The other day I read a short note at the Twitter account of EBM+, the European Baseball Magazine.
This made me curious about the reason why. The general manager of the Bonn Capitals confirmed to me that they have withdrawn for the 2016 season. The reason for this withdrawal is the financial risk that comes with the participation.
So far, the Euro League Baseball did not find a big sponsor that could cover the costs of this new circuit. According to co-founder of the ELB, Jan Maarten Kops it is even hard to find a sponsor for the caps (hats).
The Bonn Capitals cannot carry that financial risk on their own and that is the main reason for the withdrawal. The club is still interested in participating, but under the given circumstances, they don’t want to risk their existence.
Another club that has decided to withdraw is Curacao Neptunus from Rotterdam. The current Dutch and European champion is still dealing with the prohibition imposed by the Dutch Baseball Federation. According to the spokesman of the club, Curacao Neptunus does not want to take the financial risk as well. As long as there is no big sponsor that can cover the costs of the league and the clubs, it will be hard to participate. And you have to know that Curacao Neptunus is one of the most financial sound clubs in the Netherlands. But also Neptunus is still interested to play in the EBL, but not in the upcoming season.
According to Jan Maarten Kops the 2016 ELB season will be a pioneering season to see what is really possible.
With Curacao Neptunus out of it, L&D Amsterdam remains the only Dutch team linked to the ELB for now. But it is very unlikely that the club will step in as it was prohibited by the Dutch Baseball Federation to participate. The reason for this ban is something I do not want to write about right now, but I really hope that the Dutch Federation is willing to lift it. But therefore both organizations need to get together and as far as I know, they (KNBSB and ELB) are not really on speaking terms right now. Perhaps the award that the Collegiate Baseball League Europe (in which Jan Maarten Kops is also involved) received from the Dutch Baseball Federation is a kind of peace offering.
In a recent interview with http://www.internationalbaseballcommunity.com, CEO of the ELB, Wim van den Hurk said that there were several good deals made with Wilson, Louisville Slugger and Arcor Hotels. So in a certain way the league has made progression. But they did not succeed in convincing a company to attach its name to the league as major sponsor. Van den Hurk also confirmed that four clubs have committed to participate.
The Italian clubs, San Marino and Fortitudo Bologna have pulled back as well. Partially because the Dutch clubs will not participate in 2016 but also due to the financial risks. The financial outlook of Italian baseball is not gloomy but to call it good is rather far fetched. Recently you could read here about several Italian clubs that have gotten into financial trouble.
The four clubs that have committed to start the 2016 ELB season without a main sponsor are Draci Brno, Regensburg Legionäre, the Haar Disciples and perhaps L&D Amsterdam Pirates.
Perhaps if the league can find a sponsor that is willing to support the league, more teams will step in, but for now it will only be the four aforementioned clubs.
I can hear those who are opposed to this league say: “See? Told ya that it would not work.” But for now the league WILL start. Unfortunately not with the projected ten teams. I can imagine that some teams think that the financial risk is too big for now. But on the other hand, if a rather small club like the Haar Disciples does not fear the financial risk, why can’t other clubs? Doesn’t the proverb say that you have to spend money to make money? If you want to draw fans to the ballpark, you must advertise the games. You have to announce it around your town in every possible way. As long as you don’t do that, you cannot expect that fans will come.
The best thing that could happen to the ELB is that MLB would support it like they do with the Australian Baseball League. But the whole structure of that league is completely different as the teams are owned by the league The clubs of the ELB are independent, and that alone makes it harder for MLB to step in.
Anyhow, even though six of the ten teams that were originally linked to the ELB have stepped back for the 2016 season, the league will start. You have to give credit to the founders and the pioneering teams that they are willing to take a risk. The opponents of the league are waiting to see it fail. But it is always easy to oppose against something instead of finding solutions to make European baseball work.