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Editorial: Sports groups need to open up to eliminate authoritarian management

Discussions have begun to strengthen the government's oversight of sports organizations following a series of scandals in the sports community.

The talks are underway at a panel of experts set up by a multipartisan group of Diet members focused on the issue. The panel is scheduled to announce its opinion in November, including a potential legal change to enable the government's Sports Agency to investigate and issue orders to sports organizations.

Numerous scandals involving sports bodies have emerged this year such as: a power harassment incident involving a top wrestling coach and an Olympic medalist; a dangerous tackle incident allegedly ordered by a Nihon University American football coach; misappropriation of government subsidies by the chief of the Japan Amateur Boxing Federation; and a violence and power harassment allegation involving a women's gymnastics coach and top officials of the sport.

The lawmakers group appears to have launched the panel as they judged that sports organizations cannot be expected to clean up their own houses.

But those groups are supposed to be independent and work hard to promote their sports. It's important that the organizations make their own efforts to reform, rather than implementing stronger monitoring from outside.

The recent scandals have the same roots -- the closed nature of the sports community. In many of these cases, retired top athletes headed sports groups and maintained powerful control over people under them. The authoritarianism resulted in the removal of members not following the leaders of the hierarchy.

In the judo community, where violent abuse against female judoka emerged in 2013, outside experts were appointed as directors of the national federation and efforts were made for the organization to become transparent.

It is necessary to promote more of these efforts. Following the harassment incident of the Olympic wrestler, it is only natural that the Japan Wrestling Federation announced a plan to fundamentally reshuffle its board members, including outside experts.

In the past, scholars and jurists tended to be appointed as outside experts for governing bodies of sports organizations. Another option is to appoint former top athletes from different sports. The Japan Basketball Association named Yuko Mitsuya, a retired volleyball Olympian, as its chairperson.

Inviting people with various backgrounds not limited to a single sporting field is supposed to enable the management of a sports body free of complex personal relationships and vested interests.

Introducing outside people is not a panacea for all problems faced by sports organizations. Awareness must be raised so that organizations become open and are run in democratic ways. The sports community needs to show its ability to reform itself before regulatory measures by the state materialize.

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