Japan Sumo Association chairman Hanaregoma declared on Aug. 30 that the association will cut all ties with gangsters, a statement that was endorsed by the JSA’s executive board and board of trustees. The JSA has been rocked by such scandals as members helping yakuza get ringside seats and gambling on professional baseball games, a source of revenue for organized crime. We hope that the JSA follows through on its declaration and begins a serious effort to reform and modernize.

Under the shadow of the scandals, the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July was unusual. Ten makuuchi and juryo wrestlers were suspended and ozeki Kotomitsuki was banned for life for gambling on baseball games. NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) did not provide live coverage of the tournament. The Emperor’s Trophy was not handed to the winner.

After the Aug. 30 declaration, NHK decided to resume the live broadcast of sumo with the start of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo from Sept. 12. But the JSA is still in the process of returning to normal. It decided on new disciplinary measures Sept. 8 against some JSA members in connection with the gambling and yakuza problems. NHK has made it clear that if a new problem arises, it may suspend live coverage again. Whether the JSA is serious about reform will be tested.

In the Aug. 30 declaration, the JSA said, among other things, that it will not allow gangsters into the sites of tournaments and stables, will not let them take part in booster group activities and will not let organized crime conduct any transactions with the JSA, including the rental of halls and training sites, ticket sales and promotional activities during tours. The latter point is important because it is widely believed that organized crime plays an important role when the JSA holds sumo matches in local cities.

It is vital that the JSA have each member understand the declaration and behave in accordance with it. The JSA also should boost its system to give advice to members or answer their questions on how to deal with situations that may involve gangsters.

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