By Jung Min-ho
Baseball fans and players are up in arms over the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO)’s decision not to add another club to the nine-team professional league. Some describe it as “yet again the height of selfishness.”
“I was totally shocked by the KBO’s decision. As soon as the news broke, calls from angry fans started pouring in,” Suwon’s sports industry director Baek Un-ou said.
Suwon, along with North Jeolla Province, was vying to host the expansion team.
“I think the reasons for the decision make no sense, given that the local government has shown a strong will to make it happen through its pledges of improving the conditions of amateur baseball as well as carrying out major construction to enhance the current baseball stadium in Suwon with a 29 billion won budget.”
Baseball’s governing body held off on a decision about whether to create a new outfit, citing that an additional club would lead to a deterioration in the quality of the nation’s top professional league. There are currently 53 high school teams to train future professionals.
During a phone interview, Baek pointed out that a tenth team is unlikely to be established for a very long time if the KBO keeps using a lack of baseball facilities and infrastructures as excuses.
The players union is also unhappy about the verdict and announced that players will boycott the World Baseball Classic in 2013 and the All-Star Game in July.
“The decision is irresponsible and selfish,“ the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) said in a statement released shortly after the KBO’s announcement.
“The decision against the hopes of a majority of fans could lead the sport to the dark ages. We will hold a campaign to create a tenth team in cooperation with all the fans and related-organizations including local governments and Illgoo Club, a group of retired baseball associates.”
In addition, the KPBPA said it will soon hold a special meeting to prepare necessary countermeasures. Huge operational challenges will hinder the WBC and All-Star Game if the KPBPA proceeds with the boycott.
The KBO is now in a situation where it has an odd number of teams from next year when the NC Dinos are set to join the league. Although the KBO says it will seek ways to minimize the potential issues of operating with nine clubs, some hiccups are inevitable.
Earlier this month, it revealed next year’s schedule of 576 games, 44 more than this season. However, each team will have 128 fixtures, five fewer than this year. There are escalating concerns that reduced matches against rival teams may lower the sport’s popularity, dragging down ticket sales with it.
Also, some sides will have a break for up to four days in a row due to the odd number of teams.
A reduced number of games and a problem of keeping them sharp due to the prolonged rest periods could negatively affect players’ records.
“Although our hopes to see a new team were crushed this time, we are going to proceed with the project of constructing a baseball stadium,” said Park Jong-seob, North Jeolla Province’s sports promotion director.
“We haven’t given up yet. We really want to see it happening, hopefully soon.”