The B. League will increase the number of first-division teams to 24 in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons, the men’s professional circuit announced after its board meeting on Tuesday.

A total of 20 clubs are competing in the top-tier B1 this year after two were promoted from the B2. The league had announced last year that it would expand the number to 22 for the 2021-22 campaign.

Two more B2 sides will join in the following year and the circuit has decided to maintain those figures — with 24 in B1 and 14 in B2 — through at least the 2023-24 season. Each division is currently divided into two conferences, a system that will remain until next year. But the league will return to a three-conference format once the B1 expands to 24.

Acknowledging concerns that too many teams could dilute the quality of the B1, league officials said the decision was made to protect clubs from financial damaged caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic by keeping them in the top tier, which draws the biggest spotlight, before the next phase of the league’s business expansion begins in 2026.

Speaking to an online news conference, B. League Chairman Shinji Shinji did not exclude the possibility of the B1 expanding to 26 or more teams in the future.

“In order for us to enter the next business phase, and considering that it makes it easier for the clubs to earn revenues and to get their respective local cities involved, we won’t stop promoting teams,” Shimada said.

Meanwhile, the league also decided to take a stricter attitude toward cases of abuse as well as illegal drug usage, with incidents of both rising this season.

Earlier this month, the league announced disciplinary measures against the B1’s Niigata Albirex BB and the B2’s Ehime Orange Vikings.

Albirex club president and general manager Manabu Kosuge was punished after verbally abusing an unnamed team staffer during a January series.

And Ehime head coach Kazuhiro Shoji was suspended from his role for three months after physically and verbally harassing multiple players. The team’s GM Daisuke Seki was rebuked for not trying to resolve Shoji’s behavior despite having been briefed on the coach’s actions.

Both cases came to light through a league-established harassment tip line for players and team staffers. While other measures such as the hiring of compliance officers and e-learning lectures have worked effectively, the B. League plans on taking further actions and will poll players to get a better understanding of the current landscape.

Likewise, the league has also decided to institute mandatory drug tests after Hiroshima Dragonflies forward Jamari Traylor was arrested for his alleged involvement in smuggling liquid cannabis from the United States in March. Last week, Toyama Grouses forward Richard Solomon was apprehended for suspected possession of liquid cannabis.

“Despite our slogan being that we will send energy to Japan through basketball, incidents like this have occurred,” Shimada said. “We need to act knowing that our standing in society may be at risk if similar incidents continue to take place.”

The league also announced that its awards show for the 2020-21 season will be hosted online on June 3 and 4.

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