Councilors of the scandal-ridden All Japan Judo Federation held an extraordinary meeting July 30 to discuss a proposal to dismiss 23 directors, including Chairman Haruki Uemura, but rejected it. After the meeting, Mr. Uemura announced that he will resign in mid-August along with two vice chairmen, the managing director and the secretary general.
The development shows that the AJJF lacks not only a sense of crisis in this matter but also the ability and will to take the immediate action needed to reform itself. By resigning, Mr. Uemura is merely following the Cabinet Office’s July 23 recommendation to renew the AJJF leadership in August.
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. 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; the coaches then donated most of the money to the AJJF. A third-party investigation panel has called on the AJJF to return ¥60.55 million to the JSC.
Mr. Uemura said on July 30 that the current AJJF leadership will return the money to the JSC. But this will be far from rectifying the damage done to the AJJF. A report submitted by the third-party investigation committee to Mr. Uemura at the end of April pointed out that the responsibility for the existence of unreasonable old customs and a lack of both a law-abiding spirit and the ability to govern itself 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 problem is that Mr. Uemura did not resign immediately to establish a new setup to carry out drastic reform and changed his position over the time. This reinforced an impression among the public that the AJJF is not serious about reform.
In April he hinted that he would resign. But in mid-June, he suddenly said that he would stay on to fulfill his duties. 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 reform efforts. Then came his July 30 announcement that he will resign in mid-August.
The councilors’ refusal to have Mr. Uemura and 22 other directors resign means that the AJJF has no intention of clarifying the leadership’s responsibility for the scandals. Whoever may take over the leadership, the AJJF will not be able to resuscitate itself unless it sheds opaque habits and makes its management transparent and accountable to the outside.
The new leadership should devote itself to healthy promotion of judo by nurturing a democratic and ethical environment.