LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Following successful pilots at the Women’s Baseball World Cup in Viera, Florida, the World Baseball Softball Confederation has mandated an Olympic Commission to develop new rules for Olympic competitions, making baseball and softball at the Games as streamlined, global appealing and cost-efficient as possible.
The strategic review, approved at the recent WBSC Executive Board meeting in Florida, will explore tournament format and gameplay adjustments specifically for Olympic baseball and softball, enhancing the sports product on the field while minimising the resources required to stage it. For inspiration, the WBSC Olympic Commission will look to the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 and the New Norm principles of flexibility, partnership, sustainability and efficiency, while seeking to promote ever greater gender equality in its tournaments and making the sport more appealing to young fans and players.
WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said: “As IOC President Bach said when he launched Olympic Agenda 2020, it is ‘change or be changed’ in modern sport. WBSC is following the IOC’s lead and changing from a position of strength. Baseball and softball have a global following and 100 years of history behind us, but to stay globally relevant for the next 100 years we must modernise and energise our competitions. We are not afraid to change the face of our sport. The Olympic Games is our primary focus, because it is our global sport’s greatest stage. But these innovations could revolutionise baseball and softball at every level, at ballparks worldwide.”
WBSC is seeking to take a proactive lead on shaping the future of baseball and softball at every level around the world – starting with how the sport can make the best long-term contribution to the Olympic Games. The fan-friendly, cost-saving adjustments would be implemented at Paris 2024 and LA 2028, if baseball and softball are included on the Olympic Programme for those Games. The widely expected success of baseball and softball at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games is also set to solidify the case for the lone bat-and-ball Olympic disciplines to remain on the programme beyond 2020.
Changes to three main aspects of the sport are being considered under the WBSC Olympic Commission review: shortening the game (e.g. by reducing the number of innings, limiting the time between pitches with a pitch clock, and introducing automatic intentional walks); reducing the athlete quota (e.g. by reducing the size of Olympic rosters and requiring athletes to vacate the Olympic Village at the end of their competition); and staging preliminary rounds of Olympic tournaments outside the host city prior to the Games, so that only the final knockout competition would be part of the Olympic Games.
A number of these measures have already been trialled in this season’s WBSC Women’s World Cup and WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup. Evaluation of these pilots is still underway, but early indications suggest that reducing the number of innings from nine to seven reduces the length of games by 45 minutes. Shorter games in turn would reduce athlete fatigue, allowing for smaller roster sizes, and ease the complexity of developing the Olympic Games competition schedule.
Full wording of WBSC Executive Board resolution:
WBSC Executive Board Resolution on review of Olympic Baseball and Softball
The WBSC Executive Board resolves to explore ways of aligning Olympic baseball and softball more closely with IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 and the New Norm reforms. The WBSC aims to adhere to the New Norm principles of flexibility, partnership, sustainability and efficiency, in addition to promoting gender equality and engaging more young people around the world.
To this end, the WBSC Executive Board mandates the WBSC Olympic Commission to initiate a strategic review and to study possible adjustments to the tournament format and gameplay rules that can create a more entertaining spectacle for Olympic Games fans while reducing the resources required from Organising Committees. Areas under consideration will include shortening the game by reducing the number of innings, limiting the time between pitches and introducing automatic intentional walks; reducing the athlete quota through smaller rosters and requiring athletes to vacate the Olympic Village at the end of their competition; and the staging of preliminary rounds outside the host city prior to the Games, with only the final knockout rounds being part of the Olympic Games.