Judo federation’s next move

The scandal-ridden All Japan Judo Federation will hold an extraordinary meeting of councilors on July 30 to discuss a proposal to dismiss 23 directors, including chairman Haruki Uemura.

The very submission of the proposal testifies to the seriousness of the problems the federation is facing. The federation needs to have Mr. Uemura take responsibility for the problems in a clear way — by resigning. If it does not come up with a convincing conclusion, it will further deepen people’s distrust of it.

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, the AJJF’s misappropriation of funds from the Japan Sports Council (JSC) also surfaced. 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. A third-party investigation committee has called on the federation to return ¥60.55 million to the JSC.

In its report on the AJJF’s scandals handed to Mr. Uemura at the end of April, the committee said that the AJJF is plagued by unreasonable old customs and lacks both a law-abiding spirit and the ability to govern itself. It also pointed out that the responsibility lay with Mr. Uemura as head of the judo organization as well as with a former secretary general and a former head of the section to improve the skills of judo players.

The Public Interest Corporation Commission of the Cabinet Office, upon receiving a report from the AJJF on its scandals, also pointed out that the judo organization lacked sincerity in its handling of the scandals because the federation tried to give slapdash explanations without holding a meeting of directors.

Mr. Uemura changed his attitude over time. In April he hinted that he would resign. But in mid-June, he suddenly said that he would stay on to fulfill his duty. On June 24, he said that he would resign in October after efforts to reform the AJJF have been firmly set in motion. On the same day, he set up a task force to speed up the reform efforts. But many people concerned harbor suspicions about him because he changed his attitude quickly.

Mr. Kenji Ryotokuji, a councilor of the AJJF, has submitted a proposal to dismiss 23 directors including Mr. Uemura. The AJJF has 59 councilors. If a majority of the councilors present at the June 30 meeting support the proposal, the directors must resign. The proposal does not cover six new directors, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Ms. Ryoko Tani.

In case the councilors fail to dismiss Mr. Uemura and other directors, he should not take a defiant attitude by saying that he overcame a crisis. Instead, he should resign immediately to take responsibility for the AJFF’s scandals. This will give impetus to the organization’s reform efforts.