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Japanese plan: boost economy with more baseball

Nippon Professional BaseballPrime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to boost the Japanese economy using a variety of tools, which may include the addition of four teams to the country’s major leagues.

There are currently 12 teams in the Pacific League and the Central League, and a report to be considered by Abe calls for the addition of four more as an economic stimulus. From The Star:

“Prosperous baseball teams could strengthen attachment to regional cities and help local economies thrive,” said the report, which cited the success of U.S. Major League Baseball in nearly doubling from 16 teams to 30 since the 1960s.

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan and draws more than 20 million fans to games each year, four times more than Japan’s professional football J.League’s top division….

But most professional teams survive in Japan because losses can be treated as tax-deductible marketing costs for corporate sponsors, such as such as Orix Corp and Yakult Honsha Co.

The addition of four teams is seen as an investment vehicle (four new ballparks would provide something for the construction economy), a way to loosen corporate spending and a way to keep citizens in areas where there’s a population loss. Okinawa, Shizuoka, Shikoku and Niigata are envisioned as possible new team homes.

Of course, this is speculative: plenty of economists say Nippon Professional Baseball expansion won’t seriously impact the economy. And if there’s not four large corporations willing to subsidize pro baseball, then the plan will go nowhere.

Abe is expected to release his final economic recommendations next month.


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