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European Professional League news

by Matt Smith

Plans for a European Professional League are gathering pace, with the Confederation of European Baseball’s (CEB) latest newsletter providing a few more details on the proposed competition.  There are still many questions left unanswered at this early stage, not least the suggestion that the main league may be complemented by other interleague games, but the news does at least sustain the optimism that the plans will come to fruition. 

The concept behind the European league is to create a competition that brings together the best teams from across the continent after their regular seasons have come to a close.  Autumn 2010 was originally touted as the potential start date, although this always appeared to be a bit optimistic and it looks like the inaugural staging of the event has now been pushed back by twelve months. 

The newsletter states that eight teams “out of different countries” will compete over a period of four to six weeks.  A literal interpretation would suggest that this means eight teams coming from eight different countries, but the initial rumours were that the intention was to pick teams from the strongest leagues for the first few years and to then expand it if the demand is there.

Going by Mister-Baseball’s current rankings, the eight top teams would be the following:

Ranking Team Country
1 Corendon Kinheim Netherlands
2 Fortitudo 1953 Bologna Italy
3 DOOR Neptunus Netherlands
4 FC Barcelona Spain
5 Danesi Caffe\’ Nettuno Italy
6 Solingen Alligators Germany
7 Marlins Puerto Cruz Spain
8 Heidenheim Heideköpfe Germany

These rankings reflect the strength of the leagues in the four countries involved.  If they decide to take eight teams from eight different countries instead, teams such as Les Templiers de Senart from France, AVG Draci Brno from the Czech Republic, Stockholms BSK from Sweden and our own London Mets could be in line to participate.  The exact lineup will of course be dependent on how these teams perform over the next two seasons.

The CEB states that the exact format is still under discussion, so it’s possible that even they don’t yet know where the the league will be staged and whether it will be held every year.  The most effective way to establish the league would be to run it annually, although there has been no news so far on how the league will be funded and that will clearly have a bearing on this. 

As for its location, you would normally expect an eight-team tournament to be staged in one country and for it to be shared among several countries year-by-year (the Netherlands one year, Italy the next etc).  However, the plan to have teams playing “daily” over a period of four to six weeks might be an ambitious schedule for any single European country to market and to sell enough tickets to make it financially viable.

The newsletter also mentions the “long time proposal of most of the member federations [of the CEB] in playing inter leagues during or after the particular national season” that will be staged from 2011.  Again, we only have the barest of details about that idea at the moment, so it’s difficult to speculate on what form these interleagues will take and who they might involve.

When considered in concert with the 2009 IBAF World Cup (to be staged over seven different European countries) and various developments within national baseball set ups, such as the introduction of a franchise system in the Italian Baseball League in 2010, it’s clear that there is still a lot of hope for baseball despite the lingering cloud of the sport’s demotion from the Olympics.  The plans are cause for optimism that the baseball community within Europe is keen to work together for the benefit of all involved.  Only time will tell exactly how successful this laudable concept proves to be.

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Joaquin October 26, 2008 - 4:22 pm

I prefer the ”1 team per country” for better representation.

The great advantage is that we won´t have a solid base, so the creation of franchises is easier than in other sports like basketball.

Well, what I said, it can be the beginning, but is a small number of teams and little time for me. A good number of teams for starting could be 16; even 12.

Matt Smith October 26, 2008 - 6:07 pm

I agree, this sounds like a decent way to start and then hopefully it will produce a platform that can be built on. Ultimately, money will no doubt play a part in how the tournament is structured and how many teams are involved.

Joe Gray October 26, 2008 - 10:36 pm

With few firm details given out so far, many questions remain. For instance…

1. Clearly, this should be an annual event, but is there going to be enough room each year between the end of the domestic season and the start of the Euros (in even years) or the World Cup (in odd years) to fit in a 4- to 6-week tournament? If the domestic season has to be truncated to make room, it is not fair on the fans of those teams not in the end-of-season league. If the Euros have to be put back, it will limit the choice of host countries, which cannot be good for the game’s development.

2. Why is it neccessarily the “logical next step”, as stated in the newsletter, when none of Europe’s bigger sports (such as rugby and football) have a competition of the proposed format? I’m not saying it isn’t a good next step in Europe’s development, but I would love to see why this is deemed the best option.

3. Does the “Professional” mean that it wil be open only to teams who pay their players a full salary, or does it mean that wages will be taken from the revenue sources? This is one of several financial questions, as you have covered in your post.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I would love to see a tournament like this work, and I am certainly interested to see more details as the format takes shape.

Joe Cooter October 27, 2008 - 12:30 pm

It seems like a good start, but more work needs to be done.

Tim October 27, 2008 - 8:17 pm

Very intriguing. Joe raises some good practical questions.

I can see a little better now how the organisers might realistically hope to set up a small professional European league within one or two years, by giving it the format of a contained tournament which does not necessarily threaten the domestic competitions of the various countries. When it was first announced I thought they were talking about creating from scratch a summer-long league either by setting up new pro-clubs or converting the best current clubs into pro-clubs. Which would be mighty adventurous.

A European league is one thing but a professional one is another matter. I guess if they think going pro is a good idea then a European league would have more appeal and sustainability than trying to turn countries’ domestic leagues pro. But I wonder where are they going to get the money from? Are the players – who I assume play amateur or at best semi-pro normally – going to be expected to be able to give up their jobs for half their working week for 1 1/2 months to play baseball?

Joe Gray October 28, 2008 - 8:43 am

Hi Tim,

I think that last point of yours is why it might not work well for British teams, even in the future. If it is hosted in a single country and games are played every day for that period of time, then it’s going to take a lot of understanding companies to let a British club go out to compete. And this consideration must apply to many other European countries.

Whatever they arrange, surely it must be something that could lead to the improvement of baseball in more than just a few select countries.

Tim October 28, 2008 - 12:41 pm

Yep, even if it lasts no more than a one-off experiment for now, it will be interesting and should serve to help raise baseball’s profile somewhat if they run it well, at least in the host country and for those European locations taking place.

If they can sustain it as a credible, annual occurrence then it could be the start of a higher level of baseball in Europe and a wider acceptance of baseball as having more than just an American/Japanese market. That, in turn, would give domestic leagues and teams something to aim towards. That could be building their competition to be of a high enough standard to put a representative team into the Euro league, or tagging along with a growing European market for baseball to attract sponsorship or investment.

These things have to start somewhere.

Joaquin October 30, 2008 - 10:03 am

I think 3 teams of Italy, 2 teams of Nerthelands, 2 teams of Spain, 2 teams of Germany, 1 team of Sweden, 1 team of United Kingdom, 1 team of Czech Republic, 1 team of France, 1 team of Russia, 1 team of Ukraine and 1 team of Croatia would be the ideal formula for the league.

With this we have 16 teams participating in the League, representing all the main baseball countries we see almost always in the European Championships (I miss a Greece team, but I don´t see any greek team in Mister Baseball Top 50 ranking).

Honkbal! Netherlands Bids to Host MLB in 2014 | FanGraphs Baseball September 1, 2011 - 9:32 pm

[…] in a plan for a European Professional League, made up of club teams from across Europe, which was announced in 2008; since that time, however, no further news has emerged from MLB or Baseball […]


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