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Eikokurai

Lower Division Schedule Reform

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As is often the case when it’s raining and I’ve too much time on my hands, I’ve been pondering the feasibility and desirability of a reform in sumo’s lower divisions. All divisions below Juryo currently have rikishi fight seven bouts. There is no difference, other than time of day, between fighting a Jonokuchi schedule and a Makushita schedule. When a Makushita guy breaks into the sekitori ranks, he finds himself with more than twice as many bouts on his schedule than he’s used to. What if the number of bouts increased by division? Privileges do, so why not workload as well? Say, seven bouts in Jonokuchi and Jonidan, nine in Sandanme and eleven in Makushita. If eleven is too many logistically, maybe nine for both Sandanme and Makushita. It should make it easier to discriminate between rikishi in what are much more crowded and competitive divisions. Seven bouts doesn’t put much between the best and worst performers in the division, and even a 4-3 or 3-4 can see a guy rise and fall twenty places. It’s a pretty volatile ranking system down there. 

There’s certainly precedent in sumo history for basho with 9 or 11 bouts. Logistically it would take some work getting extra bouts on the daily schedules, but I don’t think that would be insurmountable. Thoughts?

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OK, check my dodgy math, but under the current banzuke there will be 35 x 15 = 525 Sekitori bouts, and (60 + 100 + 112 + 33) x 7 = 2135 other bouts, for a basho total of 2660 bouts over the 15 days ( about 9 hours of 3-minute bouts per day).

If Makushita goes to 13, Sandanme to 11, and Jonidan to 9, that would be 60 x 13 = 780, 100 x 11 = 1100, 112 x 9 = 1008 and 33 x 7 = 231 for a total of 3119 bouts; add in 525 Makuuchi+Juryo  bouts for a grand total of 3644 bouts over 15 days: an extra ~1000 bouts over 15 days, or an extra 66 bouts per day: 3 more hours of Sumo.

I'm ready for the humiliation of having my math or my assumptions ridiculed, but at least this gets the conversation rolling.

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Posted (edited)

The current set of matches starts at about 8:30AM for days 1-12 with an almost empty arena except for the last 3 hours.  This would force rescheduling makuuchi to end at about 8 or 9 PM.  There are pluses and minuses for the later ending. European and US viewing times would tend to suck.

Edited by Asojima

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Yamanashi said:

OK, check my dodgy math, but under the current banzuke there will be 35 x 15 = 525 Sekitori bouts, and (60 + 100 + 112 + 33) x 7 = 2135 other bouts, for a basho total of 2660 bouts over the 15 days ( about 9 hours of 3-minute bouts per day).

If Makushita goes to 13, Sandanme to 11, and Jonidan to 9, that would be 60 x 13 = 780, 100 x 11 = 1100, 112 x 9 = 1008 and 33 x 7 = 231 for a total of 3119 bouts; add in 525 Makuuchi+Juryo  bouts for a grand total of 3644 bouts over 15 days: an extra ~1000 bouts over 15 days, or an extra 66 bouts per day: 3 more hours of Sumo.

I'm ready for the humiliation of having my math or my assumptions ridiculed, but at least this gets the conversation rolling.

The current banzuke is much smaller than in years past, with only 693 rikishi. The all-time record was 987 in March 1994, although that didn’t actually result in the highest number of bouts fought, presumably because of kyujo and intai situations. However, they must have been able to schedule all necessary bouts, even if they weren’t actually completed. May that same year had 3335 bouts fought (a cursory glance tells me that’s the highest but happy to be corrected). Indeed, I think the seven-bout schedule is there to give them room in years when the banzuke is as big as it used to be (though can anyone really see a time when that happens again?). Rikishi can sometimes have a couple of days between their bouts in lower divisions. If rikishi numbers stay low/are mandated to stay around 700, then they can probably find the time for another 1000 bouts (although it would be even fewer with my original numbers of 11 for Makushita and 9 for Sandanme). 

Edited by Eikokurai

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4 minutes ago, Asojima said:

The current set of matches starts at about 8:30AM for days 1-12 with an almost empty arena except for the last 3 hours.  This would force rescheduling makuuchi to end at about 8 or 9 PM.  The are pluses and minuses for the later ending. European and US viewing times would tend to suck.

As if they care about audiences in the US or Europe. If they did, they’d make it easier for fans to watch rather than making them rely on unofficial streams. Late finishes would probably help sumo domestically though, so that could be an unintended bonus consequence. Sumo suffers the way cricket does in England from the fact that only certain people are free watch it, as most people have jobs. Shifting it to after-work, like T20 cricket played in the evenings, might boost popularity. 

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25 minutes ago, Eikokurai said:

Late finishes would probably help sumo domestically though, ...

If there were a significant advantage to a later finish, that time shift would probably have been made many years ago. The Japanese may not care about the foreign audiences, but I do.

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Just now, Asojima said:

If there were a significant advantage to a later finish, that time shift would probably have been made many years ago. The Japanese may not care about the foreign audiences, but I do.

I’m not convinced. Sumo changes very slowly. Besides, I was thinking of it more as an unintended consequence rather than something the conservative old men in the Kyokai would plan for. As for us foreign fans, they’ll never consider us even a second in any decision they make about the sport and nor should they really. It’s not as if the English Premier League is rescheduled so all the fake Man Utd fans in Asia can watch their team play. It’s just one of those unfortunate things we have to accept when we follow a league from overseas. 

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2 hours ago, Asojima said:

European and US viewing times would tend to suck.

US viewing times already suck, pushing them later might help push them to an awful early morning instead of the middle of the night. But, I think adding bouts is a bad idea. The lower guys need bouts to weed out the nonhackers and the makushita guys need a limited number of bouts to make each one matter. Also, increased matches will drive increased pay, which opens all kinds of issues for discussion. It might actually diminish the importance of a juryo promotion.

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1 hour ago, Churaumi said:

 

US viewing times already suck, pushing them later might help push them to an awful early morning instead of the middle of the night. But, I think adding bouts is a bad idea. The lower guys need bouts to weed out the nonhackers and the makushita guys need a limited number of bouts to make each one matter. Also, increased matches will drive increased pay, which opens all kinds of issues for discussion. It might actually diminish the importance of a juryo promotion.

Interesting point, re: pay. Sumo hasn’t seen a strike or any major dissent among rikishi for quite some time, but I suppose anything is possible. There’s enough of them that collective bargaining could have some effect, though obviously the lower divisions don’t really bring in any revenue for the Kyokai which weakens their position somewhat. In fact, if anything they’re a financial burden (imagine the cost of feeding your average rikishi!) 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Eikokurai said:

Late finishes would probably help sumo domestically though, so that could be an unintended bonus consequence. Sumo suffers the way cricket does in England from the fact that only certain people are free watch it, as most people have jobs. Shifting it to after-work, like T20 cricket played in the evenings, might boost popularity. 

But, that would have a significant impact on the current system of popular rikishi going out for dinner with important local supporters and dignitaries during honbasho (and jungyo for that matter). I'm not so sure the Kyokai/Heya/Rikishi are keen on losing that opportunity to press the flesh and raise funds.

Edited by Otokonoyama

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, Otokonoyama said:

But, that would have a significant impact on the current system of popular rikishi going out for dinner with important local supporters and dignitaries. I'm not so sure the Kyokai/Heya/Rikishi are keen on losing that opportunity to press the flesh and raise funds.

Umm ... they can have breakfast together instead! :-D

More seriously, what used to happen back in the 90s? There were 200-300 more rikishi on the banzuke back then, so they must have fit them into the schedules. What time did Makuuchi wrap up in that era? 

Edited by Eikokurai

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Just now, Eikokurai said:

Umm ... they can have breakfast together instead! :-D

Many of the supporters do already attend the midday chanko, but there are enough folks offering various levels of support that want their time. Cutting out these business dinners would have deleterious effect on their ability to keep those supporters, and be introduced to new ones.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Eikokurai said:

The current banzuke is much smaller than in years past, with only 693 rikishi. The all-time record was 987 in March 1994, although that didn’t actually result in the highest number of bouts fought, presumably because of kyujo and intai situations. However, they must have been able to schedule all necessary bouts, even if they weren’t actually completed. May that same year had 3335 bouts fought (a cursory glance tells me that’s the highest but happy to be corrected). Indeed, I think the seven-bout schedule is there to give them room in years when the banzuke is as big as it used to be (though can anyone really see a time when that happens again?). Rikishi can sometimes have a couple of days between their bouts in lower divisions. If rikishi numbers stay low/are mandated to stay around 700, then they can probably find the time for another 1000 bouts (although it would be even fewer with my original numbers of 11 for Makushita and 9 for Sandanme). 

Presumably back in the day when the number of rikishi and bouts was at its peak, there was also a commensurate peak in the number of stables, gyoji and yobidashi. Are you proposing that the currently smaller group take on the extra workload? If so, raises in pay are certainly in order. Will the proposed increased number of bouts result in extra revenue for the NSK? If not, where does the money for salary increases and extra utilities costs come from?

Edited by Otokonoyama

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16 minutes ago, Otokonoyama said:

Presumably back in the day when the number of rikishi and bouts was at its peak, there was also a commensurate peak in the number of stables, gyoji and yobidashi. Are you proposing that the currently smaller group take on the extra workload? If so, raises in pay are certainly in order. Will the proposed increased number of bouts result in extra revenue for the NSK? If not, where does the money for salary increases and extra utilities costs come from?

I’m not proposing anything. This is nothing more than a thought exercise. I’m neither for nor against adding extra bouts, it was just an idea.

Fair point about the higher number of rikishi meaning there was presumably a corresponding higher number of gyoji and yobidashi (it would be good to be able to check the historical numbers of these). Though the counter to that is that gyoji and yobidashi also have a hierarchy, just as rikishi do. There’s no particular reason why gyoji and yobidashi shouldn’t have to officiate or introduce more bouts as they ascend the divisions just as rikishi have (in this hypothetical) to fight more bouts. Sumo is based on privilege being tied to rank and the Kyokai gets to set the rules for all of that, up to and including no extra pay (do lower division yobidashi and gyoji get paid?) It took them years to raise salaries for sekitori, so they’re obviously comfortable playing hardball about compensation when needed.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Eikokurai said:

More seriously, what used to happen back in the 90s? There were 200-300 more rikishi on the banzuke back then, so they must have fit them into the schedules. What time did Makuuchi wrap up in that era? 

They started around 8am (IIRC something Doreen Simmons once mentioned) and presumably rushed the shikiri in the lower divisions even more than now - shave 20 seconds off the average time needed per bout and that's probably 20-25 extra bouts you can fit in, plus the same or more via the earlier start time. Voilà, 160-200 more rikishi accommodated. There's probably even more potential for savings as makushita and upper sandanme tend to get quite a bit more time nowadays than the lowest ranks - just make 'em compete at the same quick rhythm as Jk/Jd. And of course these days they tend to have a pretty leisurely pace for the breaks around the juryo and makuuchi dohyo-iris, that's easily another 20 minutes that could be used for matches.

In any case, the real reason 9 or 11 matches don't make much sense in today's lower divisions is that the yusho decisions typically don't need more than 7/8 matches. What do you do for the last 4 matches with the rikishi that starts off 7-0 in makushita? For that matter, would it even make sense to do Swiss scheduling for the first 7 rounds anymore or would they have to effectively break up each division into several sub-sections with sekitori style manual scheduling for, let's say, 8 rounds before the final 3 rounds get used to play off the yusho candidates from all sections against each other? And then there's the issue that scheduling fill-in appearances in the next-higher division gets quite a bit more complicated if you have as many as 4 different timetables to work with (7 / 9 / 11 / 15 rounds)...

I've previously suggested that sumo could use an additional "semi-pro" division between juryo and makushita of maybe 40 rikishi that fight a full 15-day schedule but don't receive any of the sekitori status perks outside of a modest actual salary (it would be easy to set an incentivizing salary level that's still low compared to juryo/makuuchi but high compared to the toriteki allowance), or to just turn makushita itself into such a smaller division. That wouldn't require any significant changes to the scheduling process, would arguably prepare new talents better for competition in the sekitori ranks, and might even make sekitori a bit more willing to take time off after injuries if they can fall further on the banzuke before the 7-bout crapshoot scheduling starts to affect their comeback chances. Not that anything like that is going to happen anytime soon, of course, because tradition.

Edited by Asashosakari
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As I probably mentioned before, I think they should do something to use up the extra time that they have on Days 13-15 when the lower division schedule is spread out among 3 days instead of two, and that something should be to have the the top ten ranked makushita rikishi and anyone else in the division that started at least 5-1 have bouts all three of those days instead of just once.  Obviously they would need to do some sekitori-style matchups involving rikishi of disparate records to get them all matches, and thus it would require a bit more thought than they usually put into the last round's schedule given that they have a lot more they could do, like putting some of the top 10 against guys not in the top 10 for the latter's one last bout, and repeat that for multiple opponents.  Because of the extra thought required to set such a schedule, thought that might exceed the amount of thought put into the rest of the non-deterministic torikumi, it's probably not going to happen.  But it would be neat.

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One option might be to slowly increase the size of Juryo, perhaps two extra per basho until it gets to about 36-40.  The banzuke committee could choose when to expand based on the performance levels of the extra rikishi in promotable position, sometimes deciding not to add any, just to increase the number of things we can debate.  :)  The larger Juryo would create a low Juryo round robin between almost all of the J11-18 (or J12-19, or J13-20) except for those challenging for the Juryo yusho.  Six extra Juryo matches would simply mean the Juryo dohyo-iri would happen about a half hour sooner.  With the current streak of Kokugikan sellouts, it sounds like the extra Juryo salaries could easily be covered.

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I like the idea of having a 3rd div or minor Juryo. They can have Juryo salary but it's pro rated to their winning percentage of last basho (10-5 gets 66% of Juryo salary) just to discourage any funky business resurfacing.

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54 minutes ago, Tsuchinoninjin said:

I like the idea of having a 3rd div or minor Juryo. They can have Juryo salary but it's pro rated to their winning percentage of last basho (10-5 gets 66% of Juryo salary) just to discourage any funky business resurfacing.

If you want to do that, you can keep the same incentive structure there currently is for the toriteki - money per win, money per KK I think, with values going up as you go up in division, which means that you definitely care if you're Sd1e or Ms60w, something I wasn't aware of originally when I thought the toriteki got all the same (i.e. nothing but room & board).  Just bump it up to the logical next level and let them fight all 15 days.

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Posted (edited)

They could solve the scheduling problem simply by doubling the number of wrestlers in each match. Maybe two each side, kind of like a doubles or team match. If either one of you is defeated, your side loses. They'd still wrestle one on one, but maybe if you get caught in a particularly dangerous morozashi or something you could tag your teammate for help. And they should enclose the entire dohyo in a cage to reduce the risk of falling injuries while they're at it. The cage might also prevent wrestlers from bringing in objects that could be used as weapons, like ringside zabuton or chikara-mizu ladles...

Edited by Benevolance

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Posted (edited)

Since we have moved off topic and introduced financial incentives, let's reduce the per basho base salary for all sekitori by 60%.  We would then reward the winner of each match with an additional 15% of the new base salary.  We would also award 8% of the new base for a kyujo loss to reduce the impact of injuries. There would be more dynamic matches, and the previously discussed post 8 win ozeki funk would be incentivized. :-P

Edited by Asojima

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