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Kagoshima team in cash crisis

by

Staff Writer

The Kagoshima Rebnise have been behind schedule on salary payments to players and team staff for the entire season, The Japan Times has learned.

Interviews with former Rebnise players paint a broad picture of the team’s financial crisis.

Last week, American forward Cyrus Tate, who left the team on Dec. 20 after not getting paid for his work for a month, told this newspaper that “players on the team haven’t been paid for over four months but they continue to travel for games and play games.”

The season started in September.

Through Friday, the Rebnise (5-37) had the worst record in the 18-team second division. According to the latest home attendance figures released in mid-January, Kagoshima was 18th among B2 teams, averaging 537 spectators a game. (The Kumamoto Volters were listed No. 1 at 2,305 per contest.)

Repeated attempts to get clear answers from team officials, the B. League and the Japan Basketball Association have been unsuccessful, said Tate, who now plays for the third-division Saitama Broncos.

The University of Iowa alum told The Japan Times that he sent certified mail requesting payment for his work to the Rebnise front office on Dec. 28 and to B. League chairman Masaaki Ogawa on Feb. 2. This week, the 31-year-old Tate confirmed he’s still not received a reply from either the team or the B. League.

“The B. League and JBA shouldn’t allow teams to do this,” Tate said. “It’s unprofessional. . . .”

Japan basketball has had similar problems in recent memory. For example, Tate experienced unethical business practices when he played for the Oita HeatDevils during the 2012-13 bj-league season. The front office signed a high-priced, talented crop of players before the season, and management said it was already broke weeks later, according to basketball sources. The bankrupt team defaulted on salaries, cut all of its foreign players, gutted the team’s roster and cut salaries by a reported 70 percent for the remaining players who became a part of a newly formed company, which operated without the debts of the former one.

“This is a job, not charity,” Tate said. “We are away from our families and this is how we make a living. I went through the same thing with Oita and I never saw that money I was owed. Now we have this new league that’s supposed to be different and the players are still not protected by the league and these false promises teams make regarding our money. It’s not right and it’s not fair. If this is considered a FIBA league, a league that protects its players, someone needs to step up and do what’s right.”

But this week the B. League and Rebnise front office announced in a pair of news releases that the league decided during a board of directors meeting on Wednesday to grant a ¥15 million loan to the cash-strapped organization, which is operated by Sports Frontier Kagoshima Co., Ltd.

The franchise, formerly known as the Renova Kagoshima which began play in the JBL2 in 2008, needed a bailout.

Kishiko Tsunezawa, a B. League spokeswoman, declined to respond to an inquiry from The Japan Times about whether the league-approved loan would prioritize payment of debts — including salaries to former players.

In short, the league only announced that a loan has been approved.

Meanwhile, ex-Kagoshima center Chad Posthumus echoed Tate’s comments about neglect from Rebnise management.

For several weeks, the Canadian big man said, team executives Ryohei Oyama and Kota Uchida repeatedly ignored text messages asking for clarity on when he would received promised salary payments. Multiple phone calls from Posthumus’ agent have not been returned, either.

After learning this week that the Rebnise had received assurances from the league office for a loan, Posthumus contacted team management seeking answers about when he would get paid what he was owed.

“I messaged them today and still no response,” Posthumus stated on Friday evening. “No one from the club answers us.”

Since leaving the Rebnise, Posthumus, who wrapped up his college career at Morehead (Kentucky) State, suited up for the B1’s Sunrockers Shibuya before recently joining the second-division’s Shinshu Brave Warriors.

FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann did not respond to an email inquiry on the matter.

The FIBA communications department also did not reply to a request to issue a statement before Saturday’s press deadline.

In the past, there were financially struggling bj-league teams that formed spin-off companies, wiping the slate clean and stiffing vendors and team staff of past debts. This unsavory tactic was used on multiple occasions by the HeatDevils, now under a different ownership group and called the Ehime Orange Vikings.

Kagoshima team officials didn’t respond to multiple emails from The Japan Times seeking comment this week.

In a news release posted on the Rebnise website on Tuesday, the team described its dire straits as a “deteriorated management situation.”

A day later, the team issued a statement from representative director Oyama. “We are very grateful that we got the approval, but since we will not be able to solve the drastic problem of management stability, we will continue our self-help efforts and will continue to work hard to further stabilize management,” Oyama was quoted as saying.

Posthumus is concerned the league may not be forcing the team to meet its past obligations, doing the honest, ethical thing.

“When I was playing there I know for a fact the assistant coach, manager, second manager, and at least four Japanese players plus the imports were not being paid,” he said.

He added: “. . . I just spoke with a former team member from Kagoshima and apparently in the last few months no one has been getting paid at all. The league is having meetings with the team and staff, but there isn’t any discussion about paying past owed salaries, just future payments.

“To this date I have still not been paid,” Posthumus went on. “I have contacted the president. Mr. Oyama and the CEO Mr. Uchida personally over 20 times. I have messages on Facebook showing that they have read what I sent but not responded. As well I have emailed and called them multiple times, but they do not answer.”