While sporting events like the Olympic Games attract a tremendous amount of attention globally, domestic sporting contests are of at least equal importance to society. Unfortunately, Nippon Professional Baseball and J. League are both in the midst of financial woe. It would be a great shame if these troubles continue to the extent that popular baseball or basketball teams disappear from the scene.
Last year, the J. League soccer club Oita Trinita received emergency loans from the league totaling ¥600 million. Also in financial strife was Tokyo Verdy, which barely managed to survive the year. The teams’ difficulties primarily stem from overspending, notably on player salaries.
It is reported that NPB may record an annual deficit of some ¥300 million. The organization collects an annual membership fee of some ¥70 million from each team and has floated the possibility of raising the fee.
Salaries for individual NPB players are often as high as ¥200 million and ¥300 million. Struggling teams should consider economizing by investing more in younger players, a policy that could also uncover new stars.
The NPB leadership must work together with its teams to decide on a strategy that will attract more fans to Japanese professional baseball. Young people with disposable income are an obvious target, but given Japan’s graying population, teams should recognize the wisdom of wooing an older audience, such as by catering to that demographic’s particular needs at venues.
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