All 47 clubs of the NBL, NBDL and bj-league, including expansion teams for the 2015-16 season, are scheduled to join the new men’s basketball league in Japan in 2016. The Japan 2024 Task Force made the announcement in Tokyo on Tuesday.
With six teams, including all of the NBL’s corporate clubs, such as the Toyota Alvark and Toshiba Brave Thunders, submitting their application documents to the task force on the day, a total of 46 teams have completed the process.
The Tokyo Marine Nichido Big Blue are the only team that has not turned in its paperwork. But task force officials said that the NBDL club was likely to follow the others soon. The application period will close at the end of this month.
The 47 clubs include the Hachioji Trains of the NBDL and the bj-league’s Kanazawa Samuraiz, expansion teams for the 2015-16 campaign. The Hiroshima Lightning, who began playing in the bj-league’s Challenge League this season and will be promoted to the bj-league next year, are also on the list for the new circuit, which is likely to be called the Japan Professional Basketball League.
The JPBL is scheduled to tip off in the fall of 2016.
Task force co-chair Saburo Kawabuchi said after a Tuesday meeting that some clubs that had been in critical financial situations like the Takamatsu Five Arrows (bj-league) have received support from local administrations and sponsors in the last month or so because they wouldn’t want to lose those teams from their towns.
“Previously, (the clubs) hadn’t been able to cooperate with the local authorities well enough,” Kawabuchi said at a news conference after the task force meeting at a Tokyo hotel. “But now they get some support from them. Without a doubt, the league is going to be successful.”
The teams set to become JPBL members will be announced in late May. Kawabuchi said that he didn’t want to exclude any clubs. So all the clubs are expected to be placed in one of the three divisions.
In late July, team allocations are scheduled to be revealed. A total of 12 to 16 teams are expected to form the top division, while some 20 teams will be in the second division and the rest will play in the third, a regional league.
Kawabuchi said that the allocations wouldn’t be judged just by how good they are now on the court but by looking at all the qualifications thoroughly.
“A team’s personnel may change in a year,” Kawabuchi said. “We may get teams that make us think they will be bigger going forward and the possibilities are not too small. Look at Kashima Antlers. They were said to be one of the weakest teams, but we thought that they had a lot of support from around and would expand, and decided to get them in (for the J. League first division).”
Lawyer and task force member Masaki Sakaeda said that he has the impression that roughly 30 clubs hope to play in the top division.
Kawabuchi, who’s expected to be appointed the next Japan Basketball Association president in mid-May, also referred to the development of the national teams. The former J. League chairman said that the task force would force the national team players to participate in training camps and tournaments no matter what, whereas there have been instances in the past when players have been excused from national team activities due to circumstances of their teams and schools.
Again, Kawabuchi compared the situations in basketball with soccer, his own field.
“In the ’70s and ’80s, when the JFA called up players, they wouldn’t want to come to the national team, because the team was weak and they’d get bad treatment,” he said. “I think this situation is a little similar to that. But after the J. League started, players like Kazu (Kazuyoshi Miura) and (Ruy) Ramos joined the team and it got better. Hopefully, we would like to do something like that through this reformation.”
Also in the Tuesday task force meeting, six candidates for JBA board member spots were announced.
The six are: Kawabuchi (former JFA president), Kiyoko Ono (gymnastics bronze medalist in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and a former member of the House of Councilors), Ichiro Yamamoto (JX Holdings executive), Masaaki Okawa (J. League managing director and JBA secretary general), Yuko Mitsuya (volleyball bronze medalist in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and Japan Volleyball Association councilor) and Yoshiyuki Mano (professor of sport sciences at Waseda University).
The term for the board members will be for a year. The board members are also expected to be approved in the mid-May meeting.
Kawabuchi said that FIBA had asked the task force to select non-basketball people so they wouldn’t have any relationships with the basketball circle that had run the sport in Japan.
But the task force, which plans to select two more candidates, actually will have at least one person who has a basketball background.
“We the soccer circle won’t take over the basketball circle,” Kawabuchi insisted, referring to some basketball authorities who have concerns that the sport would be run by non-hoop people.
Task force co-chair Ingo Weiss said that he wants to invite Kawabuchi to the FIBA Central Board meeting in Switzerland on June 19 and 20 to have him explain the situation and progress on all the issues the JBA was suspended for.
Weiss, a German, added that if the reports are positive, he believes that the suspension will be lifted.
The next task force meeting is scheduled to be held on May 13.
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