SBD/Issue 128/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Red Sox-A's Series Attracts Large Crowds At Tokyo Dome

    Red Sox-A's Series Draws Over
    Capacity Crowds To Tokyo Dome 
    A crowd of 44,735 attended the A's 5-1 win over the Red Sox today in the second of two games between the teams at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. Yesterday's game, in which the Red Sox beat the A's 6-5 in extra innings, drew 44,628 fans. Both games were well over the Dome's baseball capacity (THE DAILY). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes of yesterday's game, “This was American baseball at its action-packed best. … If you were the commissioner of baseball, you were happy.” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, “When I left my hotel [before yesterday's game], I had to pinch myself. I thought I was in Boston. Everybody in the lobby waiting to come to the game had Red Sox paraphernalia on. It is remarkable” (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/26). Selig appeared on ESPN2’s telecast of yesterday’s game and “revealed that the sport is looking for an opportunity to stage a season-opening series in Europe.” Selig: “We want to open in other places, too. But we’ll be back [in Japan].” He added, “Baseball has never been more popular (in America) and our goal is to take the game internationally” (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 3/26).

    MIXED SIGNALS: Some fans were unable to view ESPN2 and NESN’s coverage of yesterday’s game, as the networks’ standard definition feeds on DirecTV experienced technical difficulties. Meanwhile, a Comcast spokesperson said that an accident “caused issues for Comcast customers in southeastern Massachusetts.” In Boston, Eric Wilbur wrote, “Of all the things that could have gone wrong in an oft-criticized opener in Japan, it’s hard to imagine anything worse than TV coverage going kaput.” It was a “monumental nightmare for many stateside” (BOSTON.com, 3/25). The SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS’ John Ryan writes MLB is “lucky its little trip didn’t cause a riot” in Boston (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/26). In DC, Tim Lemke notes there is a “bit of irony here.” For the “longest time, DirecTV has been the favored service for sports fans because it has the widest selection of sports channels and packages.” For “perhaps the first time, DirecTV has drawn the ire of a big  -- and influential -- body of sports fans” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/26).

    Some Media Members Upset With MLB's
    Decision To Open Season Abroad
    INT'L OUTRAGE: In Chicago, Jay Mariotti writes Selig “forever will be known as The Greedy Commissioner, the car salesman who sells out integrity and tradition for the fat-cat owners who aren’t satisfied enough with $6[B]-plus in 2007 revenues and want to sell some t-shirts in Japan. All I know is, if baseball still wants to be embraced as the national pastime and still wants us to regard Opening Day as sacred, the season cannot open halfway around the world” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/26). In Denver, Bernie Lincicome writes under the header, “Selling Of Opening Day Reeks Of Greed.” Lincicome: “Baseball seems to have caught NBA disease.” Opening the season overseas is “so blatantly anti-pastime, so unashamedly greedy, so utterly nontraditional.” Opening Day “does not fertilize a single fan in Tokyo or in China or Prague that a spring-training game would not.” And if “Opening Day is for sale, then why not the All-Star Game or even the World Series?” (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/26). However, L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “It’s just something to help spread baseball’s international goodwill. ... It’s not a big deal.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige: “What difference does it make when the baseball season starts. ... It spreads the international goodwill” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/25). 

    GLOBALIZATION: In Miami, Greg Cote writes under the header, “Globalization Hurting Sports In America.” Cote: “There used to be a certain sanctity to American professional sports before globalization became the rather noble code word for disrespecting the fans who built the leagues’ popularity in favor of growing the profit potential” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/26). In San Antonio, Gaylon Krizak writes, until recently, int’l games were Spring Training games, but by “taking the next step and importing regular-season games, [MLB], the NBA and the NFL have raised the stakes, and with them the potential for danger.” Is “expanding foreign interest worth the possible alienation of your home base?” (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 3/26). In Manchester, David Lengel writes, “I don’t have a problem with leagues trying to increase the global popularity of their sport while selling their product abroad.” However, in MLB’s case, the “continual milking of Japan smacks of baseball imperialism” (BLOGS.MANCHESTER.co.uk, 3/25). Miami Herald columnist Dan LeBatard: “This is where you have to go if you want to get more dollars, and this sport needs more dollars for those contracts it’s giving out. So it makes sense that you would globalize” ("PTI," ESPN, 3/25).

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  • MLB's Licensed Products, Revenues Continue To Grow In Japan

    MLB Seeing Continued Growth Of
    Licensed Products, Revenues In Japan
    The number of MLB licensees in Japan has grown to 61 from just six in '00, and retail sales revenue from licensed products “has nearly tripled during that time to $103.7[M],” according to MLB figures cited by Michael Arnold of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Local partnerships include Uniqlo, one of Japan’s “leading clothing retail chains," and Toys “R” Us, whose stores in Japan have “MLB corners selling branded toys and apparel.” IMG Licensing Asia Senior VP Miki Yamamoto, whose company handles licensing in Japan for MLB, said that MLB apparel also is “sold at some 2,000 sporting goods stores around the country.” Yamamoto said at a mall in the Shibuya region of Tokyo, there are "kids with very hippy, trendy designs with a Red Sox logo or shocking pink Yankees clothing. Those girls are buying those products without knowing how [Red Sox P Daisuke Matsuzaka] is doing or how [Mariners CF Ichiro Suzuki] is doing. This is not just about baseball; it’s a culture now.” Arnold notes in Japan, one “main fan base is housewives, who happen to be home in the mornings when ... games from the U.S. are shown live.” Other target demos are young male professionals and children. According to MLB, the number of league sponsors in Japan has risen from four in ’00 to 17 last year. A MLB Clubhouse store on the streets of Shibuya was the “first such store outside the U.S.,” and it was followed six months later by a Clubhouse in Taipei as “part of MLB’s push elsewhere in Asia.” MLB has “100 stores in Korea and 40 shops in mainland China, with another 100 or so shops in Taiwan.” MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said of China, “Football games and handball games are more popular there; stickball games not so much. We have to convert Chinese children, literally one at a time, to baseball” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/26).

    Matsuzaka One Reason For
    Baseball's Popularity In Japan
    THREE TO TANGO: Akira Hirakata, a Senior Manager at Tokyo-based ad firm Dentsu, which “sells American baseball to broadcasters and advertisers in Japan,” said MLB is “now at the zenith of its popularity in Japan" due to Matsuzaka, Suzuki and Yankees LF Hideki Matsui, often called the Big Three. In DC, Blaine Harden notes in a front-page piece 550 MLB games per year are broadcast on TV in Japan and about 300 of them are carried without commercial interruption, “allowing Japanese viewers to gaze between innings at their beloved stars.” Meanwhile, companies branding "outside of Japanese stars is a challenge." Tokyo-based men’s salon chain Dandy House has “figured out how to ride the popularity of the Big Three on the cheap” by buying the majority of its ads in small markets like Tampa Bay or K.C. for $20,000-30,000. If they are rotating ads that appear for only a couple of innings a game, Dandy House “guesses when Ichiro or Matsui might come up to bat (based on their place in the lineup) and buys those innings.” It also “tries to calculate what cut-rate stadium ... Matsuzaka might start in” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/26).

    UNIFORM LOGOS: Both the Red Sox and A's wore sponsor logos on their helmets and uniform sleeves during the two games played in Tokyo. ESPN’s Gary Thorne: “MLB does not allow this type of advertising but the exception was made for the two game set.” ESPN’s Steve Phillips responded, “They’ve done that for international play with the sponsors and promoters.” Phillips added, "If you’re going to build revenues, if you’re a sponsor out there, and you can get on the sleeve of a major league player, that’s not a bad idea” (ESPN2, 3/26).

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  • ATP, WTA Chiefs Discuss Pros, Cons Of Merging Into One Tour

    De Villiers Says ATP-WTA Merger
    Would Be Conceptually Difficult
    A merger between the ATP Tour and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is a “monumental step forward tennis fans keep asking for,” but it is “not likely to happen any time soon,” according to Charles Bricker of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. WTA CEO Larry Scott said of a merger, "A lot of people in tennis believe it could be a very positive thing. Not just between the WTA and ATP, but with the Grand Slams and the ITF as well, to the degree that we can present a common face to the public." However, he added, "Like a lot of industries, sports tours aren't going to merge unless there is an impetus, and fortunately for tennis right now, things seem to be going very well." ATP Tour CEO Etienne de Villiers added of a merger, "In a perfect world, it's a good idea. ... But there are certain real business and economic issues that need to be discussed, and for that reason it's conceptually difficult. The way things stand, because of the difficulty that certain tournaments have, it wouldn't be an easy thing to do." Bricker notes there also would be "merger difficulties to overcome," including the "significant decision of who would be at the top of the bureaucratic pyramid." Bricker: "Is it Scott? Or is it Etienne de Villiers? ... Or is it someone from outside the tours, like [USTA CEO] Arlen Kantarian?" However, Sony Ericsson Open Tournament Dir Butch Buchholz, whose tourney hosts both men and women, said, "This sport needs to be under one roof. Our competitors are the other entertainment businesses, not each other. This is all so confusing to the public and fans. The WTA and ATP should be like the AFL and NFL. Merge" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/26).

    STATE OF THE GAME: SI's Justin Gimelstob wrote of tennis' health the "most encouraging statistics come directly from the nuts and bolts of the tennis industry." Gimelstob: "Racket and tennis-ball sales have been on a sharp increase in the past few years, as has total play and participation in the game. Tennis is the only traditional sport to grow in participation during the past five years, a 10[%] increase, compared to the decline of other mainstream sports like football, baseball and basketball" (SI.com, 3/21).

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