Japan Refuses to Broadcast Sports Betting Sumo WrestlersThe July 06, 2010, By Hugo B. Horton
For the first time since it began airing Sumo tournaments on television some j57 years ago, Japan’s public broadcasting network decided on Tuesday not to air the upcoming competition live, because of an online sports betting scandal that sullied the sport’s reputation. ;
The decision was made after a public outcry against Suma fans in Japan ober the behavior of coaches and players who are accused of gambling heavily on baseball. At times, these bets were placed with bookies belonging to organized crime syndicates. NHK which has broadcast each of the six annual tourneys since 1953 said that the scandal caused an influx of complaints from viewers, who did not want the 15 day competition to be aired, thus penalizing the teams, diminishing sponsorship, and causing heavy losses. Instead of the usually live broadcast, NHK said that it will air a shortened version on its website.
After much deliberation, the Japan Sumo Association banned senior wrestler Kotomitsuki and his coach, Otake, and its chairman agreed to step down. However, many say that this has not done enough to clean the sport’s tarnished image.
"We would like all of you to stake your life on this and make a fresh start," Education Minister Fumio Kawabata told the association's acting chief on Tuesday before the NHK announcement. He said this could be sumo's last chance to regain face.
Responding to allegations, 34 year old Kotomitsuki admitted to sports betting on baseball games, and of running up debts estimated at $50,000. An internal survey has showed that at least 65 of the Sumo wrestlers registered with the Association have engaged in illegal sports betting. Police are investigating, and one arrest has been made to date.