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Um, Why Did The Adelaide Crows Just Buy A Baseball Team?

Is Adelaide FC poised to be Australia's first super club?

The age of the sporting super club in Australia may well be upon us.

The Adelaide Crows have acquired an Australian professional baseball team, the Adelaide Bite, meaning the biggest football club in South Australia now has a presence in the AFL, the AFL Women’s competition and the Australian Baseball League.

Adelaide Football Club CEO Andrew Fagan and Crows Chairman Rob Chapman announce the Crows AFL club have become the sole owners of the Adelaide Bite. (Image: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)

Last year the Crows also ventured into the eSports phenomenon, acquiring a  professional eSports team which competes in the League of Legends.

Don’t laugh too hard at that – the eSports international audience is close to 300 million people. The industry is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion. In America, Twitch, the leading platform for viewing video game streams and eSports competitions, currently averages more concurrent viewers per day than leading cable news channels, MSNBC and CNN.

This idea of several professional sporting teams coming under one umbrella of a ‘super club’ may be the way of the future.

It already happens overseas. FC Barcelona, for example, owns a range of professional sports teams that complement their world famous football team.

On a much smaller scale, some of our local clubs are moving in this direction, too. Collingwood, for example, has not only Melbourne’s biggest football club, but also an AFLW and super netball team. The GWS Giants also has a presence in both the AFLW and Super Netball.

In 2016, Rugby League’s Melbourne Storm joined forces with the University of the Sunshine Coast to create the Sunshine Coast Lightening who beat the Giants to win last year’s Super Netball Grand Final.

Furthermore, the Essendon Football Club, which also has an eSports team, and the Hawthorn Football Club recently took a good hard look at the idea of entering a team in the resurging National Basketball League. While both clubs ultimately decided to put the idea on the back burner, the notion of an AFL club-owned basketball team in the NBL is still a distinct possibility in the future.

AFL teams have looked at expanding their sporting portfolios by entering teams in the NBL. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Many fans worry their sporting teams may be taking their eye off the ball. Adelaide board member Rod Jameson reassured fans that while they’re excited about their foray into the sport of baseball, their ‘absolute focus is on footy.’

Jameson’s promised, "It won't impact our on-field performance and it won't affect our football club."

There are also concerns about associated costs. A new professional sporting team adds a whole lot of line items to the profit and loss statement for the Crows.

But the benefits just may trump all of that. Acquiring or creating new teams in different sports offers greater brand exposure to a new audience and gives existing fans further reason to engage with the club.

Collingwood fans, for example, can actively barrack for their AFL, AFLW and Super Netball teams almost all year long.  Given the NBL is played over the summer months, should an AFL or NRL team one day enter the competition, their brand and club will be relevant, in the news, and on TV for 12 months a year.

This can lead to further revenues through lucrative sponsorships, ticket sales, membership and merchandise sales.

Plus, sports such as baseball and basketball are truly global sports, opening up commercial opportunities and increasing brand exposure abroad.

The revamped ABL is expanding into Asia later this year, which will include teams from Korea and New Zealand.

As Baseball Australia CEO, Cam Vale pointed out, “There will be a minimum 40 ABL games broadcast into Korea to a total audience exceeding 10 million people, not to mention broadcasts into other countries such as Japan, Taiwan and the United States.”

More than 34 million people went to professional baseball games in Asia last year.

Basketball is the same.  If an AFL club enters the NBL, it could be that one day Essendon, for example, might play a pre-season or exhibition match against an NBA franchise in, say, New York or LA, with tens of millions of Americans looking on.

Of course, if this notion takes off we might find a certain sameness around each sporting competition we follow. Do we really want the same clubs competing in all our different sports?

This may not happen for there are many strong competitions with vibrant, strong teams with rusted on fans that aren’t going anywhere.

However, if a team such as Collingwood follows the Crows into the ABL, the world of eSports, or pioneers an NBL team, in the blink of an eye they’d have a team in the elite competitions of men’s football, women’s football, netball and potentially basketball, baseball and eSports.

In Australia, that’s a super club. And a powerful one, too.