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Coronavirus blow to Japanese sports industry may hit ¥274.7 billion

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff writer

The economic damage sustained by the Japanese sports industry as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak could reach a staggering ¥274.7 billion ($2.56 billion), according to renowned economist Katsuhiro Miyamoto.

Of that sum, 46 percent — ¥127.2 billion ($1.19 billion) — would be shouldered by many of the country's professional competitions, with the remainder impacting related industries such as manufacturers of merchandise, stadium concessions and sports equipment.

The report covered many of the country's professional circuits such as sumo, Nippon Professional Baseball, soccer's J. League and basketball's B. League. But it excluded sports with legalized betting such as horse racing, keirin and motorboat racing.

“Japan’s pro sports industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus, which has caused problems since around the beginning of this year,” Miyamoto said in a statement. “Bigger organizations, clubs and teams could perhaps endure it, but there are concerns for smaller-scale organizations and clubs that will require a lot more time to recover from it."

The professor emeritus at Kansai University, who is famous for estimating the domestic economic impact of various major sporting events such as the Olympics, World Baseball Classic and the Hiroshima Carp’s pennant-winning years, calculated the financial damages those pro leagues and organizations expect to suffer between the beginning of this year and end of June.

Miyamoto studied the six-month period because he assumed that the impact of the nationwide state of emergency would continue through the end of June.

On Thursday, the government decided to lift the state of emergency in 39 prefectures.

In his report, Miyamoto estimated that NPB, Japan's biggest sports league with total annual revenue of around ¥180 billion ($1.7 billion), could see revenues fall by 40 percent to ¥108 billion ($1 billion), under the assumption that many games this season will be played either without fans entirely or with a limited number allowed in the stands.

Likewise, Miyamoto estimated that the J. League would lose about ¥3.9 billion ($36.4 million), reducing its earnings to ¥9.1 billion ($85 million).

For sumo, which is Japan's biggest individual pro sport in terms of business scale, Miyamoto suggested that revenue in 2020 could drop from about ¥14 billion ($130.5 million) to ¥8.4 billion ($78.3 million).

March’s Spring Grand Sumo Tournament was held behind closed doors and this month's Summer Basho has been canceled. The Japan Sumo Association has announced that the July tournament will be moved from Nagoya to Tokyo, where it will likely be hosted in an empty Ryogoku Kokugikan.

“Hopefully, these troubles will settle down as soon as possible so that the Japanese public will be able to enjoy professional sports," Miyamoto said.

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