Mr. Haruki Uemura, chairman of the All Japan Judo Federation, announced Monday that he will resign around October to take the responsibility for a series of scandals that have hit the judo organization. His refusal to step down immediately is untenable. He should take seriously the call for him to step down sooner, which members of the AJJF’s regional council made the following day.
In January it surfaced that the coach of the All-Japan women’s judo team used violence on female judo players during practice. The coach, Mr. Ryuji Sonoda, resigned Feb. 1.
In a separate incident, a third-party investigation committee at the end of April handed Mr. Uemura a report on the AJJF’s misappropriation of funds from the Japan Sports Council (JSC). The report said the responsibility lay with Mr. Uemura as head of the judo organization.
The Public Interest Corporation Commission of the Cabinet Office, upon receiving a report from the AJJF on its scandals, pointed out that the judo organization lacked sincerity in its handling of the scandals.
Nonetheless, Mr. Uemura decided to stay on his course even as people concerned stressed that a complete change in the AJJF’s executive body is necessary.
Mr. Uemura said that it would be irresponsible of him to throw the AJJF into a state of confusion by stepping down without completing the reforms. He also said that he would like to hand his job to the next generation after making full preparations for them.
Although Mr. Uemura stresses the importance of reforming the AJJF, the scandals did not take place because there was something wrong with its organizational structure. The root cause is the AJJF’s culture, which embraced the use of violent coaching methods. The AJJF’s executive body also demonstrated a lack of a law-abiding spirit in the misappropriation scandal. The AJJF had 27 unqualified judo coaches receive ¥36.2 million in support funds from the JSC and then donate most of the money to the AJJF.
There are no fundamental defects in the AJJF’s rules, including those governing decision making. Rather, the attitude of the executive body is the problem. It is suspected that the executive body often made decisions without first having the board of directors hold the necessary discussions.
Mr. Uemura should help the executive body possess a law-embracing spirit by resigning immediately. This will enable a new executive body to quickly address the AJJF’s problems. The appointment of the first three female directors on its board, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Ms. Ryoko Tani, offers a good chance to do so.
Mr. Uemura must pay serious attention to the fact that AJJF sponsors have stopped donating funds. As long as he stays, judo will continue to suffer from a tainted image, and many children may refrain from joining judo clubs, thus weakening the future prospects of Japanese judo.