Why has MLB Failed to Catch the Attention of Europeans?

When many Europeans hear about the World Series, they can’t help but ask why an American championship would pose as a tournament of the world?  Unfortunately, the interest tends to end here for many.

While the MLB holds ambitious plans to spread its appeal across Europe, it does not appear to have made much of an effort in the past few decades. NFL and NBA are both popular sports on the other side of the Atlantic, so why is MLB not enjoying similar levels of interest?  The same principle applies to betting on baseball, and it probably is not as simple as pointing to the different ways the odds are presented on betting sites.

Following the NFL Model

One way for the sport of baseball to become more popular among commercial audiences in places like Ireland, Britain, and France is to follow the NFL model. Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland and Wembley Stadium in London, England have hosted football games since the 1990’s. London Stadium has already been earmarked for regular season NFL games starting in 2019. The hope from the MLB’s perspective is that attention will be significant enough to make this a long-term thing.
This year, the additional four day expansion set to help promote the game in the rest of the Americas, parts of Asia, and England seems to be a good start. Gaining access to areas which are dominated by other sports may be easier said than done, however.

Competing with Other Sports

Soccer is without a doubt the largest sport in Europe. With other sports battling for the attention of fans as it stands, the project of making MLB appealing to Europeans will be difficult, but it is not impossible. When we look at the various setups of other sports in European countries, things do like complex.

The greatest example to use for a European country and the potential success of American sports in its current state is perhaps Ireland. As an English speaking country with deep roots to America, the Irish people have often shown interest in sports from across the pond. While this may be partly driven by the connection to the Boston Celtics and Notre Dame (although not a professional football team), there is a tangible interest on the Emerald Isle.

Where things get tricky is that, in Ireland, soccer – the major sport of Europe - is not even the most popular sport. In fact, it is currently ranked third, in terms of popularity. Gaelic football and Hurling are the games the Irish love the most, with the aforementioned soccer in third and rugby not far off. With a passible interest in NFL and NBA, it seems difficult to see how MLB could penetrate this market.

Progress is a Slow Process

Where MLB need to start is by increasing its presence among European fans, and pushing its way into contention. There is so much potential for the sport to be globally received, but there will be many hurdles to overcome before it can reach those heights.

A World Series featuring teams from around the world may be a little unrealistic right now, but it does not always have to be this way.
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