WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari thanked the WBSC Congress for the “incredible work from everybody” which has seen the international governing body record some incredible achievements under his leadership and set up plentiful opportunities for the future, as he gave his presidential report to the IV WBSC Congress in Taipei City on Monday.
Speaking in front of the 101 member federations (with a quorum of 133 since 32 joint baseball and softball federations have two votes), President Fraccari emphasised how important and strong the WBSC’s relationship with the IOC is whilst reflecting on a successful Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, that “couldn’t have been achieved without the help of everyone”.
He thanked and praised the WBSC Family for the achievements of the organisation and the globalisation of the sport, now played by approximately 65 million people across more than 140 countries and territories. “All of you represent our great sport around the world. It’s truly an honour to be in this room with such an active and global movement,” he said.
The Italian, who has been the first and only president of the WBSC since it was created in 2013 when the International Baseball Federation and International Softball Federation merged together, made a recap of baseball, softball and baseball5’s many accomplishments in the last years, and the challenges faced on the road, highlighting the creation of the WBSC as the turning point in the growing of the sports. “Together, we have gone from two sports competing with each other – competing against each other for one place on the Olympic programme – to baseball and softball successfully sharing the same spotlight at the Tokyo 2020 Games.”
President Fraccari also reviewed the enhancement of the WBSC event’s portfolio, praising not only the creation of the Premier12 (the Global Baseball Battle that will run its third edition in 2024), but also the innovations in the Softball World Cup properties (with a new playing format and the addition of three new events), and the inclusion of Baseball5 and the eSports as new official disciplines.
The WBSC President focused on baseball/softball’s historic Olympic return in Tokyo 2020 last year, and the future of the sports in the Olympic programme saying that WBSC is now fully focused on the Los Angeles 2028 Games. “And it’s not only the LA28 Games, which we are working on with regards to our Olympic journey,” he said. “But also the Brisbane 2032 Games, as well as the Youth Olympic Games in Dakar, Senegal 2026, where Baseball5 will feature for the first time.”
Baseball5, “one of our fastest growing properties”, was another topic in the WBSC President’s discourse, highlighting the fast spreading of the new discipline around the world since its inception in 2017, with the maiden WBSC Baseball5 World Cup, due to take place in Mexico in November, becoming the peak of this extraordinary movement.
The latest official discipline is eSports, including the successful Olympic Virtual Series, an eSports platform, mobile and online games as well as the Virtual Cup. “Our sport has to be ready for the introduction of new technology and platforms that may be born with Web 3.0 and the quickly evolving digital world that is second-nature to younger populations. We are all responsible to help modernise our sport and keep it relevant and attractive to the next.”
“Not only has there been growth and stability in our events portfolio but also there has been strengthening of the governance of our federation.” With these words President Fraccari opened a recap of the work made in the governance of the organisation.
The key milestones include the newly built headquarters in Pully, Switzerland, which have “been applauded by Olympic leaders”; the restructuring of WBSC’s organisation “in line with a modern and transparent federation as requested by the IOC”; the launching of the Integrity Unit; anti-doping and the presentation of the WBSC Strategic Plan 2022-2028 that is “aligned with the Olympic Agenda 2020+5”.
“All of this contributed, not only to giving a new image of our organisation, but also to our sport in the eye of our main stakeholders, commercial partners, fans, and the Olympic movement,” Fraccari stated.
The WBSC President based his report about development in a series of slides showing the key numbers on the development effort made by WBSC.
The total amount allocated to development of the National Federations and their athletes from 2017 to 2021 amounts to $8,338,174 USD, a work that has directly impacted in the growing of the game, reflected in the number of the countries featured now in the WBSC World Rankings (with nearly 100% increase in baseball, nearly 300% increase in women’s softball and more than 200% for men’s softball since the inception of the rankings).
“These rankings reflect all your hard work and activity,” he recognised to the WBSC members. “And while it won’t be overnight, we should all have the same goal and vision so that each National Federation has a place in the WBSC World Rankings.”
In order to do so, the WBSC has worked on the tools needed to grow the sport even further. “That’s why we have developed the National Federation Handbook and the WBSC Academy with technical courses and clinics.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that anybody who wants to play our sport can in fact play our sport. This is why the WBSC has been working so hard and supporting the development of our game around the world, and this will go hand-in-hand with the strengthening and increasing roles of the Continental Associations, who make up the important framework of the WBSC.”
President Fraccari reviewed the achievements made in the media, with growing numbers in terms of social media followers, the introduction of a podcast and three newsletters. “We are showcasing that our sport is too big not to be in the Olympics,” he emphatically said.
“I have reviewed all these steps and milestones to remind you of all the major achievements we have accomplished, TOGETHER,” he said. “But this is only the beginning. Our future is secure and very exciting. Having realized all these amazing achievements and consolidated the results, it is clear the situation we now have as a federation is definitely better than it was 10-15 years ago,” he closed.