大相撲中継中止 ファンの落胆に再生で応えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul. 8, 2010)
Sumo's fight to regain fans' trust starts now
大相撲中継中止 ファンの落胆に再生で応えよ(7月7日付・読売社説)

Public broadcaster NHK has decided it will not broadcast live coverage of the upcoming Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament after revelations of widespread illegal gambling on professional baseball games by sumo wrestlers and officials, a scandal that has rocked this country's traditional sport.

This will be the first time NHK has dropped live broadcasts of sumo tournaments since it began the service on TV in 1953 and on radio in 1928, except for a period during World War II. The decision will certainly disappoint many sumo fans.

NHK will air daily wrapups after each day's action has finished. However, this will offer viewers little of the excitement that comes with watching a live broadcast.

Knowing their bouts were being aired live greatly encouraged sumo wrestlers as they put themselves through grueling practice to prepare for each tournament. Wrestlers who had nothing to do with the gambling scandal will undoubtedly be extremely frustrated by NHK's decision.

NHK President Shigeo Fukuchi said two factors led to the station's decision: The Japan Sumo Association has yet to present concrete steps to reform itself; and more than 60 percent of 12,000 viewers who contacted NHK about the gambling scandal wanted the plug pulled on live broadcasts.


Viewers split

But many other people felt strongly that the tournament should be broadcast live, and the majority of wrestlers were not involved in the gambling. Given these factors, NHK certainly had the option of broadcasting the tournament live.

NHK nevertheless has made a decision that reflects its position as a public broadcaster, as it cannot ignore viewers' strict opinions and given the fact that the JSA's efforts to reform itself remain tenuous at best.

The JSA must be held responsible for allowing such a disturbing situation to happen.

The association has dismissed ozeki Kotomitsuki and stablemaster Otake (former sekiwake Takatoriki). The Nagoya tournament will start under extraordinary circumstances--six other wrestlers in the top makuuchi division as well as JSA Chairman Musashigawa and several other stablemasters have been suspended.

With these punitive measures, the JSA appeared to have made efforts to resolve the problem. When appointing an acting chairman, however, some stablemasters reportedly were opposed to naming Hiroyoshi Murayama, a former Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office chief, to the post. They insisted the acting chairman should have a sumo background.

We are disappointed with the association's inability to shed its self-centered nature in a situation like this.


Not the 1st time

The JSA has been battered by a string of scandals in recent years, including the fatal assault of a junior sumo wrestler by fellow wrestlers, illegal drug use, and, most recently, gangsters being broadcast on TV while sitting in prime ringside seats after allegedly receiving tickets from a stablemaster. Each time, the association promised to clean up its act. Unfortunately, it has failed to do so.

The JSA will set up a reform committee tasked with reviewing the organization. The committee reportedly will consider ways to sever sumo's ties with organized crime syndicates and improve the association's crisis management. We hope the committee will be formed from third-party members and exert strong leadership in overhauling sumo's governing body.

The sumo world must quickly start trying to revive itself. Sumo wrestlers will only be able to satisfy sumo fans by competing hard in the ring.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 7, 2010)
(2010年7月7日01時51分 読売新聞)

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