Representatives of South Korean professional baseball teams on Tuesday unanimously approved the expansion plan in the country’s top league, bucking under pressure of players and fans and narrowly avoiding a possible cancellation of an annual offseason awards ceremony.
The presidents of nine clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization gave the green light to add a 10th team to their league at a board meeting.
Earlier this month, the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association had threatened to boycott the annual Golden Glove Awards unless the KBO moved forward with the expansion talk.
The KPBPA quickly withdrew its boycott threat after the board meeting and said it welcomed the approval of the expansion plan.
“Adding a 10th team will expand the horizon for professional baseball and also vitalize the sports industry as a whole,” the association said in a statement. “It will also bring more joy and excitement to fans.”
The KPBPA had pushed for expanding to 10 teams because an even number of teams would reduce scheduling problems.
The KBO had eight clubs in 2012 and will bring in a ninth team, the NC Dinos, starting next season.
The KPBPA had also urged the KBO to take advantage of the sport’s massive popularity by tapping into new markets nationwide.
Opponents of the idea have argued that given the relatively small pool of young baseball talent in the country, further expansion would dilute the quality of play in the KBO and ultimately drive fans away.
At the meeting Tuesday, the KBO board members, the nine team presidents, plus KBO commissioner Koo Bon-neung and its secretary-general Yang Hae-young, said they decided to grant the wishes of baseball players and fans and help create a more balanced structure with an even number of clubs.
The board also said the KBO and the rest of the baseball world should come together to expand the sport at the grass-roots level and improve infrastructure.
Last month, KT Corp., a local telecom giant, reached a deal with the city of Suwon in Gyeonggi Province to launch an expansion team, with an eye on joining the KBO by 2015. (Yonhap News)