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Sports minister confirms several interested in baseball club

TAIPEI--Sports Minister Tai Shia-ling (戴遐齡) said yesterday several businesses have shown interest in buying a professional baseball club that has been put up for auction, amid concerns over a possible end to Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL, 中華職棒).

“As far as I know, a couple of enterprises are asking,” Tai said when asked about the bidding for the Sinon Bulls (興農牛).

Sinon Corporation, which owns the franchise, announced Monday that it was selling the Bulls because it has lost nearly NT$90 million (US$3.08 million) on the club's operations this year.

Tai said the company was scheduled to discuss the sale with interested buyers later in the day, but added that Sinon had not given her any further information.

The Sports Affairs Council (體委會) will help Sinon reach a deal and will not let the CPBL face closure, she said.

If the Bulls are out of the picture, it will be very difficult for the other three CPBL clubs to continue operating, as they have all been losing money in recent years, the sports minister said.

The council will do its best to protect the rights of the league's players and help solve the problem, she added.

Sinon said Monday it will continue to operate the club until a new owner takes over.

In 1995, the company acquired 55 percent of the stock holdings of the Jungo Bears (俊國熊) at a cost of NT$290 million and re-named the club the Sinon Bears.

The following year, the company purchased the rest of the stock holdings for NT$237.2 million and officially named the club the Sinon Bulls.

The Taichung-based club has won the CPBL Taiwan Series twice in its 17-year history. It was once a sister team of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which introduced foreign players to the Bulls and helped the team train based on the MLB model.

The Bulls are the most popular baseball club in central Taiwan but have performed poorly over the past six years, ranking at the bottom of the CPBL for four of those years.

In 2011, the Bulls stopped using foreign players and lost fans after two consecutive years at the bottom of the four-team league's standings.

Meanwhile, although the CPBL this year reached the 20-million mark for attendance in its 23-year history, its average attendance has dropped to 2,432 per game from 3,000 last year.

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