Can J-League Stay Clean?
Image Credit: Flickr / James

Can J-League Stay Clean?


With match-fixing currently something of a hot topic in Asia at the moment, Japan is increasingly trying to distance itself from organized crime (namely the Yakuza) and its ties to sport.

Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Korea and China have all fallen victim to what is one of the most dangerous threats to football in recent years, but Japan is determined not to follow suit. 

As yet, this hasn’t happened. But as anyone who knows anything about match-fixing will tell you, you can never be sure that it won’t. Prevention is much better than cure, and the dangers Japan faces were highlighted when the country’s national sport, sumo wrestling, was hit by a series of scandals, including last year when wrestlers admitted rigging bouts.

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The J-League is preparing to start the new football season and has released a statement in which it vowed to steer clear of the Yazuka and the dodgy activities that come with the gangsters.

According to Jake Adelstein, a former crime reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, the gangsters already have their claws sunk into the country’s entertainment sector.

“The Yakuza have run Japan’s entertainment industry since the end of (World War II)," said Adelstein.


In 2011, Shinsuke Shimada, a well-known comedian, resigned from his TV show after admitting close ties with gangsters.

But football is determined that it will stay clean of such connections. J-league Chairman Kazumi Ohigashi stated that as far as he and others know, there has been no match-fixing in the league’s 20-year history. But he warned that the league had become a target for overseas betting rings. This is how it starts.

“There has been a spate of football match-fixing cases in Europe, Africa, Asia and other regions since last year,” the statement, made on behalf of players, coaches and referees, went.“The spread of online betting and the presence of international crime organizations are reported to be behind this trend.”

As with neighboring South Korea, apart from some horse racing, betting is effectively outlawed in Japan, and like the K-League, there’s only a state organized lottery allowed on football matches in the J-league. The J-league has set up a confidential hotline to allow anyone with information on match-fixing to report the crime.

“To protect the J-League from this wrongdoing, it is necessary for us in football to continue cutting relations with anti-social forces including crime syndicates,” the J-League statement added.

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