appealed while the guest batter is on base then EITHER they can be replaced with a legal substitute (but NOT another player already in the line-up, even if they have not yet batted) with no immediate penalty OR an out is recorded, they become an ineligible batter, and the position in the line-up becomes an automatic out.
  • (d) If appealed after the guest has batted at least once, and is not on base, then EITHER they can be replaced with a legal substitute (but NOT another player already in the line-up, even if they have not yet batted) with no immediate penalty OR they become an ineligible batter and the position in the line-up becomes an automatic out.

Effect c & d. All actions before the last legal or illegal pitch that have occurred while the illegal batter was in the game stand. If the batter is not substituted then they can continue to field, but may not bat again in the game. The fielding side has the option to continue the game under protest if they believe the guest batter has had an effect on the outcome of the game.

15. FIELDING RESTRICTIONS Guests rostered to a team in the same or a higher division (“playing down”) must field in one of the following positions: pitcher, catcher, right field, subject to the usual restrictions on BH size balance in the field. If a guest is discovered to be fielding in an illegal position, on appeal by the batting side, the player must move to a legal fielding position. The batter will have the choice of allowing the result of the last pitch to stand, or having the pitch annulled. However, if more than one pitch is received with the fielder in an illegal position, only the last pitch can be replayed. This is an “option play” as defined by WBS Rule 1.73. The batting side has the option to continue the game under protest if they believe the guest fielder has affected or may affect the outcome of the game. 

16. UMPIRES. Not all games are umpired by neutral umpires (Aa). All rules relating to umpires’ clothing (Ac) are taken as guidelines.

17. MANAGER/COACH. Rules 2.8, 2.8 and 5.10.3a.xiii stipulate ejection of the manager/coach. If the manager/coach is also in the line-up at the time, and their ejection would lead to forfeit due to insufficient players, the manager/coach will not be ejected, unless in the umpire’s opinion this was wilful gamesmanship. The player who presents at the pre-game meeting with the umpire will be considered the ‘manager/coach’ for the purpose of these rules.

Rule changes generally found in British softball

18. UNIFORM(Rule 2.6) We do not currently enforce these rules, except 2.6f (casts), but see Reg. 3.6. Rule 2.6g has recently been revised so that jewellery is allowed as long as it is not distracting, in the umpire’s opinion. 

19. SCORING Appendix 6 is taken as a guideline, except for Ga (score by inning and final score), Ge (home runs) and Go (name of umpire if neutral), all of which must be recorded on the official score sheet.

20. CHARGED CONFERENCES. Rules relating to charged conferences are ignored. (Rules 4.1.1, 4.2, 5.1.10, 5.2)

21. HEAD COACH/MANAGER. We generally use the term ‘captain’ to refer to the role of head coach/manager referred to in various rules. The player who presents at the pre-game meeting will be considered the captain (‘manager/head coach’ Rule 3.1.6) in relation to all WBSC rules stipulating actions that are restricted to the manager, for example: giving notice of a protest 1.2.11c, 3.6.6a, option plays 5.1.34, 5.5.1c, 5.7, or if the umpire needs to confer with the captain(s).

22. No smoking or consumption of smoking products (including e-cigarettes) or alcohol in the ‘dugout’ area (new rule in 2006, amended 2019) – not enforced (Rules 2.1.5, 3.5.1b). However, umpires are encouraged to ask captains to take action if any player becomes unfit to play due to alcohol consumption.

23. In addition to the requirement for youth players to wear a batting/running helmet when base-coaching, or acting as bat-boy/girl, and to wear a catcher’s mask if playing pitcher or catcher, youth players must also wear a mask or a gumshield if playing infield.