New sumo chief must clean house
The installation of a new chairman of the Japan Sumo Association is a chance to renew the professional sumo world. It is a chance the JSA must seize.
Musashigawa, formerly yokozuna Mienoumi, resigned the JSA chairmanship Thursday, and Hanaregoma, formerly ozeki Kaiketsu, was elected to become the 11th chairman of the sport's governing body.
As public trust in the sumo world is eroding over the illegal baseball gambling scandal, the new chairman needs to exercise strong leadership to carry out drastic reform of the association.
Scandals and resignations
Musashigawa took the chairman's post two years ago, succeeding Kitanoumi, who had resigned to take responsibility over a drug scandal. Although Musashigawa appeared to be resolved to reform the sumo world, he failed to actually do so.
Following the revelation that sumo wrestlers of his stable were involved in baseball gambling, Musashigawa was suspended from duty during the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament last month. He thus was unable to exercise his leadership in the operation of the event.
He cited poor health as his reason for stepping down, but he apparently resigned to take responsibility over the scandal.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, which oversees the JSA, had indicated it was desirable for the association to have someone from outside the sumo world, rather than a former sumo wrestler, take up the chairman's post.
This stance likely reflected the reality that stablemasters, deeply embedded in a closed organizational culture, failed to correct its flaws on their own despite a series of scandals involving the sumo world.
But the JSA board again picked an insider for the chairman's post. This can be interpreted as a sign that board members believe only former wrestlers, who are familiar with the inner workings of the sumo world, can serve in the association's top post.
Hanaregoma won popularity as a wrestler for his sincere attitude in the ring. As a stablemaster, he has nurtured yokozuna Onokuni and others and is known to be scrupulous. The JSA thus pinned its hopes on his clean image as it looked for someone to steer the body toward revival.
Hanaregoma said at an inauguration press conference, "I'll make my utmost effort now that I've accepted the post." He also has indicated that he will consider increasing the number of JSA executives from outside the sumo world to tackle the mountain of problems it faces.
We hope the JSA will be transformed into an open organization by discarding its inward-looking mentality--of which it is sarcastically said that common sense in the sumo world is not common sense for the general public--and that it will proactively incorporate the views of outside people.
Toss gangs out of ring
The JSA must first sever ties with gang organizations, which were revealed in a series of scandals, including the illegal betting on professional baseball games. The first step to restore public trust must be to expeditiously and thoroughly implement antigang measures.
It is also essential to address medium- to long-term issues such as the JSA's organizational reform.
The Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament starts on Sept. 12. Within less than a month, the new JSA chairman must take the lead in presenting a road map for reform with which sumo fans would be satisfied.
The sumo world will otherwise again find itself at the center of an imbroglio such as was seen in the Nagoya meet, which was rocked by such developments as NHK's decision not to broadcast the event live.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2010)