• Kyodo News


Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hanaregoma pledged in an official declaration Monday to permanently keep mobsters out of sumo.

“We will not allow gangsters at any sumo-related events, from tournaments to training tours to booster club functions to the stables,” Hanaregoma said as he read out the declaration at the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena in Tokyo. “We will not let them be involved in any business dealings with sumo.”

Ten wrestlers in the top makuuchi and juryo divisions were suspended for the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July and ozeki Kotomitsuki was banned for life for gambling on baseball, a huge source of revenue for organized crime.

Hanaregoma had been expected to make the declaration after the gambling case was laid to rest.

He has been under pressure to act fast with the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament starting Sept. 12, and the sumo association — the sport’s governing body — is hoping NHK will resume its live sumo broadcasts.

Hanaregoma said he couldn’t let the scandal drag on any longer than it already has.

“I’m determined not to let this kind of thing happen again,” he said. “The fall basho is approaching fast, and I couldn’t allow this to go on any longer.

“But this isn’t the end. For sumo to return to what it was before Nagoya, we still have a long way to go.”

Association Vice Chairman Hiroyoshi Murayama, a former Tokyo prosecutor who was acting chairman before Hanaregoma took over, said he was pleased by the swiftness with which sumo has acted in trying to rebuild its public image.

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