Peter Bašus: We want people to have fun

Peter Bašus is the leader and founder of the Prague’s Barrel team. Lately he is enjoying being a mentor rather than direct manager. Why did he decide to organize these tournaments? How long is he doing it and how he sees the future?

Peter, you are organizing the tournament for 28 years already. What made you think about doing something like this?

To be honest, I’m a football player myself. I played for a company Ústav pro výzkum, výrobu a využití radioizotopů (Institute for Research, Production and Utilization of Radioisotopes). This team was part of a company tournament in Germany in 1990 and they told us that we could host the same tournament next year in Prague. So we have organised it and I thought that we could do it regularly. I called the amateur football association and they didn’t care much but they provided me with information that back in 1968 there were two men wanting to do something similar – Bálek and Pavlín. So I contacted them, they were a bit older but still full of enthusiasm. We wanted to make a tournament for 11-a-side football and we started with sending out letters (yes, it was 1992, no internet). We contacted mainly Germany and we got 3 teams enrolled, we added 4 Czech teams and we got the first tournament in 1993. From the income we bought a fax. And the second tournament we got 10 teams, we were satisfied, we liked it.

How the first tournaments looked like? The same programme as we have today?

Yes, it is almost the same. We had an advantage back then, that beer was super cheap and it was the best attraction. It is still a tradition and our beer is still the best. All the teams had their own hostesses. We saw that in one tournament, when every team had somebody to take care of them and we liked it.

You reached out only to company teams at first, is that right?

Yes, and only Germany since my companion Míla Pavlín only spoke German and he had a lot of contacts. From the beginning the word of mouth was the best marketing for us, a team from Hamburg was here one year and the other one suddenly came more teams from Hamburg.

When did you spread the contacts to non company teams?

We tried to send the letters also to football associations, so it expanded. One time we got this Italian team and that was a really good contact, we spread out to Italy a lot. It was funny, because nobody here knew a word in Italian and they didn’t speak another language but we managed. I hired one girl to help me with English to find teams from other countries and she operated via email (finally). We even got this basic website.

Is there a tournament which is similar to ours?

I think we are quite unique in this. I don’t know any tournament to be alike. I don’t visit tournaments that often lately but from what I saw through the years, we have an unique way of taking care of the teams. Most tournaments are focusing on leaders having extra care and the players don’t even get water. I wanted to make a tournament which I would like as a football player. And I think I managed that and we are very emphasizing precise to maintain the quality. We want people to have fun with us, that is our brand.

Why did you add another sports in your scope, e.g. ice hockey and bowling?

Ice hockey started after one evening programme on the boat, because the owner of the ship is a hockey player and he told me that in February they don’t have much work and also Prague is a bit out of tourists, so it would be good. He offered to help me with the first tournament, so we did it. We sent out the invitations and got two teams from the USA and one from Russia, the rest was Czech. The Russian leader was pretty amazed and he gave me a contact to Dimitrij, who helped us get more teams from Russia. Maria took that role after him and the ice hockey tournament is a big hit in Russia. But we want the tournament to be more international so we are trying to distribute the places to different nations.

During the last 10 years the tournament expanded a lot, from one football and one ice hockey tournament to 10 tournaments per year. How that happened?

I always had very skilled and communicative girl to help me with teams. She had it as a job during studies at university and after that she moved on. Sofie was the last one and she stayed. She helped me with the recruitment of new reinforcement for European Company Sports Games 2013 and the team we put together was really good and stayed, that is why the tournaments expanded so much. We have also opened a 7-a-side category, it is easier to gather together 10 people than 20. And the last thing is that participants are talking about our tournament a lot, word of mouth is the best advertisement for us.

Do you think we can expand even more?

I think we are on the edge of capacity, our liver capacity. Drinking every weekend in the year won’t be healthy for us (laughing). I have always thought that our tournament is great but when I look back, I see we were amateurs in comparison to now. Maybe I will say the same 10 year forward. It is evolving so much, for better, we didn’t even expect this. And my whole team has merit.

You have mentioned European Company Sport Games 2013, how did we get to organise that?

We came across this big football tournament in Italy 1999 which we went to visit. And that was European Company Sport Games, there were 5 000 participants. And I thought we could do that in Prague. So I reached out to European Federation for Company Sport. During that period my right hand was Mirka Strouhalová and we were getting the contacts by her charm and my liver capacity (laughing). We already had a name as a tournament in Europe, so it wasn’t that hard. We have started to candidate for hosting the Games. I thought we would lose to the fullest but we narrowly lost in the final round with Denmark. So we continued and won the 2013 Games. I didn’t go to the presentation with Mirka this time because we were hosting the Prague’s Barrel and she just casually called me “I got it for us!”.

You were risking a little bit to hire a few students to help you organise an event for 7 216 participants.

I remember how I was introducing Jakub (he is currently leading Mercuria laser tag arenas in Prague with Peter) as a sports manager during European Company Sport Games 2011 in Hamburg, he was like 20 by that time, to the sport managers who were doing it for 20-30 years. They looked at him through their fingers and the other day they were coming to him for advice. That was also why we went there, to promote our Games but also to see what we can make better. And I think we have succeeded.

So far it seems you have a sixth sense for hiring people, how are you doing it?

I’m trying to make the best conditions for them, not snooping around their work too much and giving them the job they will like. We are having a lot of team buildings, I’m offering flexible working hours. I have made a mistake only once, otherwise it is working perfectly.