Author Topic: MLB London Series - a tragedy...  (Read 508 times)

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Offline English Natsie

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MLB London Series - a tragedy...
« Topic Start: December 04, 2018, 11:31:29 AM »
The announcement that MLB was coming to London should have resulted in really positive things for the Wonderful Game in the UK.So how did MLB get it so wrong?

''We've seen what the NFL have achieved..'' was attributed to an un-named MLB representative. First mistake. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no tradition of baseball in the UK - MLB were going to have to put in the hard yards the NFL had to. Appreciation of the NFL only got underway here in 1982, when the (then new) Channel 4 began proper TV coverage.It took 25 years of gradual growth and development of the game, in the UK, before regular season games began to be played, in 2007. By then there was a large, and growing, body of knowledgeable supporters who understood the League and the game - there was also the clear vision that the market was developing well enough for there to be a London franchise as the final destination (that franchise is expected to be the relocated Jaguars - their owner already owns Fulham FC (Premier League) and has already made a bid to buy Wembley Stadium, which would become the 'home' of any London franchise; it is also why the Jaguars have played so many games at Wembley - 2023 is still talked about as the date for London to have its own team).MLB have given the impression that they only had to turn-up and everyone would flock to baseball - that was never going to happen.I've never seen anyone, but myself, wearing Nationals' gear. I've seen claims that the Astros UK fan club has 59 members.Many people wear the Yankees 'NY' logo, but with absolutely no idea that it's connected to baseball - over here 'NY' is, essentially, a fashion label.Baseball only received proper TV coverage over here from 1997 - again because a new channel - Channel 5 - wanted to be different (and MLB was probably a cheap way to fill all those empty through-the-night hours).Unfortunately, although they are a national channel, they 'rolled-out' on a regional basis, and didn't achieve national coverage until 2001 - ironically, that was 'peak baseball' year, in terms of viewing figures but, even then, they were under one million.Since then things have gone backwards - Channel 5 dropped the coverage, in 2009. From 2013 there has been coverage on BT Sport, but that is behind a pay-wall, and MLB isn't central to their identity - BT Sport sees itself as home to the Champion's League.They only ended up with MLB by accident, through their acquisition of ESPN UK.So there was / is much to do - MLB is 'late-to-the-game'.

Then there was the venue. Second mistake. The lack of any baseball tradition meant that finding a suitable park was always going to be challenging. The obvious choices, in terms of playing area, would have been the major cricket grounds (Lord's and The Oval), but they were rejected on the basis of seating capacity (in retrospect, that should have sounded our alarm bells).So MLB backed themselves into a corner, in that all other venues are set-up for soccer, with its rectangular pitch. The only stadium they could find that could (sort-of) be adapted was London Stadium (the former Olympic Stadium, built for the London 2012 Games), as it has a running track outside of the soccer pitch.However, even then, the dimensions wouldn't meet MLB regulations for a ball park in the US - commentators have said the MLB is clearly trying to draw-up a 'homer-fest', due to the short centre field boundary. The layout of the stadium means that fans down the foul-line boundaries will be far-off the action - one US commentator wryly said ''you'll need binoculars to see from those seats''...London Stadium is generally regarded as bland and soulless, and is located in a difficult to get to part of east London. The current tenants of the Stadium are West Ham United (Premier League) whose supporters loathe it.Its capacity - 55,000 - also raised eyebrows.There are few ballparks of that size even in the US - how would they fill it?

That leads us to yesterday - and MLB's third, and greatest, mistake.Even if a lot of UK true fans of the Wonderful Game turned-up, they wouldn't come close to filling the stadium, so we assumed that MLB would use the London Series to start developing the game over here, by attracting first-timers and the mildly interested. We weren't expecting giveaway tickets - London isn't a cheap venue - but nothing prepared us for yesterday, when pre - registration tickets went on sale. I know my jaw dropped when I saw the prices, and I was far from alone, judging by the comments on UK online fan groups. Apart from a small number of seats with virtually no view (almost like paying to watch on the big screen) tickets started at $125, to still be a long way away, up to $500  for a home plate seat.MLB's allocation system was also set up to be (in the words of one commentator) a ''scalper's paradise'' - within five minutes the offical sale was sold out, but within 30 minutes over half of the tickets (30,000+) had appeared on Stub Hub at vastly inflated prices($174 tickets for $1,500, anyone?..).So MLB managed to price out all genuine fans of the game, many of whom would have also faced travel and accommodation costs to come to London on top of the ticket price.Many have pointed out that it is cheaper to travel to the US and watch games there than to attend the London games.Most fans on the UK groups were saying they wouldn't be going - sadly, I'm one of them.And who will be there? Those with no idea of what's going on, on the park, who are just attending an 'event', and who'll move on to the next thing after the game (at these prices probably many on corporate works 'jollies').Probably some US ex-pats and US fans combining the game with a holiday in London.Certainly not groups who will do much to further the development of the game over here, long-term.There could even be the possibility of many empty seats, on the TV coverage...Many have pointed out that you could attend all three NFL London games, this season, for less than the price of one ticket to the London Series.

Sorry if this is bit of a rant, but it's hard to convey the anger and disillusionment felt amongst UK baseball fans, at the moment.I like to think, perhaps naively, that we are all unofficial ambassadors for the Wonderful Game, over here - but we feel like MLB has just cast us aside, as if we should be oh-so-grateful to them just for coming to the UK, and swallow whatever they throw at us.It's a real tragedy - here was MLB's chance to really make a difference, but they've ended up just looking like money-grabbers.If they go on like this, we can't see the London games lasting more than two years - far from copying the NFL, it's more like they're copying the NHL who, despite the established tradition of ice hockey over here, have essentially written off the UK.

Shame on you, MLB...

Offline JCA-CrystalCity

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Re: MLB London Series - a tragedy...
« Reply #1: December 04, 2018, 04:28:08 PM »
Were the London Olympics the first recent one without baseball?

I'm not sure what they could have done about the pricing. Obviously, the scalpers think there's an aftermarket at a higher price, so it isn't so outrageous that MLB tried to capture some of what people will pay to get in. That said, there should have been allocations to fan clubs, colleges, youth teams, etc...  Not the prime seats, but enough to seed some potential development.

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised they decided on London rather than Amsterdam.  The Dutch have a pretty established fanbase and the Netherlands usually fields the most competitive European team in international tournaments.

Offline skippy1999

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Re: MLB London Series - a tragedy...
« Reply #2: December 04, 2018, 05:22:51 PM »
I agree, seems like MLB in London should've been announced with a bit of fanfare but it was just a boring announcement.  Is it the people MLB have doing the marketing, or is it just the people running MLB that are so stodgy?

Offline HalfSmokes

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Re: MLB London Series - a tragedy...
« Reply #3: December 04, 2018, 05:56:06 PM »
I agree, seems like MLB in London should've been announced with a bit of fanfare but it was just a boring announcement.  Is it the people MLB have doing the marketing, or is it just the people running MLB that are so stodgy?

They player who was responsible for marketing clearly dropped the ball

Offline English Natsie

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Re: MLB London Series - a tragedy...
« Reply #4: December 04, 2018, 06:12:03 PM »
Yes - London 2012 was when baseball was dropped from the Olympics. Conspiracy theorists like to claim that London being the home of cricket had something to do with it; the reality was that having been given the opportunity to expand (the number of countries where it is played) through being an Olympic sport, baseball had failed so to do. Being played widely is (supposed) to be an IOC criteria for inclusion - I say 'supposedly' because just ask anyone about netball...

My guess (just that, no more) would be that MLB went for London as an easier sell for travelling US fans - and because of that 'look at the NFL' mirage...

Offline dracnal

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Re: MLB London Series - a tragedy...
« Reply #5: December 05, 2018, 03:22:26 PM »
They player who was responsible for marketing clearly dropped the ball

Well that certainly points to Ean Desmond...

Offline HalfSmokes

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Re: MLB London Series - a tragedy...
« Reply #6: December 05, 2018, 03:24:32 PM »
Totally mike trout’s fault