Baseball Australia targets Asia in ambitious expansion plans
The Australian Baseball League is planning to add two new teams to the competition in the next few years, including one franchise based in Asia, as part of ambitious expansion proposals.
According to reports in the country, Baseball Australia will this week unveil its proposals to expand the ABL from six to eight teams from the 2018-19 season onwards.
The plans include the possible addition of an Asia-based club that would likely be based in Japan, South Korea or Taiwan.
ABL chief executive Cam Vale told Australia’s Financial Review that the league was close to securing a deal for a Korean team to be added to the line-up for the forthcoming season, but it eventually fell through.
He explained: "It was going to be a team of up and coming Korean players and some veterans as well. We had a deal with a broadcaster lined up to show all the games back to Korea too and all the costs would have been covered. We eventually had to say lets wait until next year, but we had the broadcast solution and also the [player] development opportunities."
It has also been reported that clubs from North America’s Major League Baseball are also interested in investing in the ABL.
Mark Ready, chief executive of the Brisbane Bandits, told reporters that “overseas MLB teams are looking at the Brisbane franchise”, while he also noted that “there is some interest in other [ABL] clubs."
He added: “There could be Taiwanese clubs and Japanese clubs interested, too. I’m across the fact [in the eight-team ABL] there would be individual franchises available to businesses or even overseas MLB teams and BA would still hold all the authority over the League.
“The ABL is ready for expansion, probably overdue. It would give the sport in Australia a chance to grow. The good thing for us in Australia regarding Asia is that there is no baseball being played in Asia while the ABL season runs – our broadcasts would go to countries which are hungry for more baseball."
In August last year, Baseball Australia assumed full control of the ABL, having shared ownership of the league with MLB as part of a long-term cooperation agreement.
MLB continues to support Baseball Australia in a three-year development deal that was sealed after the North American competition relinquished its stake in the ABL.
The 2017-18 ABL season begins on Thursday.