Scandal slams sumo tournament broadcast

NHK cancels live broadcast over illegal gambling

TOKYO -- Pubcaster NHK is to cancel live broadcasts of the Nagoya Sumo tournament that begins July 11, due to a scandal involving wrestlers and trainers betting large amounts of money in illegal gambling on baseball games through a syndicate run by the Japanese mob.
 
Sponsors have already pulled out of the tournament, and a high-ranking wrestler and his trainer have been banned from the centuries-old sport for life. Eighteen other wrestlers have been suspended for the tournament, and dozens of officials and trainers punished for gambling on professional baseball through bookmakers linked to yakuza crime organizations.
 
NHK has received more than 11,000 phone calls over the issue and is pulling live coverage for the first time, though it will still show a highlights digest program.
 
“Although more than 60% of the messages we received were in favor of not showing the tournament, there were still a lot of people who supported it being broadcast, and many others who are looking forward to watching it,” NHK spokesperson Marina Iwamura told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s why the decision to stop the live broadcast but show the digest program was taken.”  
 
NHK is sumo’s biggest benefactor through its buying of exclusive broadcast rights, although the pubcaster doesn’t disclose how much it pays for them.
 
In a separate scandal at the end of May, an entire sumo training stable was disbanded after tickets for VIP ringside seats found their way into the hands of senior members of the largest Japanese yakuza gang, the Yamaguchi-gumi.
 
The gangsters are believed to have wanted to sit ringside as a show of solidarity for an imprisoned gang boss, who would have been able to see them during the tournament broadcast on NHK, which they are permitted to watch in jail. 
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