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Australian Baseball League wants to grow slowly


Australian Baseball League wants to grow slowly


There’s a new national baseball league starting in four weeks, have you heard?

You probably haven’t. For a professional sports league, that would usually mean it’s going to fail. But the Australian Baseball League (ABL) has its sights set on natural growth, not on jumping out with a big bang.

Australia last had a true national baseball competition when the last guise of the ABL folded in 1999, and the new ABL’s CEO Peter Wermuth believes they have learned from past mistakes and the league can’t fail.

“We have a very conservative business model,” Wermuth tells Marketing magazine. “One of the key things here is we want to build a sustainable league, so if it starts out small, we’re fine with that. What went wrong with the last league was not the support, it drew very well, but the financial modeling was wrong, and what we’re using is totally different. We’re not going to go overboard, we’re not going to go into stadiums we can’t fill, we’re not going to get expensive star players.”

The league has had some good early signs, with television coverage locked in with Fox Sports, and likely showings on the MLB network in the US. The five teams [Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Sydney] will play out a forty game season over summer and some of the teams have got an excellent response.

The Sydney Blue Sox have already sold out of season tickets, but the Melbourne Aces are finding it hard to stand out in a crowded sports marketplace.

Max Wakefield, marketing coordinator of the Aces, says a lot of the support so far has come from Australian-based Americans.

“There’s a bit of a following for Baseball in Australia. There’s a cult following and its growing, so it makes sense to have a national league. It’s just whether the league can get wider spread home grown support.”

The Aces have had huge support from the Victorian government, with a $300 000 refurbishment of Melbourne Showgrounds setting up an impressive, purpose-built home.

“The Ballpark is going to look really good. The Major League Baseball guys are here putting it together. What we desperately need are sponsors, which have been quite challenging to get.”

The Aces have got a lot of contra sponsorships, but also managed to secure a major sponsorship from Coke recently.

Tickets to Aces games start at just $2.50, but ALB CEO Peter Wermuth also thinks that the league offers a point of difference to other sports.

We’re never going to be the AFL,” he tells Marketing magazine. “The big difference with baseball is you play nearly every day, at the moment we’ll be playing 4 games a week, and we want to expand that as soon as sustainably possible. We’ll never be playing to 60,000 seat stadiums. But we do want to play so regularly that if you enjoy sports, if you like cricket, if you like high level athletic competition, then you can come out any day of the week and baseball will be on, that’s where we want to get to.”

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