KBO gives expansion green light

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KBO gives expansion green light

Baseball officials gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to a two-club expansion of the Korea Baseball Organization, while withholding their call on who will get to own the new clubs.

Presidents from the current eight KBO teams plus You Young-koo, commissioner of the KBO, discussed the league’s first expansion since 1991 at a board of directors meeting.

All but one club - the Busan Lotte Giants - agreed to welcome new clubs in the near future, said Lee Sang-il, the KBO’s secretary general.

“It’s significant that the door has been opened for new clubs to join the current eight-team league,” Lee told reporters after the meeting.

Three local firms, including online-game developer NCsoft Corp., have submitted bids to own new clubs.

The KBO wanted to introduce two new teams to make it a 10-team league, which would give officials the option of having two divisions of five teams each.

Lee said that KBO team presidents will establish new guidelines to evaluate each of the bids.

The southeastern city of Changwon in South Gyeongsang, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Seoul, has been tabbed to host one of the expansion teams.

“Aside from NCsoft, two other companies have handed in bids, and they will have to compete for the right to launch the new team,” Lee said.

“The two companies requested that they not be identified. But now that the door has been opened, we expect other companies to also show interest in professional baseball,” Lee added.

According to Lee, companies applying for expansion teams have only had to meet “straightforward criteria,” such as annual sales and the number of employees.

“But under a new set of more practical criteria, we will further look into companies’ financial stability and sustainability, and their willingness and determination to manage a baseball club,” Lee said.

Lee said Lotte was the only dissenting vote because the team felt that running a KBO team is a costly business and only the largest of large companies can afford to enter the fray.

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