Sometimes making absurd demands can be the best way to drive people to better their efforts.
That’s how it seems to be working for Japan’s various men’s basketball clubs in the race to form a unified league by 2016.
On Wednesday, the 47 clubs were officially notified of the criteria for joining the new men’s top circuit, which would tip off in the fall of 2016, following the second meeting of Japan 2024 Task Force in Tokyo.
The task force was created by FIBA after the Japan Basketball Association was suspended by the sport’s governing body last year.
The majority of the criteria are based on what task force co-chair Saburo Kawabuchi had revealed as his personal preferences a few weeks prior, including the requirement of teams having a 5,000-seat arena.
The 78-year-old Kawabuchi jokingly said he was pleased that the meeting with the clubs became more like a rally, instead of a protest meeting.
“I thought that (the team representatives) would turn their backs on the idea of having 5,000-seat arenas, but it wasn’t like that,” Kawabuchi said. “In fact, some clubs have already been working on making it happen.”
Right after they got the plans straight from Kawabuchi’s mouth in mid-February, some club representatives showed their reluctance. But on Wednesday, they seemed to have made up their minds to try to cope with the criteria.
“It’s tough, but that’s what we’re asked to do,” said Yuki Mizuno, president of the bj-league’s Akita Northern Happinets. “It’s difficult with the current facilities (to have 5,000), but we would like to act to achieve it.”
Eiji Seino, general manager of the NBL’s Toyota Alvark, said that the corporate team has been having positive discussions about playing in the new league despite the difficult criteria (which includes creating an independent company to run a team, which hasn’t been done at majority of the corporate clubs).
“We’re basically constructive,” Seino said. “We’ve actively gone to games to exchange opinions with others. We are happy that we can cooperate with everybody.”
The task force has held individual hearings with around 20 teams while 30 clubs have turned over their financial documents to provide clues for the makeup of the new three-division league.
Masaki Sakaida, a lawyer and advisory member of the task force who has run the hearings with the teams, said he’s received forward-looking impressions from the meetings.
“While a lot of clubs have had tough times running their teams for a long time, they see the establishment of the task force as a good opportunity,” Sakaida said.
Meanwhile, Kawabuchi originally said that team selections for the new league would be done by the end of May, but that has been extended to August to provide more time for discussion on the qualification of the teams.
“If we easily finish it in May, the media isn’t going to write on it beyond the point,” the former J League chairman joked. “But seriously, it’d be difficult to draw the line within May. We are going to need more time for hearings.”
The final criteria to join the new circuit are expected to be announced on March 25 following the next task force meeting.
Kawabuchi warned the team representatives not to expect the criteria to have been relaxed by then.
“Making the capacity from 5,000 to 4,000 — there’s no chance for that to happen,” he said.
According to the task force, a general incorporated association will be formed to run the new league on April 1.
The number of import players on the floor is one of the elements that will be discussed by the time. Though Kawabuchi said in assured tones that rules would not allow three foreigners on the floor at the same time.
Kawabuchi also said that there’d be promotions/demotions of teams within the divisions beginning in the new league’s inaugural season.
However, Kawabuchi said that he had no intention of running the new league, although he would serve as the tentative chairman until someone was officially named to the position.
Ingo Weiss, co-chairman of the task force and a member of FIBA’s central board, hinted that the suspension of the JBA could be lifted during FIBA’s central board meeting in late June if the JBA could meet the demands of the sport’s world governing body.
Weiss, a German, said the JBA would have to resolve two of the biggest issues in order for that happen: reformation of the JBA and its governance and the unification of the leagues.
“We would like the teams to clearly express their attitudes to join the new league. We’ll present the details for the terms of it for the teams in late May,” Weiss said through an interpreter. “When (the two things) are fulfilled, I think that we can give a go sign then.”
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