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Japan targets baseball as potential economic spur

The Japanese government has suggested that increasing the number of professional baseball teams in the country from 12 to 16 could boost the national economy.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party put the suggestion forward as part of a set of recommendations to boost the country’s economy. The Reuters news agency said the list also includes measures such as slashing corporate taxes and reforming public pensions as a means to aid economic growth.

The list cited the success of North American competition Major League Baseball, which has almost doubled from 16 to 30 teams since the 1960s. The report said: “Prosperous baseball teams could strengthen attachment to regional cities and help local economies thrive.”

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan and attracts over 20 million fans to games each year, which is more than four times the amount that attend J.League top-flight football matches.

The report singled out Okinawa as the potential site for one of the new teams. Abe is pushing to complete a long-planned relocation of a US military base in Okinawa, which could lead to additional government support for a new team. Shizuoka and the island of Shikoku were also named as sites for possible new teams. 

The draft proposal on economic reforms was submitted to Prime Minister Abe, who will consider the recommendations ahead of his expected reforms announcement next month.