In 2018 and 2019, the average number of spectators per game surpassed that of the American Professional Baseball Major League (MLB). It was a very unusual result considering the status of MLB, which claimed itself as the world’s best professional baseball league in terms of performance, fan interest, and industrial scale.

In 2018, the average spectator for Japanese professional baseball was 29,780 and MLB was 28,794. The difference was so small that not a few experts initially took it lightly.

But in 2019, the gap widened further. The average number of spectators in Japanese professional baseball was 30,930 and MLB was 28,317, showing a difference of more than 2,600. Japanese professional baseball celebrated its achievement of reaching an average of 30,000 spectators, and it became an opportunity for MLB to take a serious look at the problem of declining spectators.메이저사이트

In fact, signs of MLB’s decline in popularity have been around for a long time. MLB’s total audience has been on a downward slope since 2007, although there have been some ups and downs. But MLB maintained an average attendance of over 30,000 through at least 2017. Americans’ interest in MLB has decreased somewhat, but it was not serious in a big frame.

There are many analyzes that the effect of the new MLB stadium construction, which began in earnest in the mid-1990s, had an impact on this. Even if you are not an avid baseball fan, there has been a steady population of people who want to visit the new baseball stadium, which has become a landmark in the city. From 1994 to 2017, 21 new stadiums for MLB clubs were built.

However, in December 2017, the results of a sports preference survey conducted on American citizens by Gallup, a professional polling agency, came as a shock to MLB officials. In this survey, professional baseball (9%) ranked third after professional football (NFL, 37%) and professional basketball (NBA, 11%). Baseball preference is at its lowest level since a Gallup poll in 1937. In the same survey four years ago in 2013, baseball, which had a higher popularity than basketball, narrowed the gap with soccer (7%), a latecomer to American professional sports, by only 2 percentage points.

Eventually, the total number of spectators in MLB in 2018 was about 69.6 million, falling below 70 million for the first time since 2007. At the time, major American media found the cause of MLB’s decline in bad weather, such as cold and heavy rain. In addition, the problem of power balance between teams that collapsed in MLB was also cited as a major cause. In 2018, as many as eight MLB teams recorded 95 or more losses, and three of them (Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, and Kansas City Royals) suffered more than 100 losses. In a word, it means that not a few teams have dropped out early in the pennant race competition.

In 2019, MLB total attendance fell further to about 68.5 million, and the trend continues. Unlike 2020 and 2021, the number of MLB spectators in 2022, which was relatively free from the effects of the coronavirus, was 64.6 million, less than in 2019.

While MLB was experiencing these problems, the number of Japanese professional baseball spectators increased significantly. The total number of spectators rose from 21 million in 2012 to 26.5 million in 2019.

There was an analysis that the reason for this was that the popularity of the Japanese professional soccer J-League, which had been competing with professional baseball since the 2010s, had declined somewhat. However, this is not enough to explain why the number of young and female fans who want to watch Japanese professional baseball has increased.

The increase in the number of spectators for Japanese professional baseball cannot be overlooked, as Japan won two consecutive championships in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in 2006 and 2009, raising interest in baseball. In particular, Japan’s second consecutive WBC victory was more important in that it became the basis for overcoming the management crisis that hit Japan’s professional baseball in the mid-2000s.

In the mid-2000s, Japan’s professional baseball team, Kintetsu Buffaloes and Daie Hawks’ parent companies, Kinki Railway Company and Daie gave up running the club due to financial burdens. In a crisis situation, Gindes merged with Orix, and Softbank, a leading IT company in Japan, acquired Daie Hawks, and Softbank Hawks was established.

Japan’s professional baseball, which has survived the crisis, has begun to shift away from the practice of a non-sports expert from the parent company serving as the representative of a professional baseball team, and to a sports-specialized CEO (CEO) system. This was a signal that the professional baseball team should be transformed into a place to make money, not an affiliate that spends the money of the parent company.

Through this, the entire governance system of the club has changed and fan marketing has also been active. At the time of this change, the Hiroshima Carp successfully carried out stadium tour marketing targeting female fans in the metropolitan area, and the number of female fans increased remarkably. Hiroshima’s strategy to attract female fans, which made use of the characteristics of Hiroshima, which was the only one of the 12 Japanese professional baseball teams without female cheerleaders, created a ‘Carp Joshi’ syndrome in Japan.

The Pacific League, which has traditionally experienced difficulties in mobilizing spectators compared to the Central League, which has Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers, has also grown in popularity since the 2010s. Softbank Hawks, Rakuten Golden Eagles, and Nippon Ham Fighters led the rise in popularity of the Pacific League.

In terms of popularity, unlike American baseball, which is fiercely pursued not only by professional football and basketball, but also by soccer, the popularity of professional baseball in Japan is unrivaled. According to the results of a 2022 survey by Chuocho Sasha, a Japanese research institute, Japanese people’s preference for professional baseball (45.9%) overwhelms professional soccer (24%) and sumo (20.1%).

The Japanese baseball team defeated the United States in the 2023 WBC final held last month and regained the championship in 14 years. And although it is still early in the season, as of the 5th (Korean time), the average number of spectators in Japanese professional baseball was 31,693, slightly ahead of MLB’s 30,202. For Korean baseball, which is deeply troubled by the decline in popularity and sluggishness in international competitions, Japan has no choice but to envy Japan (the average number of spectators in the KBO league this season is 13,968 as of the 5th).

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