Class Warfare: the commercialization of Judo competition

About a year ago, I discussed the direction the IJF was taking with gis.  Manufacturers were required to meet Judo industry standards (a good thing), distributors were required to pay huge fees to become official IJF sponsors, and their “IJF approved” gis had to have labels affixed to each item of the uniform.  These labels would cost the distributors $3 each, and the costs associated with sponsorship and labels would be passed on to the players (not a good thing).

I jokingly predicted that USA Judo would one day wake up from its slumber and run the same game against American athletes.  That hasn’t yet come true, but the European Judo Union (EJU) has stepped up to the plate instead.  Here’s one of their latest communiqués:

Per 1 July there are some changes important to judoka competing at EJU events.

Former EJU suppliers Essimo and DanRho shoulder stripes at these judogi cannot be used at EJU events from now on. It is allowed to use judogi of both Essimo and DanRho without shoulder stripes and new IJF Logo.

No regular judogi is hansokumake; the judoka cannot pass the judogi control, the opponent wins.  Each competitor is responsible for his judogi, and the head of each delegation signs for his team that they have the correct judogi.

Reserve judogi can be used just in case of damage during the contests, blood on the judogi, or special cases where the luggage of a delegation did not arrive.

Please have a look at the Supplier page which suppliers are allowed to use with shoulder stripes.

I’m concerned that athletes might be required to wear only the approved gis of each Judo union.  EJU would require its own approved gis for EJU tournaments, just as the IJF requires certain gis for IJF run events.  Would the Asian Union follow suit with a different set of approved gis?  Hopefully that’s not what is going to happen.

My sources in Europe are not quite sure what to make of the “stripes or no stripes” diktat.  Sounds rather silly in my opinion, but this is what happens when you start throwing around sponsors, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and apparel logos.  Remember what happened during the 1992 Olympics medal ceremony for basketball?  Some players on the U.S. Basketball Dream Team had to strategically wrap themselves up in the American flag when they received their gold medals to cover up the logos of their personal sponsors, which differed from the event sponsors.  Are we to see more of this in Judo?

Given the penchant of the current IJF thugs to make Judo an elite sport like tennis, we are sure to see more financial burdens imposed on elite athletes, most of whom don’t stand much of a chance of winning the prize monies being given at Grand Slam and World Cup events.

Something fishy is going on with the EJU and the IJF, perhaps even collusion.  After all, several of the top IJF officials come from the EJU.  The four premier sponsors of the EJU are Russian companies.  Red flags, anyone?

A few hours ago, I Skyped my daughter Natalie who is in El Salvador for her next World Cup event.  She mentioned that she had just been given the tab for the hotel in Paris during the World Championships.  Her share is a staggering $2,000: 185 euros per person per day for seven nights and 8 days.  USA Judo won’t pick up the tab unless the athlete is ranked in the top 25 in the world.  However, I bet we’ll have nearly as many administrators and officials present as athletes, and their tab will be paid by USA Judo.

The battle to commercialize Judo has just started heating up.  For now, the losers will be the hundreds of poor, amateur athletes from Judo-poor countries who are trying to compete on the international stage against richer, quasi-professional athletes from Judo-rich powerhouses. What does the future hold for us who just want to be left alone to do good grassroots Judo?

6 thoughts on “Class Warfare: the commercialization of Judo competition

  1. The future holds for us to, for the time being, forget the Olympics and International events and focus on the grassroots. When we have 50,000 participants in US Judo, then let’s go back and focus on Olympic gold. We’ve got the cart so far ahead of the horse it can’t even see it.

  2. Thanks. I was sent Kent’s post a few days ago. I’ll do a follow-up post regarding the commercialization of Judo competition. I have saved Kent’s email so it won’t die.

  3. Gerry,
    Your article is 100% correct. I also agree with Rob Thornton’s comments about forgetting the Olympics…we need to focus on developing judo at the grass roots. This is why we formed AAU Judo. People have criticised me for not “working within the system.” I did that for a long time and discovered the “system” is broke.

  4. This is almost inevitable with a sport that requires gis or any equipment. If the sport gains in popularity it will get much worse with widespread corruption similar to that found in FIFA.

  5. in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you’ve begun to see this with requiring/restrictions on the rash guards worn etc. also the guidelines for patches, etc. it is unfortunate that sports which generate money for officials and administrators then limit the ability of competitors to pay for training, travel, diet, etc by imposing a stranglehold on sponsorship opportunities

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