August 21- The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) have announced the dates of their first-ever General Assembly, which will see all member federations come together for the first time under the WBSC banner from March 7 until 9 next year.
Announcing the inaugural General Assembly, WBSC co-Presidents Riccardo Fraccari and Don Porter acknowledged the leadership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Sports Department, in supporting and guiding the landmark merger of the international baseball and softball federations.
"We realise there were no prior cases to serve as a reference for this historic unification process, and that's why we are indebted to the IOC members, the IOC Sports Department and greater Olympic Family for their generosity with their time, knowledge and guidance in helping us to build the general framework for moving forward as one entity governing both baseball and softball," they said.
"The coming together of our two sporting federations has already created important synergies that will provide a better distribution and use of our resources, planning and sporting infrastructure, which will help to sustain the athletes and long-term development of the sports."
Since the merger was rubber stamped at the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Ordinary Congress in Tokyo in April, baseball and softball's bid to return to the Olympic Games has taken off, resulting in the bat-and-ball sports upsetting the odds to make the final shortlist of sports still in contention.
In addition to organising four World Championships this year, naming its world headquarters in Lausanne and establishing various commissions, including an Athletes Commission, the WBSC has recently launched its official federation website, and implemented stringent sports betting and match-fixing regulations into the WBSC Code of Ethics and Constitution.
Though the bookmakers' see baseball-softball as the outsider in the race, the co-Presidents believe that the sport will bring not only exhilarating action and high revenue streams to the Olympic Movement, but also a unique equality.
"The growing global popularity, interest and commercial strength of baseball and softball would enable the sports to make a meaningful contribution to the Olympic Movement and provide a memorable experience and spectacle for fans, broadcasters and viewing audiences, as well as host cities and countries, and strong ticket sales and revenues for Olympic organising committees, strong sponsor interest, to connect more young people to the Olympic Games, and provide new pathways for women and girls into sport, especially through softball in Muslim countries," they said.
The globalisation of the sport is also moving forward at rapid pace, a fine example of which being the opening of the UK's first dedicated baseball-softball facility last month, which the co-Presidents believe is a strong indicator of the appeal that the sports possess on a worldwide scale.
"The project in the UK highlights the significant benefits and realities of baseball and softball's partnership and long-term sustainability," they said.
"And the birth of this new facility is a good indicator of the growing popularity of our game in all key regions such as Europe, including an innovative compact baseball-softball venue being constructed just outside Amsterdam."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
August 2013: Baseball-softball show off youth participation strengths by hosting biggest unisex youth club sports event