By Paul Osborne

The iconic Tokyo Dome will host the semi-finals, bronze medal contest and the decisive gold medal finale of the inaugural Premier 12 tournament ©Getty ImagesJapan is due to host the inaugural World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier 12 competition in November following a partnership agreement between the WBSC and Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).

Under the agreement, Japan will host a special grand opening contest, the semi-finals, and medal round of the WBSC's new flagship professional baseball World Championship featuring the men's national teams from the Top 12-ranked nations.

The iconic Tokyo Dome will play host to the tournament's semi-finals, bronze medal contest and the decisive gold medal finale, while a "secret" location will be announced in the coming weeks for the grand opening of the 2015 Premier 12 in Japan, along with special Opening Ceremonies.

"The iconic Tokyo Dome is a symbol of Japan and of baseball," said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari.

"It is one of the world's leading stadiums for staging some the biggest events in sport and entertainment, which not only reinforces but further defines the Premier 12 brand ahead of its launch.

"I thank NPB Commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki for this landmark partnership, which will help drive the launch, reach and overall viewership of the inaugural WBSC Premier 12 this November into the hundreds of millions.

"And, I am particularly proud of how we were able to work together with all the various stakeholders to get this done and have Premier 12 co-hosted by two nations where our sport is the established leader among athletes, fans, sponsors, and can generate record viewer ratings and engaging in-stadium experiences."

The logo for the inaugural WBSC Premier 12 tournament ©WBSCThe logo for the inaugural WBSC Premier 12 tournament ©WBSC



During the big announcement in Tokyo, the WBSC also revealed that Taiwan will play host to the opening round-robin and quarter-final stages of the contest, with competition due to take place between November 9 and 21.

WSBC also revealed the official Premier 12 logo, designed by British-based group, The Works Ltd.

The unique features of the logo include 12 stars that symbolise the world's 12 best baseball nations that make up the identity and will compete in the Premier 12.

"This partnership sends a strong signal that we are united behind WBSC President Fraccari and share his global vision for international competitions and the Premier 12," said NPC Commissioner Kumazaki.

"This is a great privilege and responsibility for NPB, and we have every confidence in the success of the WBSC Premier 12.

"NPB is committed to - in strong partnership with WBSC - further raising the profile of WBSC-sanctioned international events, particularly those that feature national teams and that showcase our sport and our athletes playing for their countries on the global stage like the Premier 12."

The NPB was the second highest-attended major sports league in the world in 2014, with nearly 23 million fans filling venues for NPB's 80th anniversary season.

The Japanese national team, Samurai Japan, are currently ranked number one in the world and are likely to draw sell-out crowds in the baseball-mad nation.

The announcement comes at a time when baseball and softball are attempting to be added to the Olympic programme ©Getty ImagesThe announcement comes at a time when baseball and softball are attempting to be added to the Olympic programme ©Getty Images



But the announcement also comes at a key time for the sport, with baseball and softball striving to return to the Olympic programme at Tokyo 2020, with the news that the organisation is going to be integrated so closely with a Japanese audience a major boost.

Baseball and softball are widely seen as favourites to be added to the programme - although karate, squash and skateboarding are others with realistic ambitions - with a decision expected later this year, although it is not definite any new sport will be added. 

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]insidethegames.biz


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