He’s achieved what very few Brits have ever done and that is to have been successful and respected both sides of the pond, in fact, Ged’s contribution spreads wide, world-wide.
The name of his company back in the day [circa 1986] was WDP [Who Dares Plays] .. a name that was to become synonymous with so many good things in paintball not least of which was the way they approached the promotion of our sport – they were somehow able to put on a tournament that became regarded as an event.
A not so subtle distinction that managed to separate them from all other event promoters at that time, even from the granddaddy of all events, the World Cup.
And it was at one of the world cups, that WDP fell afoul of its own brand of success, resulting in a rift that spawned one of Ged’s greatest creations, Pure Promotions – I’ll come to that later.
And so when it came to putting on a show, they really did have no competitors and their legacy remains even today.
WDP’s inaugural tournament hit the ground running back in 1988 with an open-field event at Donnington Park that hosted forty 20-man teams, which for back then, was unheard of.
You have to remember, the game of paintball came across the pond in the mid-eighties and was exclusively played in woodland.
There were no tournaments around then and so when this event came along in 1988, it was something alien and ultimately way before its time.
They had fields with triangular shaped bunkers about three foot high and evenly spaced about the field in rows and columns.
It was a revolution in the making and even though that particular format wasn’t repeated in the years that followed, it proved to be the progenitor of the now famous Hyperball events held in the UK in 1996 and 1997.
In 1996 and 1997 WDP put on their Hyperball event – this was to become the progenitor for our modern game that’s now played outside of the woods in arenas.
Hyperball’s ‘bunkers’ were then fixed and immovable – they were big black industrial plastic tubes providing an apocalyptic appeal to the ballers back then.
Back then, it was all new, in your face paintball, a haven for straight shooters who didn’t have to worry about foliage, branches and fox-holes to break a leg in.
At those Hyperball events they had a band, tattooists, bungee jumps and Lord knows what else, this wasn’t so much a paintball event, it was a revolution in the making.
We had entered a whole new ball game, Hyperball.
Ged dragged us all out of the woods and plonked us right in the middle of our future, problem was, the game had to undergo a final transition under the mercurial Laurent Hamet who gave us Sup'Air Ball but it was Ged's event that sewed the seeds in Laurent.
This was a paintballer’s dream but years later, some 10 years later in fact, Ged supplied another turn of our game’s revolutions in the form of the now famous Huntington Beach event in 2003 but more of that later.
During the early to mid-nineties, WDP were looking to expand their horizons and and took a gamble and invested in producing an electronic marker, at that time, all markers were mechanical … I suppose it was inevitable that Ged would begin thinking about producing a marker, and it was to prove one of the most painful decisions he ever made, not because there was anything wrong with the marker but because it sparked off one of the most notorious litigation confrontations in paintball.
I detailed this fiasco in my ‘History of UK paintball’ thread and so here’s the link if you wish to acquaint yourself with the whys and wherefores it's easy to find.
Suffice it to say, it was a protracted patent affair being played out in the American courts against the US company, Smart Parts.
SP eventually won that court battle but it drained WDP both financially and psychologically; I don’t think they ever really recovered from it but they still went on to make a great marker that became the weapon of choice for Dynasty when winning the World Cup a few times.
A point was made methinks but in the US, points are cheap, it’s money that matters most.
By then, Ged and WDP were one of the industry’s big players but they were in the middle of all the other industry big hitters who were predominantly American.
And so, there was an ‘us and them’ mentality that pervaded back then and I think it fair to say, WDP’s approach and mentality was tainted by that division.
Angels and Demons
At Jerry Braun’s world Cup of 2002, there was a notorious ‘falling out’ between Ged and the WDP guys and Jerry Braun, the promoter, there’s no point in going into details but suffice it to say, Ged and the gang felt embittered and persecuted because they weren’t invited back to the World Cup thereafter.
The problem was, the cup was not only the place to be for all aspiring teams and players, it was also the place you had to be if you were selling product.
If you were one of our industry’s big guns, you just had to be at the cup.
Ged was not a happy man …..
I don’t know how long it took Ged to decide his next course of action but it’s fair to say that his decision would change the face of paintball forever ..
Ged and his company needed a showcase for their products but the World Cup was now out of bounds.
The US market was absolutely crucial for any company who wanted to expand and consolidate their market positions and so it was equally crucial to somehow showcase WDP’s products.
If Mohammed couldn't go to the mountain then Ged took the mountain to Huntington Beach in 2003.
With the World Cup now a no-go zone, Ged decided that he would create his own American league but to do so he needed help and that help came in the form of Chuck Hendsch who was the de facto figurehead of the NPPL.
Think about that for a second, we have Ged, a true Brit who had just fallen foul of the top American league and his response to that was to start his own league - that took balls the size of melons to attempt that.
However, Ged had an advantage over his US counterparts, he was a showman, a man who knew how to promote the game - his answer was simple, give the players and teams an event that blitzed all others - and that's exactly what he did.
Up until that time, the world cup and the other four events that made up the US league traded under the NPPL banner.
The NPPL was the umbrella organisation of teams and players - it had aligned itself to the US tournament circuit but the rift between Ged and Jerry was turned into an opportunity by Ged who then seconded the help of Chuck Hendsch who pulled away from the US event circuit to start their own.
Ged subsequently formed a new company called Pure Promotions to finance and oversee this new NPPL series and so he threw the dice …. And crossed his fingers !!!
The NPPL’s inaugural event was the now famous Huntington Beach in 2003.
In one fell swoop, this single event reset the bar for the entire industry.
I think it fair to say, Huntington Beach blew everyone’s mind – and it did this because of its placement – smack right on a Californian beach and all that that goes with such a ground-breaking venue …
Such was the revolutionary nature of the way events were unfolding at that time, a lot of people began thinking that we really could take our sport mainstream in the sense of getting our games played out on the TV.
Even at that first event in 2003, I distinctly remember a few TV execs turning up in stretch limos to attend the event which only served to fuel people’s imagination concerning where our sport was being taken by Ged and Pure Promotions.
These were heady times indeed but unfortunately there was to be no happy ending because after three or four years, Ged sold out to a guy called Bruce Friedman and the rest is history but as far as Ged goes, his time on the international paintball scene was coming to an end.
WDP and Pure Promotions eventually took a long painful walk to paintball’s dead-box … an era had ended and with that demise we parted company with one of our industry’s true gents, a giant in stature and reputation.
It’s hard to write this stuff and not feel somewhat sad and aggrieved; I suppose I feel like this because Ged was one of us, a Brit who made good in the hardest environment of all, the US.
Ultimately, his fate was decided with paintball politics playing its fair share in proceedings but I suppose that’s life … or so they say :/
I doubt we will ever see his like again because as things are shaping up now, we are about to enter a new era, and I will be writing and posting about this new era in a week or so and so keep your eyes peeled.
Ged’s legacy is huge, and unique – he would undoubtedly be amongst our sport's pantheon of greats and the following interview will hopefully be of interest to most people ………
Robbo: When you first started WDP, what were your aspirations at that stage?
Ged: Our aspirations were to run a great paintball site, earn money and give ourselves something to do at the weekends other than partying non-stop.
Robbo: I think I’m right in saying that the Green brothers first started out with your field in Birmingham which was hugely successful, and still is by the way, what made you branch out in terms of the retail side of paintball?
Ged: Well, we moved a lot of kit and all the site stuff over to a unit by spaghetti junction and we set up a retail shop there at the same premises ......I was the one who worked there and ran it ...... I remember just seeing these guys coming in all the time buying these guns and spending a fortune on to get them running.
They were getting in the hole for £500-600 or more and they still had an ugly clunking, mechanical marker.......so I knew that to give people something smooth & fast & top end that performed out of the box the price tag would not be a issue and I understood paintball was an arms race.......now I just had to work out how to win it......I am probably the most un-technical person you are ever going to meet, I cannot literally change a plug......my brain does just not work that way, I think it is some form of mechanical autism or something like that, some stuff I see real easy but other stuff I am like a monkey in a space ship .......anyway about this time this guy starts coming in the shop......he had this air-regulator system that he was looking to get manufactured......we got to know each other and worked together to bring it to market......formed a friendship it was a bit like two halves of a coin coming together......his name was Jon Rice.
[Editor's note - Jon Rice went on to become WDP's technical inspiration who was responsible for developing the Angel, one of the first ever electronic markers]
Robbo: OK, so you got your into production and things looked real good for you guys, but then life had one of its cruel twists of fate just waiting to spoil your party.
Basically, at around that time, a company in the US called Smart Parts was also designing their electronic marker, the Shocker.
But ... this is America and they like to patent their gear and in doing so, they ended up gunning for you in claiming you guys had copied some of their intellectual property.
I think a lot of us are aware of the problems you guys had with the Angel when you had to address that patent issue along with Smart Parts in the US courts – was there a time when you regretted going down that road?
Ged: No, I can't really say I regret going down that road, what happened with us and the Angel and everything else we did and stuff we were still to do was all meant to be so you can't regret it........what I do regret is not rising above the bile & **** & hate and just talking to Billy and Adam [Smart Parts] much sooner than we did.
Robbo: As you know, when all that courtroom stuff was going on in the mid-nineties, I was playing alongside the two owners of Smart Parts, Billy and Adam Gardner when I was playing for the All Americans and so I was aware of both sides of the story even before there were any patent disputes. If I had been asked who was the first in terms of design issues?
I honestly thought you both started out at pretty much the same time and neither of you could lay claim to being the first but the dispute didn’t go your way and when I heard about what you guys had to fork out for your legal costs, what Smart Parts had to pay and also Dave YB over at Dye had to pay, it seems the real winners were the lawyers as is so often the case in the US - [The total bill for all three parties was about 10 million bucks]
You were stuck in the middle of this bitter courtroom battle … it was a fight you could never win .. but were you in a situation where you had no other choice or did you really think you could win the case?
Ged: Ha ha.......I remember saying hundreds of times during that period that it's a matter of principle.........and that is how I felt because we had done fuhk all wrong apart from be on the same path at the same time.......they came at us hard & aggressive through lawyers looking for a scrap and they got one......I wouldn't say we lost as such, I would say it was a draw on points but with both boxers suffering brain damage......what I really regret is not rising above it sooner and talking to Billy & Adam......we just never talked at all it was always through the fukkin lawyers......when we did talk, I actually liked them both, it should never of happened but we were all young-aggressive-headstrong......the end result was both of our companies were mortally wounded........but you live & learn & I always check myself now if or when I am thinking or about to utter the words "matter of principle" because upholding your principles is sometimes a fukkin expensive indulgence
Robbo: I can vividly remember being stuck in the middle of that one because I’m sure Billy and Adam were conspicuously careful what was said in front of me because although I was playing for them at that time, I was still first and foremost, a Brit.
On the other hand, I also remember a few suspicious glances coming my way from you guys … the irony was, I wasn’t doing a damn thing for either of you in that respect but such was the climate back then … the atmosphere was toxic and I think paintball irrevocably changed after that issue, do you agree, if so, how did it change.
Ged: It changed in lots of ways ...... I have always felt the combatant nature of paintball itself has made the business side aggressive also, I felt that very strongly from the beginning ...... certainly around that time with the surge in growth, the corporate money flooding in, lawyers everywhere and all the usual hyenas that get drawn to growth, it was an interesting time ....... the flip side of that on the down-turn was you saw a lot of the early pioneers disappear to be replaced by non paintball people......that is why I have a lot of respect for people like Dave YB, Richmond, Billy & Adam, Gino, Denny jnr, Steve Baldwin etc and their are loads more thank **** ..... real PB people who have been there, got the T-shirt and still love it.
Robbo: WDP was always regarded as a classy outfit back in the nineties and into the noughties – this wasn’t an accident I’m sure but did you decide right from the get-go you guys were gonna do things differently from other companies .. things like the notorious VIP tents with its attendant ‘attractions’.
Ged: It was just the way we saw things Pete .......back then PB was struggling for an identity......the man in the street saw it as weird & naff and we knew that we had to do something about it....... it needed to be cool, have style and it needed a soundtrack so that's what we did.......we didn't want anything to hold PB back ...... with regards to the notorious VIP tents? ..... it was there to be done so we did it......but as regards the specialist attractions & your invite, that was one of my brothers Jon's specialist area of expertise
Robbo: To be fair Ged, the way you guys promoted events back then was bound to cause envy to some degree because you were in their own back yard showing them how it should be done.
There was bound to be a backlash I suppose in terms of people trying to copy your ‘style’ but I do remember a distinct feeling of ‘us and them’ back then … ‘us’ ironically meaning the US.
It felt like the Yanks were lined up against you, did you feel that, or maybe expect it?
Ged: Mmm a little bit......we were making a lot of waves and we were on their turf and we weren't taking any prisoners so you have got to expect some sh!t....... but on the whole, people understood what we were doing, even the ones that didn't like us and I am pretty sure that even if some of them didn't like what we stood for or what we did......they also realised that PB had to evolve had to find it's identity.
Robbo: After the law suit had played out to its bitter finale, am I right in saying that you guys lost something, I don’t mean money here, I suppose I mean, did you guys feel more cynical about the paintball market after that court decision?
Ged: Me, personally no.......I love PB.....I love everything about it, the people, every form of the game; I feel truly blessed & honoured that my life has taken this course & path and that I have been part of it and still am part of it. I am however very cynical about lawyers ..... there was no final court decision......we just finally talked.
Robbo: Back to 2002, the World Cup was the biggest event around, for a long time it was tournament ball’s thousand pound gorilla, and still is. It was one of the five NPPL events back then where you had five guys promoting each event, all of those guys being American.
Crucially though, even though the big five were the promoters of the NPPL league, a guy called Chuck Hendsch actually owned the name [NPPL].
Your first event was the now famous Huntington Beach in 2003, lord only knows how you, Owen and Chuck got that first event going in such a short time but that was the event that’s universally recognised as raising the bar well over the heads of the US promoters you had left behind, do you regret that move?
Ged: No not at all......for some reason only they know .....the guys who were running the tourney end just could not see the wood for the fuking trees, literally.... our sport had to evolve.......someone had to do it......there was a group of us who were going to take it on led by us and Mo from the Bee Gee's.
Sadly Mo passed away just as we were getting going......it was a case of either bailing out or getting on with it, so we shouldered the financial burden, put our balls in the vice and went for it.......it had to happen.....what I do regret is not being able to pull the PSP & NPPL back together again later on......I remember one meeting in particular we had at Disney when WC was held there......I thought it was a done deal but somehow it got fuhked up.......what happened then had to happen but the NPPL & PSP should be one now but not particularly in that order of billing.
Most of what I considered to be the core of the NPPL crew ended up working at the PSP anyway.......my feeling is the very top guys at the pinnacle of our sport, I am talking 10-12 teams should be playing in the NATIONAL PROFESSIONAL PAINTBALL LEAGUE promoted by PSP who I consider now to be a absolute top draw promoter........ the PSP have made some rule changes lately that are definitely in the right direction.
I don't know if they have brought some fresh blood in on the decision-making side but there is some clear thinking going on there which is a big positive........the NPPL is the right vehicle for so many reasons to showcase the TOP LEAGUE in our sport, it's a no-brainer, call the rest of the divisions underneath it what the fuhk you want but the main focus/pinnacle that we showcase reach out to the world with should be the NATIONAL PROFESSIONAL PAINTBALL LEAGUE......the clue is in the name
[Editor's Note - Things are changing fast with respect to the PSP and the NXL and at the time of this interview, the PSP was intact and planning for 2015 - this is not now the case]
....... And if I can help make that happen in any small way, I am only a phone call away .......one more thing and this is a freebie......' One V One'.....the vehicle to break our sport main stream has to be a One v One format on top of the pro league, I can see it clear as day......film it at events on a Saturday night under the lights, get some beer & pop corn and off you go.....I would pay good money for that and it was the way Pure Promotions/NPPL were heading before we got a good offer and sold up........with the advancement of cameras and techniques nowadays it really is a no-brainer.....skin it down so people can follow it then and they will discover the multi-player version.
Robbo: Now for a more serious question - is it true that Chuck Hendsch is a transsexual?
I’ve had my doubts for a very long time and so it would come as no real surprise to me if your answer is affirmative.
Ged: I love Chuck.......he was brave to stand up & be counted and I always enjoyed working with him...... and he made a great fukin president of the NPPL ..... Chuck always reminded me of that senator that Burt Reynolds played in I think the film was Indecent Proposal, he definitely ain't a Tranni, not that I have anything against Trannies, I think every good party should have a few .......mind you, Chuck if you end up reading this, for old times sake I would love to see NPPL as the name of the league at the pinnacle of our sport promoted by PSP.
Robbo: Are you happier now in just looking after the site and well away from all the politics etc?
Ged: I have always been happy and I feel blessed to have been part of it and to still be part of it all ..... it has been a right old journey so far and one hell of a learning experience but that is what life's for........thanks for asking me to do this interview Pete, it's been fun and I really appreciate it ..... sorry it took so long to get to grips with writing it but it was easy once I started.
Robbo: A massive thanks for taking the time-out to do this interview Ged, it was good walking down memory lane with you to those heady times at Huntington Beach when our beloved sport seemed to be on the crest of a wave .... We seemed to have lost our way a bit but there are huge changes coming in terms of our industry's complexion; I'll be writing about them later but thanks again Ged.
Ged: It was a pleasure Pete ....
Addendum: Just to give you an idea as to what sort of guy Ged is, when I was asked by Richmond Italia to put a Brit team together for the inaugural X-Ball event in Pittsburgh, we needed money, a lot of it.
Ged came to me and gave us a big fat 5 grand and got us out of trouble and the reason he did that?
Most people who give money to teams have a vested interest as a sponsor or guns or gear of some sort - not so in this case - Ged helped us because he was a Brit and we were going over to the US to represent GB.
In all my time in paintball, this was a unique event.
We used none of his company's products and yet he helped us, that is the calibre of the man, I won't forget that !