Despite recent guidelines from the state that have lifted some restrictions on youth sports, the Berlin Athletic Association’s six-person board has cancelled its 2020 season.
“Now that Gov. (Phil) Murphy has released his guidelines regarding youth sports, we have been able, as an organization, to decide on what we feel is best for the kids and for Berlin AA,” said association President Joel Inman on the organization’s Facebook page.
He was referring to Murphy’s decision allowing outdoor, non-contact sports to resume as of June 22.
Berlin AA, a youth sports organization run by local parents, offers kids of varying age levels from Berlin Borough and Berlin Township to play baseball and softball together at the Berlin Community School fields.
“Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis as well as the restrictions the governor has placed, the board does not see a way in which to provide any semblance of a season, and therefore we are forced to cancel the season for T-Ball, rookies and minors,” said Inman.
“We do not make this decision lightly, as we all want to see the kids enjoying the sport they love. However, with the time constraints we are under, there is simply no way to do this.”
A representative of Berlin AA met with the Berlin Borough School District’s board of education earlier this year to discuss the season, including improving field conditions moving forward.
In an agreement between Berlin AA and the school district’s board of education, the latter gave Berlin AA an initial $12,000 investment for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, and also agreed to give $4,000 per year for the next three years. As part of the agreement, Berlin AA is then responsible for preparing the fields for the season, including maintenance, general upkeep and safety.
A post by Berlin AA to Facebook on June 18 indicated the organization had spent portions of the money generated by registrations, which have increased in recent years. Before the season’s cancellation, funds were spent in areas such as field conditions and equipment.
Berlin AA’s only two sources of revenue are registration fees and sponsors. With no season, Inman’s Facebook post indicated that funds from sponsors are severely limited this year.
The board also faced the difficult decision of compensation for families who had already registered before the season was cancelled. According to Berlin AA’s June 18 Facebook post, the organization indicated it favored giving families a 100-percent credit toward next year’s registration.
“We struggled with this decision, but feel that the best way to ensure we have an organization and utilize peoples’ fees to the maximum extent, is to have them apply to next year’s season,” Inman wrote in the post.
“We did investigate what percentage refund we could give, but felt that a 100 percent credit towards next year’s season was the best option instead of a reduced refund amount.”
What followed were Facebook comments from the community that showed disagreement with the board’s refund decision. A week later, Berlin AA noted in a new Facebook post that after having “received feedback from many individuals regarding the board’s decision to reserve fees for next year’s program,” the league would offer a 50-percent reimbursement — in lieu of next year’s full credit — to those who make a request before July 7.
“To make an accommodation to those who would prefer to receive a partial refund, we will reimburse 50 percent of the fees that were paid. If you would like your partial refund, or if you need further assistance, please email me at email@example.com and we will have your request processed,” Inman wrote in the Facebook post.
“After July 7, we will assume that you would prefer to have your fees applied to next season.”
The post also referenced comments and questions the board received regarding league finances and expenses. According to Inman, “complete details” of the league’s revenue and expenses are provided to all who attend monthly meetings open to the public.
Inman could not be reached for additional comment.