The Japan Sumo Association, which has been rocked by the gambling scandal, was dealt more blows last week. On Tuesday, NHK decided not to provide live television coverage of the 15-day Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament. On Wednesday, police raided Onomatsu and other sumo stables for evidence of suspected illegal gambling among wrestlers and stablemasters, in which gangsters may have had a hand.
The development is a wakeup call for the JSA to end questionable practices traditionally tolerated in the sumo world and to sever whatever ties it may have with underworld groups. Such groups are suspected of having played important roles in staging sumo tournaments in local regions.
NHK started its live radio broadcast of Grand Sumo Tournaments in 1928 and live TV broadcasts in 1953. Even a 2007 hazing death of a young wrestler, a 2008 marijuana scandal involving wrestlers, and yokozuna Asashoryu’s alleged assault on a man in January 2010 did not result in NHK’s suspension of live broadcast of the tournaments. Live sumo programs bring NHK a high audience rating while the JSA receives a big fee for broadcasting rights. The amount is not disclosed.
NHK Chairman Shigeo Fukuchi said NHK’s decision this time was a difficult one. Many sumo fans, both in and outside Japan, must have been disappointed by the decision. Attention must be drawn to the number of NHK-TV viewers who wanted live coverage of the Nagoya sumo event dropped. Of some 12,600 people who contacted NHK by Tuesday, some 8,600 or 68 percent opposed live coverage while some 1,600 or 13 percent supported it.
Mr. Fukuchi said the fact that so many people contacted NHK concerning an incident that happened outside NHK shows how seriously people are taking the gambling scandal in the sumo world. He also said the JSA has failed to show what steps it will take to reform itself. The JSA must realize that people are looking at it with stern eyes and that if it fails to reform itself, it may face a bigger crisis in the future.
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