Softball world champs safe despite merger

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2012

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The Black Sox will continue to compete at world men's softball championships despite a high-level merger between softball and baseball at international level.

The International Softball Federation (ISF) and International Baseball Federation (IBF) last week agreed to create a new world body aimed at getting men's baseball and women's softball back on the Olympic Games sports schedule.

But speculation that the merger could mean the end of world men's softball championships was wrong, Auckland-based ISF vice-president Bob Leveloff said yesterday.

"The merger between baseball and softball was for the Olympics only, it will only affect the Olympic Games," Leveloff said.

"The heads of agreement quite clearly states that the ISF will continue to run softball and their own tournaments and the IBF will continue to run their own tournaments.

"Softball will still have the men's world championship and the women's world championship. There's no change as far as the ISF is concerned, it's only for the Olympics."

Leveloff said the ISF-IBF federation was no different to other sports, like swimming and cycling, which had different disciplines at the Olympic Games.

The world swimming governing body, Fina, has swimming, diving, water polo and synchronised swimming on the Olympic schedule.

Cycling's world body, UCI, covers track and road cycling, BMX and mountainbiking, which are all Olympic sports.

Baseball and softball were admitted to the Olympic fold for the 1996 Atlanta Games but were dropped after Beijing in 2008.

They have been lobbying the International Olympic Committee for readmittance at the 2020 Olympics.

The merged international body will make its pitch in September, when the IOC will vote to add one sport to the 2020 programme. Roller sports, squash, sports climbing, wakeboard and the martial arts karate and wushu are also chasing an Olympic berth.

Leveloff said baseball and softball would use the same stadium if they were readmitted to the Olympics rather than have two separate facilities.

He said the international merger did not mean softball and baseball had to merge in New Zealand, "unless we want to".

The Black Sox, who have won five world titles - in 1976 as joint champions, 1984, 1996, 2000 and 2004 - will attempt to regain their title at the world championships at Auckland's Rosedale Park in March.

The 2015 world championships have already been allocated to Saskatoon, Canada, where the 2009 tournament was held.

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