The Rugby World Cup (World Cup) held in Japan in the fall of 2019 was far more exciting than initially expected. The ticket sales rate was 99.3%. It proved that not only the Japanese national team but also overseas rugby can be accepted both at home and abroad.
At the same time, the “professional league concept” that Japan Association Vice President Katsuyuki Kiyomiya and others had been discussing since just before the opening of the World Cup was expected to be realized at once riding on the rising tide of the World Cup, but it was abandoned in the winter of 2019 due to a large number of opponents. However, it was abandoned in the winter of 2019 due to a large number of opponents. Since then, talks have continued for the establishment of a new league that maintains the framework of conventional corporate sports, which will open as “League One” in January next year.
The League One, however, was plagued by ugly news even before its opening. In the final stages of dividing the 24 participating teams into three divisions, suspicions have been raised that Japan Rugby Union President Takashi Morishige and his staff may have “arbitrarily manipulated” the rankings.
The Surprising Reason Why the Professionalization of Rugby Has Disappeared and Kiyomiya Has Been Dropped
“Did you explain to the teams that were switched to the second division?
“Why are there no members of the review committee on the stage?
The press conference to inaugurate the new domestic rugby league, “League One,” in July 2021 was overdue by about 20 minutes, as reporters continued to ask questions about the “allegations” well past the scheduled end time.
The “suspicion” was about the selection of the new rugby league, which will start in January 2022.
In the new league, the 24 participating teams will be divided into three divisions. At the league’s inaugural press conference, 12 teams were announced for the first division, six teams for the second division, and six teams for the third division.
If a team is placed in the first division, where the level of competition and attention is high, it will have an advantage in terms of revenue such as admission fees. It was a matter of life and death for each team as to which division they would be placed in.
In order to divide the teams into divisions, the 24 participating teams had to be ranked, but the Japan Rugby Union set up a third-party committee, the “Review Committee,” to tackle this difficult task in order to maintain fairness and objectivity.
The final ranking, which is the basis for the divisional classification, was determined by the Review Committee. Finally, the Japan Rugby Union President Shigetaka Mori would approve the final rankings, and the divisions would be decided.
However, at the final stage of the approval process, President Mori set up a private “advisory committee” that had not been approved by the Board of Directors. Suspicions have surfaced that this committee may have manipulated the rankings in favor of certain teams.
League One is expected to succeed the Top League, which lasted for 18 seasons, and is scheduled to open in January 2010, but why did it get off to such a bad start? A former official of the Japan Rugby Union explains the background.
In the beginning, preparations were made for the new league as “Top League Next,” but in June 2019, just before the opening of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the executive committee of the association was revamped and Katsuyuki Kiyomiya, who took over as vice president, launched the “Pro League Concept. However, with the success of the World Cup, the conservative view that ‘is it really necessary to change the way we do things and go professional?
According to a source, only two teams initially agreed to go pro. According to a source, only two teams were in favor of professionalization at first, but after discussions at the top level, another team was also leaning toward professionalization, but in the end, the majority of teams were against it.
In the end, the majority of opposition meant that professionalization was unreasonable, and the idea of a new league as a compromise plan began to take shape around the winter of 2007. In the winter of 2007, a compromise plan for a new league began to be formulated. It was decided to maintain the framework as a corporate sport, but professionalize the management of teams to strengthen the business power of the league.
The person in charge of the new league was Mayumi Taniguchi, a jurist and former director of the association.
“Mayumi Taniguchi was one of the central figures in the ‘Pro League Concept’ project launched by Mr. Kiyomiya. Mayumi Taniguchi was one of the key figures in the ‘Pro League Concept’ project launched by Mr. Kiyomiya, and her neutral words and actions were highly regarded by opponents of professionalization, and she was chosen as the head of the preparatory office for the new league. However, Mr. Taniguchi was also removed from his position halfway through the project.
This is how the mess that led to the suspicion of manipulation of the rankings I mentioned at the beginning of this article ended.
Mr. Taniguchi, who became the head of the new league corporation preparation office in January 2020, played a central role in designing the system for the new league and aimed to reform the adult league, which had developed as a corporate sport.
Rugby has a large number of players per team, and the operating costs are said to be 1 to 2 billion per year, depending on the parent company. In the past, there have been many cases where the parent company was forced to suspend its reinforcement due to deteriorating business performance. The Corona disaster has added to the existing unstable structure, increasing the risk of dependence on the parent company.
The new league aims to eliminate such excessive dependence, while at the same time creating a win-win situation with the parent company.
Specifically, team management will be made more “business-like” to generate profits and reduce the burden on the parent company. In addition, the team’s ability to solve local problems, such as bullying, will make it a beloved part of the community, which in turn will contribute to improving the brand of the parent company and the city itself.
At present, “competitiveness,” such as whether the team is strong or not, is only ensured by relying on the parent company, and has not been the most important factor.
Although it would take time to bear fruit, the new league called for the will to be independent as a sports team in the city, not as a corporate team for welfare and advertising purposes, for five to ten years from now.
Disturbing words” triggered Taniguchi’s resignation.
However, some teams were reluctant to break away from excessive dependence on their parent companies and did not feel the need to become independent.
Some of these teams caused a ruckus under the surface.
In the new league, the 24 participating teams were divided into three divisions (12 teams in the first division, 6 teams in the second division, and 6 teams in the third division), and a third-party committee, the “Review Committee,” was in charge of ranking the teams.
Mr. Taniguchi became the chairman of the Judging Committee, and from the fall of 2020, he evaluated the teams based on the pillars of “business potential,” “social potential,” and “competitiveness. The key point is that the decision is not based on simple “strength” or “performance.
In January 2021, when 80% of the judging had been completed, the judging committee notified all the teams of their provisional ranking (not disclosed).
However, some teams protested against this provisional ranking.
What greatly affected the provisional rankings was the will and seriousness to become independent as a sports team in the city.
Teams that quickly achieved the new league’s requirement of a 15,000-seat host stadium by the end of the 2012 season, and teams that showed off their plans to set up an operating company, received higher provisional rankings.
There was a clear difference between the documents submitted for judging by such teams and those submitted by teams whose business and social skills were insufficient. No matter how high the competitiveness of those teams was, their provisional ranking was relatively lower.
Some of the teams were not satisfied with this, and started a dark struggle behind the scenes.
In January 2021, the judging committee gave the provisional rankings to one of the strongest teams whose written submission was poor. The front office that responded to the team expressed dissatisfaction with the rankings and made the disturbing comment, “I’m going to have to talk to a lot of people.
Then, at a board meeting of the Japan Rugby Union held on February 3, 2021, Chairman Shigetaka Mori made a surprising statement.
The screening of all the teams up to this point had been conducted in secret by a screening committee led by Chairman Taniguchi. Even President Mori, the head of the association, had kept his distance from the judging process, but according to several sources, he changed his mind at the board meeting in February, saying that the “secretaries” had complained about the judging committee and that he had told them that he would make the final decision. I told them that I would make the final decision.
The possibility of a change in the final ranking has not been agreed upon by all the teams. It is natural that a single voice of a crane would not be approved in advance.
The “secretariat” here was a group of several team representatives who were the leaders of all the teams and were responsible for negotiating with the association and the new league preparation office. They were connected through rugby personalities such as the Japanese national team at the same time and university alumni, and when the idea of a professional league was proposed, they were united in their opposition to professionalization.
Mori said that the “secretariat” group had complained about the provisional rankings.
All the teams in the “secretariat” group did not perform well in the provisional rankings. When they appealed directly to the president, they reportedly turned their dissatisfaction with the judging committee into a complaint about all the teams. A team official testified.
It seems that they (the “secretariat” group) told President Mori that “everyone distrusts the judging committee” and “no one is satisfied with it. But in fact, not all the teams were dissatisfied.
In other words, if the testimony is correct, the group of “secretaries” tried to change the situation in an unfair way by making up a reason that “everyone was not satisfied” and then appealing directly to the president.
The other teams that were not part of the “secretariat” group voiced their dissatisfaction with this approach. This is not surprising, since most of the teams were making a fair effort under the judging criteria that had been notified and approved by the new league preparation office in May 2020.
The judging race is hovering just below the surface. It was Chairman Taniguchi who took the blame for the fiasco.
Surprised by President Mori’s comments at the board meeting, Taniguchi held hearings with the other teams to see if the direct appeal to President Mori was the consensus of all the teams. In February 2021, Taniguchi was dismissed from his position as head of the preparatory office, which he had held for a year, on the grounds that the hearing constituted a “leak of the contents of the board meeting.
“The Mystery of Recalculation
Nevertheless, Taniguchi continued to serve as chairman of the review committee until June 2021. However, in the final stage of the process, a further dark struggle began.
In June 2009, the judging committee notified President Mori of the final ranking of the 24 participating teams.
The judging committee notified President Mori of the final ranking of the 24 participating teams in June 2009, but later, when he was dissatisfied with the final ranking, he intervened in the judging in a manner that could be described as unfair.
He set up a private advisory committee, which was not approved by the board of directors, and recalculated the results, claiming that the existing method of evaluating the divisions of the judging committee was “partially inconsistent.
As a result of the “alleged recalculation,” Toyota Motor Corporation, one of the secretariats, was moved up to the top division.
On the other hand, there was no prior explanation or approval as to why Kintetsu, which was switched to the second division, dropped from 12th to 13th place at the final stage.
The second division is a big problem because of the various disadvantages it entails. In addition to the disadvantages in terms of box office, such as ticket revenue, the first division is attractive to the top players who want to join the national team because the national team is mainly selected from the high-level first division.
There is an annual competition between the divisions. However, at least in the beginning, the teams will be at a disadvantage in terms of recruiting new high school and college graduates. If the player base eventually becomes thin and the team continues to stagnate, the risk of the parent company suspending the reinforcement of the team may increase. There is no doubt that the teams that were switched to the second division due to the “suspicious recalculation” have mixed emotions.
Through the association, we requested an interview with President Mori with a letter of inquiry that included such questions as “Is the recalculation your own decision? However, we were unable to do so, citing duplication of previous press conferences, and instead received the following response (excerpted below) from a spokesperson for the Japan Rugby Union.
Instead, the Japan Rugby Union spokesperson gave the following response (excerpts): “There is no evidence that Chairman Mori made the rankings for the new league at his own discretion. The JRFU made the final decision on the results of the review of the divisional classification of the new league, and there is no evidence that JRFU President Mori made any arbitrary adjustments to the calculation method to give an advantage to any particular team.
However, it is true that some people are not convinced. It is only natural that such voices would be raised since the recalculation by Chairman Mori’s private advisory committee has not been fully explained.
If this is the case, then all they have to do is to disclose the information and prove their innocence. Why can’t the details of the “alleged recalculation” be made public jointly with the former review committee?
To begin with, the Japan Rugby Union is a public interest incorporated foundation in which taxpayers’ money is effectively invested, and it should be proactive in disclosing information. I hope that the people who hold Japan Rugby together will first of all take the five core values of the Rugby Charter, “passion, unity, dignity, discipline and respect,” to heart and set an example.
Ranking of the final results notified to each team] [Division 1
Kubota Spears: Kubota Spears Funabashi, Tokyo Bay
Suntory Corallias: Tokyo Suntory Corallias
3) NTT Docomo: NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes Osaka
4) Panasonic: Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights
5) Yamaha Motor Jubilo: Shizuoka Blue Revs
6) NEC Green Rockets: NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu
7) RICOH BLACK RAMS: RICOH BLACK RAMS TOKYO
8) Canon Eagles: Yokohama Canon Eagles
⑨ Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers：Cobelco Kobe Steelers
⑩NTT Com: NTT Communications Shining Arcs Tokyo Bay
11) Toshiba Brave Blue Paths: Toshiba Brave Blue Paths Tokyo
⑫Toyota Motor Corporation：Toyota Velbrits
⑬Kintetsu Liner’s: Hanazono Kintetsu Liner’s
⑭Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars：Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars
⑮Hino Red Dolphins：Hino Red Dolphins
⑯Kamaishi Seawaves RFC: Kamaishi Seawaves RFC
⑰HONDA HEAT: Mie Honda Heat
⑱Matsuda Blue Zoomers: Mazda Skyactivs Hiroshima
Note: Team names in bold are new this season.
Reporting and writing by： Masataka Tara