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MLB ditches plans for London games in 2017

North America’s Major League Baseball (MLB) has dropped its plans to stage regular-season games in London in 2017.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been keen on building the league’s global brand since assuming the role last year, and in January said MLB was “working hard” to schedule games in the English capital for next year.

The city’s Olympic Stadium had been mooted as a potential host of the games, with league officials having looked at the venue earlier this year. However, MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark confirmed yesterday (Monday) that the plans have been put on hold for the time being. “There was discussion about London early on,” Clark said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

“Unfortunately there were a number of moving pieces related to London that shortened our window in an effort to try to find common ground on that happening, and we weren’t able to get it done in time.”

MLB’s chief legal officer Dan Halem added that the league would “continue to discuss” the possibility of overseas games in cities such as London. The 2017 World Baseball Classic national team tournament was one of the obstacles that made it difficult for a regular-season game to be played in London next year, Halem said.

Clarke also hinted that MLB could run into issues if, as expected, baseball/softball is added to the programme of events for the 2020 summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Baseball/softball is one of five sports expected to be approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inclusion at Tokyo 2020 at the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro next month. Karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing are the other four sports proposed.

Clarke said: “Is there an appreciation for the value of having baseball in the Olympics? Yes, there is. Is there an appreciation for the season and how or if it could work with our active players? Yeah, there's a conversation, but we run into the same roadblocks we always have.”