A panel of knowledgeable people organized by the Japan High School Baseball Association has begun discussions on what to do about preferential treatment — such as exemptions of admission and dormitory fees and tuition — offered to talented baseball players. It is hoped that the panel will find a solution to a confusing problem that has roiled the world of high-school baseball, a nationally popular sport.

Such preferential treatment is prohibited by Chapter 13 of the Japan Student Baseball Association. In a survey in late April, the high-school baseball association found that 376 high schools, all private schools except one, had violated the rule by providing 7,971 students with preferential treatment. Many schools voluntarily withdrew from preliminaries for the summer tournament at Koshien Stadium as a result. The high-school baseball association had issued a reminder concerning the rule in November 2005 and on another occasion.

But some school officials are angry that some schools did not honestly reply in the survey. There also is the opinion that abolition of the preferential treatment system will hurt many private high schools financially. School officials explain that the system helps schools gain fame in baseball, which in turn attracts middle-school graduates and leads to stronger financial foundations. They also point out that preferential treatment for students is allowed in other sports such as soccer.

In a concession, the high-school baseball association has agreed to let high schools offer preferential treatment to students who enter school in April 2008 if the students really need financial assistance. What to do from 2009 on will hinge on discussions of the panel, whose members include educators and people from the legal profession, broadcast industry and the sporting world. The panel will issue a report by early October.

How to pragmatically apply Chapter 13 of the Japan Student Baseball Association will be the most difficult task. It is hoped that the panel will carefully listen to all opinions of the various parties concerned and find a reasonable compromise.

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