Baseball league will only survive if all do their parts
The China Post news staffThe Brother Elephants, Taiwan's most popular baseball team, is being put up for sale because of heavy financial losses, the team's owner recently announced. The Brother Hotel, which owns the Elephants, hopes to find a buyer before the end of the year.
October 23, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
The announcement stunned baseball fans across Taiwan, because the Elephants are one of the two oldest franchises in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) — the other being the Uni-President Lions.
The Brother Elephants have been in the field for 29 years since their amateur days. The founder of the Brother Elephants founded the team out of pure passion, despite having limited financial resources. However, in 2009, rumors emerged claiming that nearly half of the team's players were involved in match-fixing. The scandal reportedly shattered the owner's heart.
Because of financial difficulties and because of the scandals, Hung Jui-ho, the above-mentioned owner, talked about selling the team over the past three years. Many baseball fans and experts criticized him for making the comments and urged him to stop threatening his own players and the team's fans.
Now that Hung has made up his mind to sell the team, will the league benefit if the Brother Elephants are owned by a larger corporation? The answer to that question may not be yes.
It is true that Hung shouldn't have repeatedly announced the possibility of selling the team, because his actions ultimately affected the loyalty of the players and fans. However, people who follow the league shouldn't have encouraged him to sell the Brother Elephants, regardless of how much they disliked his team. The league will fold if any one of its four remaining teams were to disband.
If a bigger corporation takes over, the CPBL might benefit, because the owners of the four teams would have equal abilities in terms of team investment. Furthermore, more people might be inclined to watch the games in the beginning of the new season; however, it doesn't necessarily follow that new audience members will become loyal fans, unless the new owner of the Elephants actually loves baseball and knows how to manage a team.
The Uni-President Lions are owned by one of the biggest firms in Taiwan. The team's owner has been investing heavily in the team, which has helped the Lions become the team with most championship titles. However, the team's box office income and television ratings are not the highest among the teams. The fact of the matter is that not enough people are actually watching the games.
There are many reasons as to why this is. One is that the league's image has been severely damaged by recurring scandals. People don't trust the players, while low box-office earnings and television ratings have stopped big corporations from sponsoring the teams. Without sponsorship, players are unlikely to see a salary increase, which gives them a greater incentive to accept bribes in order to compensate for their relatively low income. Meanwhile, the government should also do more to help protect professional players from being forced by gangsters to throw games.
When the public restores its confidence in the CPBL, more would be willing to buy tickets or tune in to watch the games, which will in turn attract more companies to sponsor the teams and increase players' salaries.
Taiwan's national baseball team has made us proud in countless international games, and most players on the national team come from the CPBL. If baseball as a professional game is to survive on this island, fans, players, companies and the government should all do their parts.