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Baseball players' association ups pressure on top league, reaffirms awards boycott threat

All Headlines 18:06 December 06, 2012

INCHEON, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- The Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) increased the pressure on the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) Thursday reaffirming its threat to boycott the upcoming Golden Glove Awards ceremony unless the league moves forward with expansion talks.

At its general meeting in Incheon, KPBPA decided its members would sit out the league’s awards ceremony, set for next Tuesday, unless the KBO approves an addition of a 10th team.

The KPBPA had issued a statement on Nov. 28, saying it would boycott the ceremony unless the KBO holds a board meeting to discuss expansion.

On Thursday, the association, which is not a unionized body, ratcheted up the pressure and demanded that the KBO approve the entry for a new team immediately.

The KBO had eight clubs in 2012 with a ninth, the NC Dinos, joining the league next year after spending this past season in the minors.

The KPBPA has argued all year that an even-number of teams would reduce scheduling problems and that the KBO should take advantage of the sport's massive popularity by tapping into new markets nationwide.

Opponents of the idea have argued that given the relatively small pool of young baseball talent in the country, further expansion would dilute the quality of play in the KBO and ultimately drive fans away.

Earlier this year, the KPBPA threatened to sit out the 2012 All-Star Game in protest of the KBO's reluctance to discuss expansion. The KBO agreed to resume talks on the matter and the game was held as scheduled.

The KBO has countered that it is still trying to narrow differences among existing clubs and that there is little point in scheduling a board meeting only for the sake of having one.

Park Jae-hong, a veteran outfielder and president of the association, said about 360 players from nine teams attended the general assembly. He said more collective action will be taken unless the league presents a proper roadmap for expansion.

"We withdrew our threat to boycott the All-Star Game in July and asked that the KBO and teams have in-depth talks on expansion," Park said. "But they have postponed discussions since then."

Last month, KT Corp., a local telecom giant, reached a deal with the city of Suwon in Gyeonggi Province to launch an expansion team, with an eye on joining the KBO by 2015.

A consortium of four cities and towns in North Jeolla Province -- Jeonju, Gunsan, Iksan and Wanju -- has been competing with Suwon since last year. North Jeolla provincial officials said earlier this week that Booyoung, a construction company, will soon sign an agreement to found a new baseball team in the region.

Park, the association president, said there's no reason for the KBO to further delay expansion talks since at least two companies have offered to establish an expansion club.

After KT's move, KBO officials said they need time to review the company's proposal and would wait for another corporation to step up and offer to launch a team in North Jeolla.

The KBO has previously said it will cancel the Golden Glove Awards ceremony if players decide to boycott the event. In response to the association's latest threat, Yang Hae-young, secretary general of the KBO, said the league will try to hold a board meeting before the awards ceremony.

"The association wants a clear answer on expansion and we will try to provide one," Yang said. "We don't have much time left, but we will be in touch with team representatives to make that happen."

The KBO, which started in 1982, broke the single-season attendance record for the fourth consecutive season this year, and has seen its attendance figures rise in each of the past six seasons.(END)

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