Can more baseball save Japan — or at least “Abenomics”?
A set of recommendations to lift economic growth being studied by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party calls for increasing the number of pro baseball teams to 16 from 12.
“Prosperous baseball teams could strengthen attachment to regional cities and help local economies thrive,” said the draft report, which cited the success of U.S. Major League Baseball in nearly doubling from 16 teams to 30 since the 1960s.
Baseball draws more than 20 million fans to games each year, four times more than the professional soccer J. League’s top division.
However, most baseball teams in both the Central and Pacific leagues survive because losses can be treated as tax-deductible marketing costs for corporate sponsors.
For that reason, one expert is skeptical of the economic punch from new franchises.
“Unless there are companies that are willing to sponsor the new teams, this could be difficult,” said Munehiko Harada, a professor of sport sciences of Waseda University.