Exclusive - Softball, Baseball Edge Closer to Joint Olympic Bid

(ATR) The international federations for baseball and softball appear close to signing a merger that would include a  bid to return to the Olympics. ATR's Mark Bisson reports.

(ATR) International Softball Federation vice president Dale McMann tells Around the Ringsthey are "working hard" to iron out differences ina Memorandum of Understanding between the two federations, expected to be signed in the next two weeks. McMann said a combined body would be formed to oversee the joint bid.

ISF president Don Porter and his International Baseball Federation (IBAF) counterpart Riccardo Fraccari are scheduled to finalize plans at the Association of National Olympic Committees in Moscow next month.

Requirements for both federations are laid out in the MoU, which include doping and ensuring that some of the world's top baseball and softball players are made available for the Olympics, an issue of major importance for the IOC.

"It is a question of whether the requirements can be met by both sports," McMann said, noting that the biggest concern for softball was IBAF guaranteeing that some MLB stars would be released to play in the Olympics.

"Baseball and softball are both working hard to reach an understanding around this," he added.

"Once that [the MoU] is signed the next step would be moving forward with the IOC to ensure that both baseball and softball have its approvalfor a joint bid," McMann said.

Leaders of the two federations would make a presentation to the IOC about the joint bid proposal on April 19 or 20 in Lausanne, he added.

McMann emphasized that the IOC had not so far expressed any dissatisfaction with the federations teaming up.

"The meeting in April is to let the IOC know whether we intend to move forward with this formally or not and to have them do their due diligence," he said.

"The issues and challenges are that both federations are recognised by the IOC as individual sports. Can they from a legal standpoint accept a single bid from two sports?."

If baseball and softball fail to reach agreement on the MoU, McMann said that softball would strike out alone in its quest to regain Olympic status.

"In either case, what it has done is create a stronger relationship between the two sports," he said.

Both sports are vying with karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard and wushu to secure the one place available on the 2020 Olympic program. The IOC will vote at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires.

In 2005, the IOC voted to kick baseball and softball off the program. The two sports failed with separate bids to regain their Olympic berths for Rio 2016 when golf and rugby were voted on as new sports.

Reported by Mark Bisson

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