DUBAI: Baseball United, the first-ever professional baseball league focused on the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, announced today a historic partnership with Emirates Cricket Board.
The ECB will handle government-focused communication, regulations, and policy work, as well as leverage its deep understanding of cricket to advise Baseball United on relevant issues.
The agreement gives Baseball United a 15-year term to host its league in the UAE, which will include games and franchises in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The partnership will allow Baseball United to help drive the commercial and community-focused growth of the sport at the youth, amateur and professional levels. As part of the terms, Baseball United will be responsible for organizing all aspects of its league, including facilitating stadium partnerships, scouting and signing players and coaches, and leading all marketing and operational activities of the league.
“In a season of significant milestones, this partnership with the ECB is our most meaningful to date,” said Kash Shaikh, president, CEO and co-owner of Baseball United. “This is an unprecedented agreement that will enable both Dubai and Abu Dhabi — two of the world’s most attractive cities — the opportunity to be the launchpad for professional baseball in the Middle East. And, importantly, it ensures that Baseball United will be playing baseball here in the UAE for many years to come. We are honored for the trust shown in our organization by the ECB and its Chairman, His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, and we are grateful for their vision and support. We will now work alongside each other to bring the worlds of bat and ball sports together here in the UAE.”
The Middle East and South Asia is home to 2 billion people, 1 billion of whom are cricket fans. Cricket is the second-most popular sport in the world, particularly amongst the fast-growing nations of the Indian subcontinent. According to Baseball United’s research, there are over 65 million avid baseball fans within the region as well, providing a strong foundation to begin building and growing the sport within its diverse, sports-loving communities. Baseball, referred to as “America’s Pastime,” has been played professionally in the US for nearly 150 years.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are home to some of the world’s biggest sporting events, including cricket, rugby, Formula One and mixed martial arts. This will be the first time that both cities will play host to professional baseball.
“Emirates Cricket Board has played a pivotal role in the growth of sport across the UAE for many years,” said Khalid Al-Zarooni, the body’s vice chairman. “Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, the ECB is proud of the reputation we’ve built and the milestones we’ve achieved. Our partnership with Baseball United is another such milestone and together we will expand the opportunities for active engagement across the UAE by introducing another premier bat and ball sport to our portfolio. As the first GCC nation to pioneer this approach, we look forward to continuing to honor the UAE on an international stage.”
Baseball United’s UAE-based league launches this November with a Showcase event hosted at Dubai International Stadium. The Showcase will include the league’s first four franchises, two representing the UAE, as well as the Mumbai Cobras and Karachi Monarchs, which were revealed in recent weeks.
The Mumbai and Karachi franchises are the first professional baseball franchises in the history of India and Pakistan, respectively. The names of the UAE-based franchises will be announced at a later date.
In addition to Shaikh, Baseball United’s ownership group includes legends Barry Larkin, Mariano Rivera, Adrian Beltre and Felix Hernandez. Albert Pujols also recently joined the organization as its global ambassador and executive advisor to the CEO.