Baseball has become very popular in Korea but the KBO might have pushed that popularity out the door with their decision not to expand baseball to a tenth team. There are some reports that fans are upset about the lack of expansion, but those may just be fans of areas that were being considered for a tenth team. The players though are very upset. The players are so upset that they have threatened to boycott the 2013 WBC. So much for Korea making a good international showing if that happens.
It has been said that one of the reasons for the increased popularity of baseball in Korea was their gold medal finish in the Olympics and a second place finish in the last WBC. If they can not field a competetive team in the 2013 WBC it could sour a number of fans on baseball. This could result in a decrease in attendance. Of course, the same result could occur if they field a competetive team and don’t do well.
They also have the challenge of playing a season with a 9 team schedule next year. This could result in at least one team having four days off while the other eight teams play a three or four game series. Fans could briefly lose interest after their team has not played for four games. Of course, adding two expansion teams could result in decreased attendance, with each team’s schedule filled with expansion teams that many fans may not be motivated to watch.
It will be interesting what long term consequences this decision will have on the continued popularity of baseball in Korea. If the KBO sees attendance drop or the players fulfill their boycott of the 2013 WBC they may regret their decision. If attendance remains popular there would be no motivation to change their position.
The KBO has backed themselves into a corner. It will be interesting to see how they wiggle their way out of it without losing a lot of money in the process. Ironic that most people think their decision was one of selfishness so they would not have to share the proceeds of the KBO profits with a tenth team. Now they may find themselves losing money for not approving a tenth team and losing profits from decreased fan attendance.
The WBC may be forced to play the 2013 tournament with an uncompetetive Korean and Japanese team. The NPB players are scheduled to meet on July 20 to make a decision on their participation in the WBC. They had been asking for a greater percentage of the proceeds, but the WBC hasn’t budged. The players have said they will boycott the games as a result.
The NBP have identified a manager for the 2013 WBC. One of the qualities of this manager is an ability to convince players to participate in the WBC. Both the NPB and the KBO can only hope that a number of players will not honor a boycott if a boycott is approved.