The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) today announced the 22-nation Association Francophone de Baseball et Softball (AFBS) as a new Associate Member, as the International Federation looks to create the next generation of players and fans among the world’s 220 million French-speakers.

The AFBS was approved as a WBSC Associate Member at the recent WBSC Executive Board meeting in Florida. The Francophone body, also an Associate Member of the Association Francophone des Comités Olympiques, currently comprises 25 national baseball and/or softball federations from 22 nations across all five Olympic continents. Notably, in 2017 AFBS organised a U-12 baseball tournament as framework to the Francophone Games are held every four years and bring together hundreds of athletes and artists from across the Francophone world. Later the same year, they held an umpire clinic in Paris.

The move comes as the Fédération Française de Baseball & Softball – whose President Didier Seminet also leads AFBS and the European Baseball Softball Confederation – prepares for its 100th anniversary in 2024, the year the Olympic Games returns to Paris for the first time in a century.

WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said:

“Developing baseball and softball in the French-speaking world is a strategic priority for WBSC. Not only are we looking towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, we are looking at sustainable long-term growth – more players, more coaches, more fans – in markets like Europe and Africa with enormous potential. Baseball and softball are already a dominant force across the Americas and East Asia. The world’s 220 million French speakers can help us take the next big step towards a billion-strong global baseball-softball community.”

AFBS President Didier Seminet said:

“The AFBS is extremely grateful to the WBSC for this important recognition. The French language unites a global community across nations as diverse as France, Canada, Burundi and Vanuatu. Now baseball and softball will be another common language binding us together. France’s Olympic goals extend far beyond its borders, and we believe that baseball and softball can help realise them.”

Dominican Republic’s Top-tier professional baseball league joins WBSC

Also named a WBSC Associate Member was the Dominican Professional Baseball League (LIDOM). Founded in 1951, LIDOM represents the highest level of professional baseball in the Dominican Republic, where baseball is the national sport. LIDOM’s officially joining the global baseball movement represents a boost to the Dominican Republic National Team brand, the Dominican Republic Baseball Federation (FEDOBE) and WBSC’s top-tier sanctioned international competitions like Premier12® as well as the U-23 Baseball World Cup®.

The addition of AFBS and LIDOM raises WBSC’s organisational structure to 208 Members (195 National Federations and 13 Associate Members) across Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Oceania, representing approximately 65 million athletes and 200 million fans and followers worldwide.