The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is clear that a person who had a friendship with a person formerly involved in a boryokudan gangster organization is not worthy of leading a sports organization requiring rectitude. His resignation was a natural step.
Japan Amateur Boxing Federation Chairman Akira Yamane has announced he will resign his post. Yamane can be said to have decided to depart when he had nowhere to turn, at a time of intensifying confrontation with elements opposed to him.
In regard to his friendship with a former gangster, Yamane admitted, “We had links and I hung around with that person.”
Yamane bears a heavy responsibility for actions that tarnished the image of amateur boxing. Japan Sports Agency Commissioner Daichi Suzuki also criticized Yamane’s inappropriate comments and conduct, saying, “This is an era in which the entire sports world is boosting its soundness and integrity.”
Yamane wielded tremendous authority as the federation’s chairman for life.
More than 300 people, including senior officials of prefectural boxing federations, opposed to Yamane submitted letters of complaint to the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Japan Sports Association, alleging that Yamane was involved in wrongdoing such as the misappropriation of subsidies and unfair match decisions.
The Japan Sport Council provided ¥2.4 million in subsidies to a boxer who competed in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Yamane has admitted that the distribution of ¥1.6 million of this money to two other boxers was done at his instruction.
It goes without saying that it is unacceptable to use subsidies, which are funded by government money and donations, for purposes other than what they were earmarked for.
Sound governance needed
The complainants also emphasized that unfair match decisions went unchallenged. Among the allegations was that under Yamane, who once headed Nara Prefecture’s amateur boxing governing body, referees gave “Nara decisions” favorable to boxers from the prefecture.
If there were arbitrary decisions that reflected the wishes of Yamane, who had concentrated power in his own hands, these actions would jolt the very foundation of a sport that should be a fair contest.
Yamane has denied involvement in unfair match decisions. However, the fact these suspicions surfaced could itself be evidence that the national federation lacked the ability to run fair bouts.
If internal bickering at the federation drags on any longer, it is the athletes who will suffer. Allowing things to continue as they are will make it difficult to strengthen the boxers preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which start in less than two years.
The federation must turn over a new leaf and be reborn as a healthy organization.
Japan’s sports world faces a grave situation as it roils from a string of scandals, including in wrestling and American football. A common pattern in these cases is a person with authority conducting what amounts to an abuse of power or similar improper practices against athletes and others around them.
The leadership of the Japan Sports Agency and the Japanese Olympic Committee will be tested over their ability to establish sound governance at the nation’s sports organizations.