Japan look set to defend their title at next year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) after emergency talks averted the threat of a player boycott on Tuesday.
Japan’s players had voted to strike, angry over their share of sponsorship revenue from the tournament, until several rounds of meetings finally led to a softening of their position.
Players’ association president Takahiro Arai said an agreement had been reached to play in March, when Japan will be bidding to win the tournament for the third time in a row.
“All players from all 12 (of Japan’s professional) clubs were in favour of reversing the decision not to take part,” Arai told reporters.
Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) commissioner Ryozo Kato had warned the players’ union that a boycott would be frowned on at home after last year’s tsunami and nuclear crisis.
The players have demanded that sponsorship revenues for the Japanese team be shared by the NPB and players’ union instead of being pooled with other revenues and divided later.
“The WBC is a big tournament where you’re fighting for the prestige of your country,” said Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, who led Japan to their second triumph in 2009.
“It’s good to be able to continue that. NPB and the players faced a lot of problems but to be able to come to a solution has real significance.”
A relieved Kato said: “There was not much time left. I’m happy we will be able to choose a team of top-level players for the tournament and go there with the aim of winning.”
The Japanese have a history of discontent regarding the issue of sponsorship rights, threatening to organize an Asian boycott of the inaugural 2006 tournament.
Major League Baseball and its players reportedly received 33 per cent of the total revenue from the 2009 WBC, while Japan got just 13 percent.
A meeting between a Japanese delegation and tournament organizers in New York last month failed to break the deadlock.
However, the Japanese were told that there were specific forms of sponsorship and licensing revenue that would stay in Japan, according to Kyodo news agency.