Japan Football Association’s Top Executives, Promoting the Advancement of Women, Decided to Significantly Reduce the Number of Female Executive Board Members | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Japan Football Association’s Top Executives, Promoting the Advancement of Women, Decided to Significantly Reduce the Number of Female Executive Board Members

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Asako Takakura (center, at the time) was appointed coach of Nadeshiko Japan in 2016. It was Chairman Kozo Tajima’s (right) long-cherished wish to have the first female coach (Photo: Kyodo News)

The Japan Football Association (JFA) has decided to drastically reduce the number of its 27-member board of directors from nine to 15, aiming to conform to the ” Governance Code of Sports Organizations (indicators and principles of organizational governance )” set by the Sports Agency in 2019 to maintain the dignity of each sports organization, which calls for at least 40% female directors and 25% external directors. The aim is to conform to the “Code of Governance for Sports Organizations (indicators and principles of conduct for organizational governance) for sports organizations”. JFA President Kozo Tajima, 65, whose term of office will expire next March, was proud of his decision to drastically reduce the number of board members, saying, “We have made a great reform,” but a frustrating behind-the-scenes story came to light.

The new JFA president, Kozo Tajima, 65, who has decided to make major cuts to the JFA Board of Directors, was proud of the “major reforms we have made.

Next April, a new JFA president will take office, replacing Tajima, who has served four terms since 2016. In conjunction with this change, unprecedented organizational reforms have been under discussion since May of this year. The conclusion was a bold reduction in the number of JFA board members to nearly half, which was announced at the end of July, and even long-time JFA staff members could not hide their surprise: “I never imagined that the number of JFA board members would be reduced to half of what it has been.

In the case of a company organization, this is the same as a reduction in the number of directors starting next year. Chairman Tajima said, “I will step down at the end of this term. I believe this is why we are able to do this (drastic reduction in the number of board members) now,” he said proudly.

There is of course a reason for the unusual reduction in the number of board members: in 2019, the Sports Agency established a code of governance that all sports organizations must follow. Starting with the corruption scandal at the Tokyo Olympics, many sports organizations have been involved in scandals, and trust in the sports world is still greatly shaken. The same old seniority-based personnel practices are being repeated in many organizations. In order to create an appropriate management system that is more open and allows for regular renewal, the Sports Agency has issued a notice calling for the appointment of 40% female board members and 25% outside board members. The Sports Agency has decided to conduct a compliance inspection of all organizations every four years to ensure that this governance code is being met.

As the head of a sports organization, Tajima spoke of the significance of streamlining the organization, saying, “The (board members) should not become an organization like a group of critics,” adding, “The (Sports Agency’s) governance code was certainly one of the triggers.

Hinata Miyazawa (second from left) celebrates scoring the first goal against Spain in the Women’s World Cup soccer match. Nadeshiko Japan failed to advance to the last four, but Miyazawa was the top scorer with five goals and is favored to join Liverpool (photo: Kyodo News).

All sports associations have a “talent shortage” of board members, which is a headache.

A senior official of one of the JFA’s regional associations explained the true intentions behind President Tajima’s assertion.

If the JFA Board of Directors remains at 30 members as before, 12 female directors must be selected to comply with the Sports Agency’s Code of Governance. As far as I have heard, that is difficult. I don’t want to be misleading because I don’t want to be derogatory to women myself, but I have heard that even if the JFA tries to list female board members, only a few are listed, even if they are self-recommended. In other words, it is difficult to have 12 women on the board at present. However, if we reduce the denominator of the number of board members, we will be able to appoint fewer female board members, which is the real reason for reducing the number of board members.

In addition, eight people are elected to the Board of Directors from the regions and one is elected as the Executive Director. Now that the decision has been made to significantly reduce the number, we expect that these regional quotas will be almost completely eliminated the next time around.”

This must have been a difficult decision for the JFA, which was a pioneer in boldly selecting female directors ahead of other sports organizations. However, prioritizing the professional tour, Date rarely attended the monthly meetings of the JFA Board of Directors. Chairman Tajima, who at the time held the position of managing director, the head of the JFA’s administrative staff, continued to offer the painful excuse that “even if she did not attend the board meetings, she was expected to express her opinions,” but Ms. Date fulfilled her term of office. Furthermore, Tajima selected Kaoru Yamaguchi, a judo player, to serve on the JFA Board of Directors for the current term. A reporter in charge of soccer revealed, “President Tajima has been a director of the JFA for a long time.

Tajima has been active in appointing women to the JFA Board of Directors, but there have been many who have balked at the idea, and it has been difficult to achieve. The reason Ms. Yamaguchi became a JFA board member this term is because she and President Tajima are alumni of the same university (University of Tsukuba).

JFA President Tajima has actively promoted the “advancement of women” in Japanese soccer among his predecessors. One such example is the appointment of Asako Takakura as the A team coach of Nadeshiko Japan women’s soccer team for the Tokyo Olympics, the first time in Japanese soccer history. In this year’s Women’s World Cup, too, she worked hard to realize live terrestrial TV broadcasts, which had been hopelessly lacking. She also instructed Nadeshiko Japan to use chartered flights and bring their own chef to the World Cup. Despite the fact that JFA has continued to promote women’s activities, it has had difficulty finding female board members, and in order to maintain the transparency of the organization, JFA had to make the difficult decision to reduce the number of board members by half. Will the new JFA president be able to carry on President Tajima’s legacy next April?

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