When the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) decided to take the 2009 Baseball World Cup from Cuba to Europe the goal was to promote the sport on the old continent and to impress the many delegates of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who are living here.
Point two was no longer significant this September, as the Executive Committee of the IOC decided to reduce the field of candidates for the Olympic program from seven to two sports in August and chose Golf and Rugby Seven over Baseball.
Nonetheless even with the Olympics out of the picture the Baseball World Cup in Europe was important for the sport. It was a big tournament with lots of travel and a new format, which we will discuss in a different review later this week. Today we want to take a look at the attendance numbers, which started promising, but kind of disappointed in round two and three.
The Baseball World Cup started quite well attendance wise, which would be understating. Led by the great success of 38,000 people at six games in Regensburg, the first round had solid numbers throughout all five venues.
In Pool A at the Eagles ballpark in Prague a total of 8,700 people watched the Czech Republic squaring off against Mexico, Australia and Taiwan with sell-out crowds of 2,500 on Saturday in both games.
Pool B in Montjuic, Barcelona began with a mere of 350 people watching Spain taking on South Africa. But the stadium was packed with 1,500 people at the classic between Puerto Rico and Cuba, and when Spain faced these two opponents. Overall 5,500 people were in attendance for all six games.
Pool C was played at the newly built ballpark in Sundbyberg, Sweden and featured at least 1,200 people in the stands for five of the six games. Only Canada against South Korea was not that well visited with 662 on a Thursday evening. The highlight was the encounter between Sweden and Canada in front of 2,091 people on a Saturday afternoon. A total of 8,413 people went to the six games in Sweden.
Pool D in Zagreb had the most difficult job of promoting the event, as they got the nod for hosting a Baseball World Cup pool in July, just two months before the start of the competition. Overall 2,160 people saw the six games on three days in Croatia with the match between Croatia and Great Britain drawing 600 as the high-water mark.
The attendance highlight of round one and the whole tournament was obviously Pool E in Regensburg. Not since the infamous Olympic demonstration game in 1936 Baseball attracted that many people in Germany. Over the six games at the renovated Armin Wolf Arena, which had a temporary capacity of 10,000 during the four days of competition, a total of 38,000 people came to the ballpark to see Germany, the USA, Venezuela and China. The “low” number was 4,200 during the USA-Venezuela classic on a Thursday evening. The high mark was the near-sellout of 9,600 for the Germany-USA face off one day later.
Overall 62,773 people came to the 30 first-round games (2,092 per game).
The second round was hosted by the Netherlands and Italy, where Baseball has roots since plenty of years. Both countries didn’t organize a Baseball World Cup for the first time. The Netherlands were host in 1986 and 2005, while Italy got the nod in 1988 and 1998. So both Federations should be experienced enough to shoulder such an event.
The second round started with a shock for many Baseball fans throughout Europe. Everybody expected packed ballparks. But we got disappointed, as only a few games were well attended. In the Netherlands second-round venues were in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Haarlem. Unsurprisingly, games with Dutch participation had high attendance numbers. They drew 3,500 people in the opener against South Korea, 2,041 against Puerto Rico, 2,500 against Spain, 3,117 against Venezuela, 2,225 against Great Britain, 3,000 against Nicaragua and 4,000 against Cuba.
But besides these great numbers in the three ballparks, which have capacities of 4,000, respective 3,500 people, overall numbers weren’t that good. In matchups without the Dutch national team, only four more games had four-digit figures (PUR-GBR, PUR-CUB, KOR-CUB, VEN-PUR). The other 17 games in this round saw attendance numbers range between an embarrassing 61 to 800 people. Overall just 31,032 people came to see the 28 games in this round. This is an average of 1,108 per game. Taking away the 20,383 people, which saw the Dutch games (2,912 per game), only an average of 507 people showed up for the other 21 games of Pool F at the Baseball World Cup.
In Italy the numbers were even lower. Granted the twelve used venues in round two didn’t have nearly the same capacities like the ballparks in the Netherlands or in Regensburg, ranging between an estimated 500 (in Vicenza) to 4,000 (Bologna). Only in seven games the 1,000 mark was cracked with the maximum being the match between Team USA and Japan on September 15 in Macerata with 1,900 people in the stands. USA-Taiwan, Italy-Japan and Italy-USA in Torino, respective Novara also should count as sellouts with 1,000 guests.
Overall just 17,769 people came to the second round games in Italy, which is an average of 635 per game. While the numbers in the smaller cities even were respectable in comparison to the capacity, the crowds in a “big market” like Bologna for example were really disappointing. Especially since Fortitudo Bologna just won the Italian Baseball championship. But in four games, only 1,600 showed up for such matchups like Italy against Mexico and the USA taking on Australia, though the latter was a make-up game on a Monday afternoon.
The third round was hosted solely by Italy with ballparks in Grosseto (capacity 5,000), Nettuno (8,000), Firenze (3,000), Messina (2,500) and Chieti (estimated 500). The numbers didn’t get better, even though the decisive phase with the top eight teams in the world took place. Attendance numbers varied between 104 and 2,000 people in the third round, and between 110 and 5,000 during the classification phase. The championship game and the round-robin encounter between Team USA and Cuba drew a combined 8,000 people. Just three more games, including the bronze medal match, saw four-digit crowds. Overall 7,704 people showed up for the third round, which is an average of 482 per game. For the four classification games another 6,400 people total came.
126,799 people saw the 106 games at the 2009 Baseball World Cup in Europe. This is an average of 1,196 per game, which isn’t pretty, but not that bad in comparison to the “normal” attendance numbers at European Baseball games. However for such a top-notch tournament it is disappointing. Especially when you consider that 38,000 people alone visited the six games in Regensburg. Taking away this bulk, the overall numbers shrink to 88,799, which is an average of 888 per game.
What were the reasons for the low numbers? Certainly the poor weather in round two and three didn’t help, as several games were delayed or even postponed. Another argument we heard the past days was the format. Nobody knew exactly, who is going to play where and when in the latter two rounds. Others say ticket prices were too high. But how do you explain that Regensburg drew such crowds, even though prices there were on the upper end of the spectrum? This brings us to another point: The start of the ticket sale. While tickets went on sale for Pool E in January, the other venues were lacking behind, starting several months later, maybe too late.
What do the readers of Mister-Baseball think about the attendance at the Baseball World Cup? Why did you go to the games and why not?
30 Games, 62,773
Netherlands: 28 Games, 31,032
Italy: 28 Games, 17,769
16 Games, 7,704
4 Games, 6,400
Top 10 Crowds
- 9/11 Regensburg: USA vs. Germany 9,600
- 9/12 Regensburg: Germany vs. Venezuela 6,900
- 9/11 Regensburg: Venezuela vs. China 6,100
- 9/12 Regensburg: China vs. USA 5,900
- 9/9 Regensburg: Germany vs. China 5,300
- 9/27 Nettuno: Cuba vs. USA 5,000
- 9/10 Regensburg: USA vs. Venezuela 4,200
- 9/20 Rotterdam: Netherlands vs. Cuba 4,000
- 9/13 Amsterdam: Netherlands vs. South Korea 3,500
- 9/17 Haarlem: Netherlands vs. Venezuela 3,117
Bottom 5 Crowds
- 9/14 Amsterdam: Spain vs. Venezuela 61
- 9/14 Amsterdam: South Korea vs. Great Britain 91
- 9/24 Firenze: Venezuela vs. Australia 104
- 9/17 Amsterdam: Spain vs. Cuba 108
- 9/26 Firenze: Venezuela vs. Taiwan 110
(Official numbers according to box scores, check Wikipedia for an overview)