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ABL structure confirmed
NZ team finalises eight-team league
06/04/2018 9:42 PM ET
 

The Australian Baseball League has released the structure of the 2018/19 ABL season with the creation of two conferences to accommodate the new eight team format, headlined by two international expansion clubs from Korea and New Zealand.

Following announcements in the last 48 hours of the Adelaide Crows (Adelaide Bite), and Holloway Sports Group (Brisbane Bandits) both securing team licences, Baseball Australia has confirmed five of the six existing teams will be successfully privatised this season.

LEAGUE STRUCTURE

With today's announcement, the Australian Baseball League will become the first domestic Australian sporting league to move to a conference model like those used in the major sports leagues in the USA.

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The six existing ABL teams will compete in the 2018/19 season, along with Winterball Korea, and a team from New Zealand.

The eight teams will form two conferences playing a 160-game season across 10 weeks. Each team will play eight home and away games against the other three teams in its conference, with cross-conference teams matching up in a single, four-game series each season.

Baseball Australia CEO Cam Vale was upbeat about the league's potential following the board meeting this morning.

"At the beginning of last season, we set ourselves a goal to expand the league by two teams, and we are proud to have achieved that goal," Vale said.

"To have secured two expansion teams for this season is exciting for the sport, the teams and baseball in Australia as a whole. It means more games for fans to engage with, either in-stadium or from their devices."

"This season will make sporting history, as Winterball Korea becomes the first overseas team to be based and play in an Australian sporting competition. The Australian location of this team will be confirmed shortly."

"Couple that with the long-anticipated confirmation of the addition of a team from New Zealand and we are very excited for the renewed international focus of the ABL and its overall prospect of success."

With the public confirmation of five licence holders, Vale added the following comments specific to the three remaining teams.

"The confirmation of the formal acceptance of a New Zealand team into the league has been a lengthy process both in Australia and New Zealand, and we anticipate making that official in the next fortnight with a venue agreement and finalisation of Baseball NZ's broader investment group the only outstanding issues."

"Similarly, the Perth Heat licence holder has been provisionally ratified and now becomes a matter of timing in terms of the public release of the details of the Heat's ownership group."

"The Melbourne Aces is the only team, existing or expansion, that we are unlikely to licence for this coming season and as such will implement an interim arrangement".

"We have had very good interest from both local and international groups in the Aces, and remain confident a permanent licence holder will be found in the next six months and be able to fully take over the team for the 2019/20 season."

"Whilst we have not yet formally signed off on the interim licence holder, we are very close to an agreement built on our determination to do everything we can to keep a Melbourne based team in the ABL for this ninth ABL season," Vale said.

FUTURE EXPANSION

After securing the first two expansion teams, both as overseas teams, Vale was confident future expansion is not far away and that it will be a mix of Australian and overseas teams.

"Additional expansion opportunities will continue to arise in future seasons, as the potential grows for more regional centres to host ABL teams," Vale said.

"Following the successful finalisation of an eight-team league, our long-term goal is moving to a 10, and then a 12-team league."

"Wollongong is certainly amongst those at the front of the queue for an ABL team based on the successful hosting of the Wollongong Classic in the past two seasons, with plans in place to take ABL games there again this season."

"Expansion to include teams from international powerhouses such as Japan and Taiwan is also a high priority and aligning these teams to the right locations is critical to the long-term success of the league."

"One of our major goals moving forward is to make the ABL a truly national league, with the potential for either standalone Australian teams or international clubs to be based in Tasmania or the Northern Territory, as well as a second team in Queensland."

"Plans are in place to meet with government and local representatives from each state in the next month to discuss further expansion opportunities."

Baseball Australia has strong track record of engaging with regional Australia in recent years; having taken key events and camps to Lismore and Geelong, whilst later this week the Women's National team, the Australian Emeralds will conclude their World Cup preparations in Bendigo.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.