I thought a little about the transformation of group sports into professional leagues. The trigger was the concept of a professional league revealed by Mr. Kiyomiya, who became the vice president of the Japan Rugby Union, and the news of Mercari’s transformation of J1 Kashima Antlers into a subsidiary of J1 Soccer announced on July 30.
It airs on TBS Sunday nights at 9 p.m., “No Side Game” Did you see that? If you like rugby, you may have read Jun Ikeido’s original novel. It is a story about a business team of an automobile company facing an existential crisis and trying to strengthen the team together with a manager with no rugby experience, who has been relegated from the planning department of the head office. Because it is a novel by Mr. Ikeido, villains also appear in the company and on the opposing team, and it is a series of trials.
In Japan, for a long time, student sports and by extension, corporate sports, were the focus of the sport. In other words, it is an amateur sport that does not subject the competitive activities of athletes to the exchange of money. In baseball and professional baseball, which are company name teams, are separate leagues and do not play official games. In soccer, amateur teams and professional teams play matches in tournaments such as the Emperor’s Cup, but J. League teams are clearly professional teams, not business teams. The top league, rugby’s premier league in the country, is in a half-baked state, with a mix of amateur and professional contract players playing as employees. Do you have an image that there are several players with professional contracts in the business team that is mainly made up of companies?
I think there have been many professional sports that are individual competitions in the past. Golf, bowling, tennis, sumo wrestling, and horse racing jockeys. It seems that you have become a professional player by passing a test, belonging to a group, or making a declaration. However, the shift to professional sports in team sports is a relatively recent trend except for baseball. Baseball began in college in the 19th century, but the first U.S. team in the 20th century to come to Japan was itself a professional team, and from an early age it was influenced by the U.S. professional league to create the “Japan Professional Baseball Federation.” was established. It is also true that it was not an Olympic sport at that time, when amateurism was strong.
On the other hand, soccer has had a long history in Europe since the 19th century, but it was only in 1980 that it flourished under a huge budget. It wasn’t until I entered the old age. This is partly due to the fact that broadcasting rights fees for various sports soared after the Los Angeles Olympics. For a long time, Japan has had national teams composed of players and students from business teams compete against foreign teams. Therefore, with the exception of his performance at the Olympics during a period when amateurism was strong, his competitiveness was never high. We were able to participate in the World Cup in France in 1998, after the establishment of the J. League in 1992. Since the number of competitors is said to be 7 million or 8 million, not unlike baseball, it is blessed with potential resources for players and spectators, and the birth of the J. League was inevitable.
Rugby used to be a sport like the embodiment of the amateur spirit, with sacrificial play and teamwork respected, while negative when it came to glamorous play and the expression of joy after scoring. It was also not acceptable for amateur players to stand out outside of rugby. It reminds me of the 1980s, when Nippon Steel Kamaishi won seven consecutive titles. I remember that Hirao who graduated from Doshisha University and was studying abroad was severely reprimanded by the association and removed from the Japanese national team for being treated in an advertisement in a men’s fashion magazine. Hirao then returned to Japan to play for Kobe Steel and was reinstated as a member of the Japan national team.
As time went on, the English Premiership was established in 1987, and in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa became more professional, and the Super12 began in 1996. And the Japanese national team, which is a collection of amateur players, has become completely toothless. The Japan National Team, led by Nippon Steel Kamaishi, who traveled to Wales in 1983, played a 24-29 match against the strong teams. However, from the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 to the seventh tournament in 2011, the Japan National Team won one game and drew one. They had a record of 18 losses. One win came from Zimbabwe and one draw against Canada. They often lost by a wide margin to powerhouses, losing 17-145 to the All Blacks in a game called Bloomfonteine’s Nightmare in 1995. In addition, there were many reserve players in the opponents.
Recently, basketball has made great strides forward and established the B-League, with the support of Mr. Kawabuchi, the first president of the J. League. We are strengthening the national team to accumulate achievements in international matches, and we are proceeding in a format that follows the success experience of the J. League. It seems that a very good cycle is running as a baseball or soccer boy is able to have dreams at the same level as he has dreams.
At the beginning, I mentioned that Japan Rugby Union Vice President Kiyomiya (the father of a baseball player who joined Nippon Ham from Waseda Corporation) announced the idea of starting a professional league in Japan. Taking advantage of the opportunity of the World Cup to be held in Japan from September this year, we will make the most of the excitement and hope that 2021 means that we will start the professional league from the season of the year. After all, it is a concept similar to professional leagues in soccer and basketball. It seems that they recruit teams on the condition of community support, preparation of stadiums of sufficient capacity, youth development system, etc. Finally, rugby, which seemed to be the embodiment of amateurism, stepped into the formation of a professional league. It is a great merit to be able to refer to the experience of the professional leagues that preceded it, that is, football and basketball. On the other hand, soccer and basketball have a competitive population of 7 or 5 million, while rugby has less than 200,000. Building an economic foundation by attracting customers to matches and negotiating broadcasting rights is a big challenge. However, there is no doubt that this year, when the World Cup will be held in Japan, is the time to make a decision.
The rugby conglomerate league has long been supported by manufacturing companies. In addition, the mother company of Kashima Antlers, which I mentioned at the beginning, was Sumitomo Metal Industries (now Nippon Steel Corporation). There were many things that made me think about the trend of industry and its impact on sports, the inevitability of change due to the progress of internationalization of competitions, and the importance of sports marketing in the future. Finally, Stratus Technology’s products are used in the ticketing systems of powerhouse professional soccer teams. Even in this trend of professionalization of group sports, please forgive me if I think about whether I can do something because I am a professional at work.