The Japan Sumo Association said Saturday it will solicit opinions from experts and the public about its heavily criticized policy of banning women from setting foot in the sumo ring.

The association held an extraordinary meeting of its board of directors to address the tradition but did not reach a conclusion, participants said. But it clarified that women can enter the sumo ring in emergencies as an "exception."

The raised ring, or dohyō, is regarded as sacred in the male-only sport, which observes rites closely linked to Shinto and Buddhism. The ring is off-limits to women, who are considered "ritually unclean" because they menstruate.