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MLB looks into WBC options

by Jim Allen (Oct 1, 2011)

The 2013 World Baseball Classic will go on, with or without two-time champion Japan, Major League Baseball's representative in Asia said Friday.

MLB has said it will explore alternatives to having Japan in the tournament if Nippon Professional Baseball is not on board by Friday in New York. NPB is balking over the distribution of sponsorship revenue.

"We've been having productive conversations. The problem is that we've been talking with them for two months and it should have been for a year," MLB vice president Jim Small told The Daily Yomiuri.

"We have given them concessions, we have come closer to their side, but there's going to be a tournament, with or without Japan."

NPB and its players union have said they will not play in the tournament unless Japan gets the rights to sponsorship money from Japanese companies--patterned after the FIFA World Cup and Olympic models.

Of the 2009 tournament's net profits, 13 percent went to NPB and its union, while 66 percent went to MLB and its union--excluding prize money.

"Those numbers are accurate, but they are misleading," Small said. "MLB eats 6 dollars [million] to 7 million dollars that it spends on the tournament. We've shared that information with NPB and the players union.

"Japan's players, before prize money, actually received 45 percent more than MLB players did. The MLBPA's share was divided among 120 players [in the tournament], while Japan's was divided among just 28."

But if NPB's share for the 2013 tournament includes all sponsorship revenue generated in Japan, its profits could be much higher.

NPB also threatened to boycott the inaugural 2006 tournament over sponsorship revenue, while the union didn't want to play in March. Both bodies signed on at the last minute.

That will not be possible this time because of a format change.

Unlike the the first two editions, the 2013 event will begin with qualifying next autumn for the final four spots in the 16-team field. The addition of qualifying means less time for Japan to negotiate.

The Asian round is expected to take place in Japan as it did in 2006 and 2009, but if no word is received by Sept. 30, MLB needs to begin looking for an alternate venue and another team.

"The deadline is not the 30th, [it's] when the replacement team is invited, has accepted and the contracts have been signed," Small said.

"We are absolutely leaving the door open [for Japan], but once those contracts are signed, it's too late."


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