Masaaki Okawa, a former chairman of the B league, decided to retire after leaving his term, saying “I should baton-touch young people while I am still physically strong” in anticipation of further development of the league that started in 2016. The Olympics have been postponed for one year, but originally the four years from the foundation to 2020 are “Phase 1”, and “Phase 2”, which aims at medium- to long-term development from here, was entrusted to the successor. Shinji Shimada, who acted as the manager of Chiba Jets, took over the task while the whole sports world was confused by the new coronavirus. What kind of future figure does the manager who has created various surprises in the basketball world with clear ideas and execution skills?
“Business expansion and significance of existence of professional team”
── Until now, I was not an “outside person” such as a deputy chairman or a director, but looking at the management of the league from the perspective of the club, “I am doing well here”, “I can do more here” Please let me know where you felt.
Regulations and rules are very similar to the J League. Mr. Saburo Kawabuchi launched it, and Mr. Okawa made it into a model and followed the example of the J League, so the B League could proceed in such a short time. In that sense, the presence of the J League is very appreciated for the B League, and based on that, Ogawa-san and other founding members devote themselves to energetic and interesting things to make the B League start dash attractive. Was connected to.
However, I feel that it may be that there are mismatches between soccer and basketball as it has been 3 or 4 years, there are places that should be changed by rules, and there is an original growth strategy in basketball It came to be. That was clearly stated in the 2026 concept announced by Mr. Okawa last spring. If anything, the idea is to eliminate the ups and downs and accelerate growth by resetting the standards. A few years after the league was founded, it was a phase that had been aggressively attacking until then, when the stable management of the club began to be seen little by little, I turned to a new growth route, but from here it became aggressive. I was hit by the new coronavirus just before I thought I should try again.
It is a good place to aggressively imitate the good points while referring to the J League. From there, we have to change in order to go without a road, and I think that where I am a little obscured where to go there must be clarified as a strategy.
──The impact of the new coronavirus seems to be protracted in various places, so it may not be possible to proceed with the plan for 2026 as it is.
There was also a story about whether or not to follow Mr. Okawa’s 2026 concept when accepting a chairman. It will not follow 100% in consideration of the influence of corona, but we will follow the direction. There is no doubt that the licensing system would be useless or deficit without this money, or that the source of corporate efforts was created by the mechanism, and the situation of living or dying became the engine of growth. Well, it’s not so long as we continue to do that for a long time in the future. After all, clubs with higher value accumulate somewhere, higher level games, higher level arenas, and higher media value and more exposure. So, I think that the flow of such restructuring, aiming for a world view that grows as a business, with the appearance of players with world standards, is just the right time for the B League.
There are more clubs in B1 and B2, including 36 and B3, and while many clubs aim for B1, the direction to tighten the elevation is not only business expansion but also development of the basketball world and sports. From the perspective of the club’s contribution to the community, it was beginning to be seen that the resources were too biased toward strengthening the team to work negatively. I think it is important for sports clubs to contribute to regional revitalization, and to control the collective of teams that are loved by the locals and become more energetic as a league to expand the scale. We are. The value of the league is that there are a lot of clubs out there. However, how to control the balance between restructuring for the purpose of business expansion and the significance of existence of such a professional basketball club in Japanese society has not been drawn so much. I feel this is something I have to do.
“Not just the size of the arena, but effective utilization”
──Are there any things you would like to consider revising the trajectory in the 2026 conception?
That’s the idea of the arena. It may be necessary to reconsider whether it is appropriate to push up the size of the arena in this corona wreck. The most difficult thing to do in league management or strengthening the national team is to set a schedule, and there is a problem that you cannot adjust the schedule from the use of the civic gymnasium. Before increasing the size, it is important to create a situation where it is easier for us to control the arena. I think we have to consider the idea that 10,000 or 20,000 people should be big.
There are 5,000 arenas and 10,000 arenas, and if the unit price of 2000 yen is full, the sales are 10 million yen and 20 million yen. It’s big if you think twice, but if you think about 300 million in 30 games, it is a number that you can consider to cover other than ticket revenue. I think we have to think about the Corona War, which means we must create a profit structure that does not depend on the scale of the arena.
Of course, it would be good if 10,000 arenas were full in every match, but how far can we create that situation? In Corona Erosion, it is necessary to pursue other values besides size up. At the same time as increasing the value of customer experiences such as concourses and lounges and adding value, and the value of the number of visitors so far, the number of viewers is also important.
── In addition to the audience visiting the arena, the audience will grow. This seems to be one point.
Since the real and virtual hybrids and the technologies around them are highly compatible with arena sports that are not exposed to rain and wind, basketball should naturally make use of its strengths. I had always thought so, but I had no choice but to do so, and I had no choice but to do so. Now Softbank is making a considerable investment to brush up the viewing experience. The attraction of the picture, which is the enthusiasm of a full arena, is also important, so both are worthwhile.
In a straightforward example, the number of viewers in a match like Asia’s “Terrific 12” will be many orders of magnitude higher than in the B.League popular match card. It’s not an official match, it’s a friendly tournament, and the arena, which is the venue, is not big, but the number of viewers in Asia is literally an order of magnitude higher, and because there is a sponsor there, it is possible to behave big. Since the size of the population is different and the basketball’s position in the country is different, it is impossible to make a general comparison, but the destructive power is different.
Japan collects fans, works hard in the area, and works hard in the top class in corporate efforts, and this model itself can be transplanted to other countries. However, it is good that this business model is the source of the attractiveness of sports, and I think that alone is wasteful. Then, when pursuing new things, we must focus not only on the size of the arena but also on the utilization of the arena and the watching of games.
“It is important that the arena is effectively used”
──A new arena in Okinawa will be completed soon, and plans are underway to create arenas around the country. Chiba Jets is also planning an arena for 10,000 people.
One reason Jets can plan an arena for 10,000 people is that most of the games are full and the growth of Jets has once reached a peak, but another important thing is Tokyo Dome, Budokan, Yokohama Arena and Facilities such as Saitama Super Arena where concerts and conventions can be held in the Tokyo metropolitan area have high occupancy rates, and Funabashi, which is directly connected to Tokyo Station in just 20 minutes, does not have to be a basketball game. If it’s just basketball, I don’t think that scale is set up.
──I see. It can be used for up to 30 days in home games in the B League, and even 40 days including the postseason. Well then, how do you turn around 325 days?
It’s good to have a lot of arenas. What is important is that the arena be used effectively. Whether it is made by the private sector or by the government, it must be convincing. If it is a private company, Jets will do business because it can be expected to be profitable for businesses other than basketball, but most will be done by the government. If we invest taxes and proceed with the arena construction, we have to seriously consider what basketball can provide. Since it is decided by the license system, if you make it in an era where the economic situation and social situation are good, it will not work now even if it is good. We have to think about what value basketball can create and explain it. I think that is social responsibility.
──It’s a story you should try to escape from just competing for the size of the arena as a box without considering its use in society.
It will be. Its value is not zero, but it is clear that it will no longer have the same value weighting as it used to. A man who has been sticking to the number of visitors also says (laughs). Of course, it’s important to fill the arena, and if it’s not full, it’s not a picture and the audience isn’t happy. Then the players will not be motivated. Even if you try hard to direct in the rattle arena, it is useless even if the players show good play, and it is the stage to save or kill the actors. It is important that the number of people is 3000 or 4000 and that the stage is the best.
Even so, the important things haven’t changed since they seem to have changed. It’s good to have a good arena, and the arenas that are crowded with customers are good. I think we should look at the value of clubs, the value of leagues, and the value of sports from a multi-faceted perspective, rather than just featuring them.