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Back-to-back world series for Black Sox after sweeping changes to international softball programme

February 2, 2018

Wellington, NZ - - Back-to-back world series for Black Sox after sweeping changes to international softball programme



 

ORIGINAL STORY by Tony Smith

Back-to-back world series for Black Sox after sweeping changes to international softball programme

Joel Evans and the Black Sox face back-to-back world softball touranments in 2021 and 2022.
ANTHONY AU-YEUNG/PHOTOSPORT

Joel Evans and the Black Sox face back-to-back world softball touranments in 2021 and 2022.

 

New Zealand's  Black Sox softballers will play in world tournaments in back-to-back years after a realignment of the international game by sport's global governing body.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is re-branding its male and female world championships as the Softball World Cups and has switched the dates for future men's and women's tournaments to avoid the women's World Cup clashing with the Olympic Games.

The changes - prompted by baseball and softball's return to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games schedule - mean the Black Sox will play in the first men's World Cup in 2022 - a year after hosting the final world championships in Auckland.

Softball New Zealand chief Tony Giles says world softball changes were inevitable to avoid clashes with the Olympic Games.
NICHOLAS BOYACK/STUFF

Softball New Zealand chief Tony Giles says world softball changes were inevitable to avoid clashes with the Olympic Games.

 

The final women's world championships will be staged in Chiba, Japan this year with the first women's World Cup set for  2021 - the same year as the men's world championships in New Zealand.

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Softball New Zealand  (SNZ) has accepted the changes, which were decided at the WBSC's softball division board meeting in Rome on Thursday.

"There are pros and cons, but from our point of view it makes sense given the WBSC focus on Olympic Games inclusion," SNZ chief executive Tony Giles said.

"The only negative from my point of view is it means our men's pinnacle event [the Softball World Cup] will be competing against an Olympic Games.

"That provides some challenges, commercially, and from a media perspective for our seven-time world champions."

The men's world championships were switched to odd-numbered years from 2009 after SNZ successfully lobbied the International Softball Federation (WBSC's predecessor) in 2004 to avoid a clash with the Olympic Games. The SNZ's stance was prompted, in part, by the Black Sox being overlooked for Halberg Award honours with Olympic gold medallists gaining ultimate recognition.

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President Riccardo Fraccari has made no secret that the WBSC's main goal is to re-establish baseball and softball as Olympic sports.

The two diamond sports have only been confirmed for the Tokyo Games at this stage.

"Priority is getting baseball and softball on the Paris24 Olympic Games programme," Fraccari said in a tweet.

He also stated: "This new Softball World Cup brand and tournament structure — with continental qualifiers — will be an exciting showcase of the best softball athletes and countries in the world.

"The new Softball World Cups will boost our long-term Olympic potential and help our mission to grow a one-billion global baseball/softball community over the next decade."

Giles said it was inevitable that the World Cup cycle would have to be switched because the women's World Cup could not be held in an Olympic year.

That would have resulted in some nations sending "depleted teams to the World Cup because they wouldn't want to risk their players a couple of months out from the Olympics."

He also  welcomed the WBSC's decision to scrap open entry to world championships restrict the men's and women's World Cup finals to 16 teams and introduce continental qualifying tournaments.

Under the new format, Oceania will be entitled to two finalists, the Americas five, Europe three, Asia three, Africa two.  The 16th place would go to a wild card entry.

Giles said setting a limit was appropriate for "a pinnacle event" and would hopefully end some of the blowout scores at recent world championships.

The New Zealand White Sox thrashed Kenya 28-0 in 2016 and later had a whip-around among the playing and management staff and Kiwi supporters to buy softball shoes and bats for the under-equipped Africans.

The Black Sox thumped Turkey 22-0 in three innings in 2017 and then held a coaching clinic for the Turks who were at their first world championships.

Under the WBSC changes, the under-19 male and female world championships will also be rebranded as Softball World Cups with a maximum of 12 teams.

The final edition of the junior men's softball world championship will be held this year in Prince Albert, Canada. The U-19 Men's Softball World Cup will then launch in 2021 and be played every two years (i.e., 2021, 2023, etc.).

The next edition of the U-19 Women's category will continue as previously planned in 2019, before shifting to even years in 2020 to be staged in the year prior to and after the Women's Softball World Cup (i.e., 2020, 2022, etc.).

Giles said the junior tournament changes would impact on New Zealand's budding under-19 men's representatives who would face a three-year gap between world tournaments.

But he said SNZ might look to host an international under-19 men's tournament in 2020 to help fill the void.

AT A GLANCE

World softball tournament changes 

* World championships to be rebranded as Softball World Cups

* 16-team limits for men's and women's World Cups

* 12-team limits for junior men's and women's World Cups

* World Cups to be held every two years

* Women's World Cup cycle moved to odd numbered years (from 20210 to avoid clash with the Olympic Games

* Men's World Cup cycle moved to even numbered years (from 2022)

 

 

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