Major League Baseball will need more than a homerun to make London a success.
BIG news from across the pond, Baseball might be coming to London. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are close to agreeing a deal to play a two-game Major League Baseball regular season series in London in June 2019.
This would mean that the MLB would join the NFL & NBA, who both already host regular season games in London, in trying to tap into the UK American sports fan base. Baseball is younger than American football in the UK, with the British league only being established in 2017.
The UK has an appetite for American sports as they are seen to put on more of a fan experience when they come to town, this would, therefore, be expected by the MLB.
MLB desperately wants the London series to happen, but there is still no promoter, nor is there a deal with London Stadium yet. MLB considered using Wembley Stadium, but it couldn’t be properly configured for baseball. MLB also considered having the season opener in London, but the city’s April weather isn’t favorable.
With the Yankees & the Red Sox being the most recognisable teams from America, a series against the two teams have a lot more going for it than so many other teams that the British public don’t know about. This is the ultimate rivalry, and putting it in such a different venue will give baseball in Britain a jump-start.
The fixtures would be the first MLB games to be played in Europe if they take place. MLB matches have already been staged outside the USA in Mexico, Japan, Puerto Rico, and most recently at Australia’s Sydney Cricket Ground in March 2014.
To make MLB a real success over here, and not just a novelty event, they need to follow the model that other American sports have followed. The NFL, in particular, has worked incredibly hard on educating fans in the UK on the sport, in a way that’s helpful for newcomers but not patronising to existing ‘hardcore’ fans, whilst also playing up the cultural aspects that surrounding the events and bringing them to the UK market.
This is something that the MLB would need to concentrate on and in essence copy. This should also be easier for the sport, due to some (loose) similarities in other sports like softball and cricket.
So will MLB sell out a stadium for a game in London? 100%. Will it establish a deeper level of engagement that eventually drives consistent commercial results in London? Possibly, but they need more than a few homeruns in Stratford to achieve it.