Major League Baseball (MLB) has today (Tuesday) made its biggest inroad into the European market by sealing a two-year deal to play regular season games at London Stadium in the English capital.
The agreement has long been touted, but was confirmed today with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees to play a two-game series next year, marking the sport's first games ever played in Europe.
The 2019 MLB London Series will be played on June 29-30 at London Stadium, the site of the 2012 summer Olympic Games and current home of English Premier League football club West Ham United.
London Stadium will take on a baseball configuration for the event, with its estimated capacity for the series to be 55,000. The parties have agreed to a two-year deal that will include another series in London in 2020, with participating teams to be announced. MLB said it would undertake other initiatives that will aim to establish a footprint in the city.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “Major League Baseball is excited to be bringing one of the most storied rivalries in sports to the passionate fans of London. In our ongoing efforts to grow baseball, there is nothing as impactful as bringing live games and our talented players to fans. This is our most significant endeavour ever in Europe and we look forward to showcasing Major League Baseball in one of the world's great cities.”
MLB has long harboured hopes of staging games in London and hosted a Home Run Derby event in the capital’s Hyde Park last year to tie in with US Independence Day. The former Olympic Stadium has been selected as the venue due to its wider dimensions being able to better accommodate a baseball field.
MLB’s international strategy, and plans for regular season games in England in June 2019 and 2020, was first disclosed in November 2016 when a five-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which will run through the 2021 season, was unveiled just hours before the expiration of the previous contract.
The Red Sox will be the designated ‘home’ team for the 2019 London Series, with the parties involved in the deal expressing their hope that the agreement can transform into a long-term initiative.
Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry said: “For several years the Red Sox and Yankees have discussed playing in London as the first-ever Major League Baseball regular season game in Europe. It's also the first time the Red Sox and Yankees have played one another outside of New York or Boston.
“There were significant challenges that had to be overcome. We could not be happier that commissioner Manfred has been able to make this a reality. This series will surely be the most significant international event to date for Major League Baseball.”
Today’s announcement comes after MLB Major League Baseball (MLB) last week reaffirmed its commitment to the Japanese market by announcing it will open its 2019 season in the country, along with scheduling an All-Star Tour for later this year.
The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners will open the 2019 Championship Season with a two-game set on March 20-21 at the Tokyo Dome in the Japanese capital. The 2019 Japan Opening Series, which will serve as A’s home games, will represent the fifth time that MLB has opened its season in Tokyo.