Major league glamour and gender-equality appeal is a compelling argument for the Olympic Movement. World Baseball Softball Confederation is hoping it will be enough to convince Tokyo of its worth.
“Our universal proposal is a real milestone in the history of baseball and softball,” WBSC (World Baseball Softball Confederation) president Riccardo Fraccari told SportBusiness International.
“Not only are we representing gender equality and a worldwide footprint but also the many years of hard work and shared vision by baseball’s and softball’s global stakeholders to earn the right for our global game to be showcased at the Olympic Games.”
This combination of inclusivity and global profile afforded to the federation by the glamour of MLB (Major League Baseball) will be the crux of the WBSC’s pitch to the Tokyo 2020
organising committee this month
“We will look to highlight positive trends in the globalisation and marketability of our exclusive properties [national team events], in order to show what can be delivered in 2020 and beyond, since it’s the national team brands that are featured in the Games,” said Fraccari.
“Baseball and softball is the number one sport in Japan in terms of youth participation and facilities. Its national high school baseball tournament, Koshien, is among the most followed sports properties in the country.”
There are 35 million baseball and 30 million softball players engaging in organised competition worldwide, with millions more playing recreationally. The top professional baseball leagues in Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea and the United States alone had a combined attendance of over 100 million in 2012.
“In 2014, our member, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), recorded the second highest attended sports league in the world (across all sports), attracting more than 23 million fans to baseball stadiums across Japan and generating over a billion dollars in revenue,” said Fraccari.
“NPB is fully supportive of using its stronghold on the Japanese sports landscape to drive awareness in the lead-up, as well as during the Games, if we earn a ticket for 2020.”
The Japan Softball League (JSL) features top professional women’s softball athletes from around the globe, including world champions and Olympians.
“Our new men’s professional baseball flagship event, WBSC Premier12, could potentially serve as an Olympic qualifier in 2019, helping to further promote the Olympic Movement and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while the Japanese National Softball Team would enter the 2020 Games as the defending (2008) Olympic gold medalists and two-time world champions,” he said.
The local support at the 2020 Games could be the WBSC’s strongest angle when campaigning this month.
WBSC’s previous Olympic bid, which proposed men’s baseball and women’s softball for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games, earned the second-highest amount of votes at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires in 2013, finishing only behind wrestling.
“With a number of existing world-class baseball and softball facilities in Tokyo and across Japan, and with Olympic Agenda 2020 as a guiding light, the 2020 Olympic baseball and softball business model would have a negligible impact on both construction costs and the environment, while helping to drive greater ticket sales, media interest,” Fraccari added.
EXPERT VIEW – Paul Dunphy
Major Events Consultant, SportBusiness Intelligence
Outside of the Untied States Japan is probably the greatest supporter of baseball and softball.
It has existing world-class facilities and a large domestic following that will drive ticket sales and create an exciting atmosphere around Tokyo.
Baseball and softball is very big in the youth market in Japan where it is the number one sport in terms of participation numbers.
This has to be a positive for the Local Organising Committee as it addresses the IOCs desire to connect with the youth and as a result they will see a very young fan base attending matches in 2020. Baseball and softball has to be one of the leading contenders for Tokyo 2020. I find it hard to see how the local organising committee will pas his opportunity up