The Adelaide Bite baseball team has a new owner — the Adelaide Football Club — which has made the move to broaden its exposure beyond Australia.
The club, better known as the Adelaide Crows, said that acquiring a professional baseball team would provide “important market and commercial development opportunities, delivering greater exposure in Asia where baseball is hugely popular, especially in Japan, Korea and increasingly China”.
“We have often spoken about the need to diversify,” explained club CEO Rob Chapman.
“Baseball is a proven and popular sport in the United States and Asia, and it expands our brand and footprint offshore.”
The Adelaide Crows have previously looked to expand its club beyond Aussie Rules football, the with the purchase of an esports team in 2017.
Chief operating officer, Nigel Smart earlier this year said the move into esports was all about bringing people together across a range of different platforms.
“We are a community club and we want to bring people together and try to achieve great things, whether that’s through football or other pathways,” he said.
The Crows will take sole ownership of the Adelaide Bite, which will compete in the revamped Australian Baseball League, set to launch later this year.
Baseball SA and Adelaide Bite CEO Nathan Davison said the partnership would create new commercial opportunities.
“[The partnership] creates new commercial opportunities, supports the existing hard-working staff and will assist in fostering better talent pathways that will benefit generations to come,” he said.
The Australian Baseball League is expanding into Asia later this year when it launches its revamped schedule, which will include teams from Korea and New Zealand.
Another step in the club’s evolution: CEO
The move was supported by Crows chairman Rob Chapman and CEO Andrew Fagan, with Mr Chapman describing the expansion as a significant moment in the club’s history.
“Our board and senior management have a clear focus on building sustained success both on and off the field in a sports and entertainment landscape that is becoming increasingly competitive,” he said.
“Baseball Australia fielded significant interest for licenses from throughout Australia and overseas, and we are appreciative of their recognition of both our organisational capability and the importance of Adelaide continuing to be represented at the highest level of baseball in this country.”
Mr Fagan said the move was another step in the club’s evolution following last year’s purchase of successful esports franchise Legacy.
“It is important to note that this is about growth, for both the Crows and the Bite, and our existing operations will continue unaffected and as per normal,” he said.
“The restructured and improved national league creates an opportunity for considerable broadcast reach into Asia, not just for the Bite but for our state more broadly as well.”
A new era of baseball for South Australia
The Adelaide Football Club was described as a powerhouse sporting club by Baseball Australia CEO Cam Vale, who said the new era of baseball would be exciting for South Australia and the broader competition.
“The Crows are one of the leaders in Australian sport, and the potential that baseball has within their organisation as we push into Asia is enormous,” Vale said.
“Baseball offers a global reach to which few sports can compare, with the four biggest baseball countries also being top-ten trading and business partners of Australia in Korea, the United States, Taiwan and Japan.”
There will be a minimum of 40 games in the Australian Baseball League, which will be broadcast into Korea with a total audience exceeding 10 million people, with broadcasts into Japan, Taiwan and the United States as well.
“In 2017 alone, 34 million people went to professional baseball games in Asia, which in itself creates a great opportunity for the Bite and in turn the Crows, along with our other ABL teams,” Mr Vale said.
‘Our absolute focus is on footy’
Adelaide Football Club board member Rod Jameson said that expansion would give the club a chance to market itself overseas.
“We’re always looking to grow our opportunities and the synergy just worked — the club did a lot of due diligence,” he said.
“We can offer resources into their operation and we can extend our networks and partnerships overseas, and vice versa.
“There’s a lot of opportunity available.”
The Adelaide Football Club now owns five sporting teams, including its AFLW and SANFL sides.
Mr Jameson said its newest addition would not take anything away from the club’s focus on football.
“Our absolute focus is on footy … and [this] will never interfere in what we want to do,” he said.
“But you have to look at, as you evolve, different opportunities to be sustainable and improve what you do.
“It won’t impact our on field performance and it won’t affect our football club.”
The purchase continues a trend of sporting clubs getting involved in other codes with the Essendon Football Club also purchasing an esports team last year.
On an international scale, City Football Group, which the Manchester City Football Club sits under, has also purchased football teams across the world, including New York City FC and Melbourne FC.