Unveiling Hokkaido’s Athletics Association: A Tale of Embezzlement and Misuse | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Unveiling Hokkaido’s Athletics Association: A Tale of Embezzlement and Misuse

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On the 18th, the Hokkaido Athletics Association, a public interest corporation (hereinafter referred to as the Association), held a board meeting in Sapporo.

As of the end of March, the Association had not paid the Japan Association of Athletics Federations (hereinafter referred to as the JAAF) ¥7,352,500 in athlete registration fees for the fiscal year 2022. According to the Hokkaido Shimbun, during this board meeting, it was reported that a male employee in his 40s, who was in charge of accounting at the time, had embezzled ¥24.6 million. Furthermore, regarding the unpaid registration fees, it was decided that they would be paid using money borrowed from a local athletics association in Hokkaido by the end of this month, and a settlement was reached with the Association regarding repayment plans, with no intention to pursue criminal charges.

FRIDAY Digital obtained a document from the Association’s board meeting held on March 2nd. In an article published on April 12th, it was reported that the male employee was dismissed at the end of last year due to suspicion of personal misuse of the Association’s money, including registration fees collected from athletes. The document obtained depicts the Association’s dire financial situation. The same article is reprinted here.

The board meeting materials obtained independently on March 2nd. Under the title “Regarding the dissolution of the corporation,” the financial situation of the Association is written within the red frame. The solution to the issue is outlined within the yellow frame.

The Hokkaido Athletics Association (hereinafter referred to as the Association) has been found to have not paid ¥7,352,500 in athlete registration fees to the Japan Association of Athletics Federations (hereinafter referred to as the “JAAF”) for the fiscal year 2022, and this remains unpaid even after the fiscal year 2023 has passed. Furthermore, it was revealed that the Chairman of the Association, Mr. Marunoboru, resigned from his position midway through his term to take responsibility, and from March 2nd, Mr. Ryoku Itani, the vice chairman, has been promoted to acting chairman. It was also revealed that administrative staff had been dismissed at the end of last year.

In the “Report and Apology” posted on the Association’s website, apologies were made for the unpaid registration fees, improper expenditure of savings, and falsification of accounting documents. It was stated that the root cause was chronic deficit management and haphazard financial management, and that it has been difficult to clarify the actual situation.

Registration fees are not just membership fees; they are a necessary condition for participating in competitions, and Article 8 of the JAAF Membership Regulations states that registration fees must be paid, which applies to middle and high school students as well. The Association was unable to pay the registration fees of ¥7,352,500 for the fiscal year 2022 within the fiscal year, and had received repeated reminders from the JAAF. Furthermore, in November last year, Ms. Yuko Arimori, vice chairman of the JAAF and also a director of World Athletics, in an interview with FRIDAY Digital, expressed her hope that the Association would recover through self-help efforts, saying, “If I were a child in Hokkaido, I would be angry,” and “I hope they understand that the surrounding organizations won’t easily come to their aid.”


Regarding the reason for non-payment, the Association stated, “Due to the decrease in income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increased expenditures due to the relaxation of competitions in 2022, and the burden of related expenses for the Inter-High School Championships, payment has been delayed.” However, there were suspicions raised by some stakeholders that there may have been personal misuse by administrative staff.

FRIDAY Digital has recently obtained documents from the Association’s board meeting held on March 2nd. At the bottom of the document, it is stated, “The contents of (1) to (10) above should not be disclosed until an official interim report is issued.” This indicates that the document is highly confidential.

The column “(4) Regarding the dissolution of the corporation” in the document detailed the Association’s grim financial situation.

Since the revelation of the unpaid registration fees, the Association’s dire financial situation has been a topic of discussion. If a general incorporated association’s net assets fall below ¥3 million for two consecutive terms, it is stipulated that it shall be dissolved (Corporation Act, Article 202(2)), leading to the disappearance of its legal status, as clearly stated in the document.

“Before Reiwa 4, it is necessary to redo the settlement of accounts, but with a situation where more than ¥20 million has been lost, the net assets are not secured to be more than ¥3 million.”

“(Omitted) It will be impossible to maintain the general incorporated association without about ¥20 million in money other than borrowing.”

Furthermore, there is noteworthy content written as one of the solutions.

“The possibility of maintaining the general incorporated association depends on whether administrative staff repay the unaccounted-for money or not.”

In other words, if the Association’s staff can repay the money they took out through unofficial means, the net assets of ¥3 million can be secured. Therefore, it can be interpreted that the Association is hoping for this to happen.

August, Shotaro Shiroyama, the Japanese record holder in the long jump who competed at the World Championships in Budapest, is registered with the Hokkaido Athletics Association. Shiroyama is scheduled to compete in the Olympic selection trials in Paris in June, but considering the current precarious situation of the Association, what feelings might he be harboring?

FRIDAY Digital’s investigation revealed that the staff of the Hokkaido Athletics Association were dismissed by the end of December, the month following the report on the unpaid fees. Mr. Takenari Watanabe, Executive Director of the Association, stated that the dismissal of administrative staff was not disciplinary, not directly related to the unpaid fees. However, according to another source, while the staff member has acknowledged their wrongdoing and expressed intent to repay, the repayment has not yet been made. Facing significant damages and being pushed to the brink of extinction, the Association could potentially press charges against the staff member and file a lawsuit, but there are even voices advocating for a settlement.

In this crisis situation, local leaders in Hokkaido who are passionate about nurturing young athletes express their frustration openly. They state, “The executives have clearly lost their sense of responsibility.” They continue,

“They continue to procrastinate, believing that somehow things will work out. There is no prospect of paying the outstanding registration fees, and when it comes to corporate dissolution, they even say don’t disclose.

It’s outrageous to think of settling with the staff member suspected of misuse privately. How will they justify this to the middle and high school students, and their parents, who are striving hard with dreams of participating in the Olympics or World Championships? They should deal with this decisively and transparently, and all information should be disclosed. If they don’t, it’s a cover-up.”

Sports writer Toshiki Tsuda, who has been investigating the Hokkaido Athletics Association’s unpaid fees and improper accounting practices, criticizes harshly. He points out,

“The date on the document obtained from the board meeting report is written as ‘Reiwa 5,’ but it should officially be ‘Reiwa 6.’ Additionally, although it is not the document mentioned above, in another document, the discipline of administrative staff is referred to as disciplinary dismissal, which is a term used for civil servants, showing how sloppy the document is. The Association is not functioning as an organization.”

There are individuals among the athletics community in Hokkaido who have consulted the police about criminally accusing the administrative staff. If it’s true that executives of the Association are proposing settlements, it can only be seen as their own self-protection to avoid repercussions. While the Japan Association of Athletics Federations claims they will provide maximum advice, more proactive steps are desired.

The Japan Association of Athletics Federations has been informed of Mr. Maru’s resignation from the Association, but claims to be unaware of the dismissal of administrative staff. President Kenzo Ogai of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations reveals their stance on these developments, saying, “To ensure that registered members of the local association in Hokkaido, including athletes and referees, can engage in athletics with peace of mind, we will continue to urge the Hokkaido Athletics Association to respond promptly and appropriately, and we will also strive to understand the situation and provide necessary support and cooperation.”

Among the registered members of the local association in Hokkaido is Shotaro Shiroyama, the Japanese record holder in the long jump. With the Japanese Championships in June, which also serves as the Olympic selection trials, will he be able to compete calmly? What necessary measures will the Japan Association of Athletics Federations take? This issue has drawn the attention of not only athletics stakeholders but also the general public.

  • PHOTO Kyodo News (2nd photo)

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