There is no law in Japan imposing criminal penalties for doping. The Japan Anti-Doping Agency (JADA), which is responsible for all anti-doping activities in Japan, was established in 2001. In addition to determining standard doping test processes for Japan and implementing doping control procedures, JADA conducts anti-doping education and awareness campaigns. JADA established the Japan Anti-Doping Code (JADC), which is based on the World Anti-Doping Code established by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and incorporated WADA’s prohibited list. The prohibited list is updated annually by WADA and includes substances such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin, which are illegal drugs in Japan.
In October 2018, the Act on the Promotion of Anti-Doping Activities in Sport (Law No 58 of 2018) was enacted as Japan's first anti-doping law. In March 2019, the Basic Policies for the Comprehensive Promotion of Measures Related to Anti-Doping Activities in Sports, which establishes the basic policy frameworks for anti-doping activities, were enacted in accordance with Article 11(1) of the above-mentioned Act.
In 2017, a candidate for inclusion on the Japanese national canoe team mixed a banned substance in the beverage bottle of one of his rivals and causing the rival to be suspended. Later, this disqualification was nullified, and the player who mixed the banned substance was banned by the national federation from competition for eight years.
There is no law in Japan that specifically deals with “athlete’s” misconduct/cheating and match-fixing offences. That said, if an athlete commits an act alleged to be illegal under the Penal Code or public gambling laws, the athlete will be punished. In addition, the sports organisation to which the offender belongs may punish them under its own rules.
Each sports organisation offers compliance training to its athletes in order to prevent illegal acts and misconduct from occurring.
For example, in the J.League, the top professional football league in Japan, the Early Warning System introduced by FIFA is used to prevent match-fixing.
In 2011, a sumo wrestler match-fixing scandal arose causing the spring tournament to be cancelled. More than 40 sumo wrestlers and masters were asked to retire or recommended to be dismissed. In 2020, a boat racer was sentenced to imprisonment with labour for three years and a supplementary fine of approximately JPY37 million for his involvement in a match-fixing scheme whereby he intentionally delayed finishing a boat race in order to receive an illicit payment.
Under Japanese law, gambling activities are subject to punishment (Articles 185 and 186 of the Penal Code), except where public agencies are specifically authorised by special laws to run places for gambling in the fields of horse racing, boat racing, bicycle racing, auto-racing and sports promotion lotteries. In 2020, the Act on the Implementation of Sports Promotion Lotteries was amended, and from 2022, basketball will be subject to such lottery, in addition to soccer. According to the Act, athletes, managers, coaches and referees of the games subject to the lotteries, as well as those under the age of 19, are not allowed to participate.
Persons who engage in illegal gambling may be punished not only by law, but also by the sports organisation or companies to which they belong.
JADA implements doping control in accordance with the JADC. In the event a positive doping test is obtained, a hearing will be held and sanctions (such as suspension) may be decided by the Japan Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel. Although the body for sanctions is the Japan Anti-Doping Discipline Panel, the sports organisation to which those who are found to be in violation belong may impose separate sanctions on them.
Disciplinary procedures for other acts that violate the principle of integrity will be imposed under relevant regulations if:
are provided for in such regulations, although the disciplinary action will vary from one sports organisation to another.
In addition, sports organisations or companies may punish their members for unethical behaviour in their private life (eg, for acts of infidelity).
In addition to sponsorship and broadcasting revenues, merchandising rights as well as ticket and hospitality revenue are major sources of revenue for sporting events. For example, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) is forecasting about JPY14 billion in licensing and about JPY90 billion in ticket revenue at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020 Games). The Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Committee received ticket revenues (JPY38.9 billion) from the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with no sponsorship, broadcasting and licensing revenues coming in.
Official resale services were/will be provided for both events, and tickets were/will be allowed to be resold at regular prices via official resale sites. Resale of tickets by other methods, such as auction websites, was/will be prohibited by the terms and conditions applicable to ticket purchase and use.
The unauthorised resale of tickets, or acquisition of tickets for the purpose of unauthorised resale, is subject to criminal penalties under the Act on Securing Proper Distribution of Entertainment Admission Tickets through Prohibition of Unauthorised Resale of Specified Entertainment Admission Tickets (the Anti-Scalping Law), which came into effect on 14 June 2019.
A sponsorship contract is a contract in which a company or individual becomes a sponsor of sports rights-holder(s) and receives a certain sponsorship benefit in return for paying a sponsorship fee. The motivation for concluding sponsorship agreements is that sponsors can increase their brand value by associating their products and services with sports competitions and athletes while also leveraging the data of sports rights-holders for their businesses. Sports rights-holders, on the other hand, use sponsorship fees to stabilise and enhance their events/competitions and improve the performance and competitiveness of their athletes. Sponsorship programmes often afford sponsors exclusive rights to certain products or services categories, particularly in major sporting events and international scale sporting events. Please see 4.4 Recent Deals/Trends for details of a different type of sponsorship programme in place for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Sports rights-holders grant broadcasters and media organisations the broadcasting and media rights, which include (i) the right to bring recording and broadcasting equipment into venues, and (ii) the right to record the events by themselves or through a third party and then to transmit and screen the same using live or delayed broadcasts, wire-broadcasts, internet distribution or other means. Broadcasters often attempt to increase viewer revenues by broadcasting high-value-added sporting content, while also increasing advertising revenues by increasing the value of their own media.
In order to obtain greater broadcasting-rights fees, several sports rights-holders, such as the leagues, collectively manage the broadcasting rights and sell them on an exclusive basis to broadcasters or media organisations. While the granting of broadcasting rights and the ownership of copyrights to the audio and video of broadcast games and others are separate issues, ownership of copyrights is also agreed upon in broadcast rights agreements.
For example, in July 2016, the J.League concluded an agreement with the Perform Group, which provides the DAZN live streaming service, for the sale of broadcasting rights of approximately JPY210 billion for a ten-year period beginning in the 2017–18 season. In this agreement, it was agreed that the copyrights in and to the footage of the matches belong to the J.League.
As broadcasting-rights fees for large-scale international sporting events are increasing, for certain events such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, the Japan Consortium, an organisation composed of NHK, a public broadcaster, and private broadcasters, will be formed to allow for the sharing of broadcasting rights, the securing of personnel and systems for jointly creating and broadcasting programmes, and the provision of more viewing opportunities.
There is no right to protect the sporting events themselves, and the matches themselves are not protected by intellectual property rights under Japanese law.
Sports event organisers – including national federations, leagues and clubs – control their facilities and games by securing property rights, leasehold rights, and other facility use rights through contracts with the owners of the facilities and granting access to athletes, coaches and spectators. In granting access, sports event organisers obtain permission to include the grantees’ likenesses in the footage of the games. Furthermore, to protect broadcast rights, sponsorship rights and other commercial rights, organisers will (i) enter into contracts and terms and conditions of participation with athletes and coaches participating in the sporting events, (ii) set forth various rules and regulations, and (iii) impose terms and conditions for tickets sold by sports event organisers to spectators.
Sports event organisers are legally obliged, when holding events, to consider the safety of participants. Although the obligation to give consideration to safety is not explicitly stated in Japanese law, judicial precedents stipulate that “the parties who have entered into a special social contract relationship based on a certain legal relationship are obliged to protect their lives and personal safety from the dangers associated with a legal relationship by one or both of them under the doctrine of good faith and mutual trust, as supplementary duties.”
Sports event organisers should work to prevent violence and disorder by implementing rules applicable to athletes and coaches, as well as rules applicable to spectators. They should collaborate with police and security companies. If an athlete violates the rules, they will be punished by sports event organisers. Depending on the location and content of a sporting event, the relevant parties, including sponsors, may be subject to the Urban Park Law, the Road Traffic Law, the Outdoor Advertisement Law and related ordinances, the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance, the Fire Service Law, the Food Sanitation Law, and other relevant laws and regulations. Event organisers may have clauses in their contracts with participants and spectators that restrict their liability, but any provisions in the terms and conditions with spectators purporting to exempt the organiser from liability to provide compensation are always void as a breach of the Consumer Contract Act.
In general, professional sports clubs operate as joint-stock companies, and sports organisations which are not professional sports clubs may operate in a variety of forms, including as joint-stock companies, incorporated associations, incorporated foundations, specified non-profit organisations (NPOs), or voluntary organisations. In many cases, national sports federations in Japan operate as incorporated associations or foundations.
There are many possible reasons for opting for corporate status or a certain entity type, including tax benefits. For example, the primary reason for selecting a joint-stock company is that the organisation’s activities are for profit. The primary reason for choosing an incorporated association or foundation is that the organisation’s activities are not for profit. Certain incorporated associations and incorporated foundations are authorised by a Public Interest Corporation Certification. Having a Public Interest Corporation Certification offers tax advantages, such as income tax exemptions.
In 2019, the Japan Sports Agency developed two sports governance codes: one for the national federations and one for general sports organisations. In 2020, the Japan Sports Association (JSPO), the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC), and the Japanese Para-Sports Association (JPSA) began evaluating their respective compliance with the code for national federations. A national federation which is evaluated as non-conforming in the examination may be subject to a reduction in the amount of subsidies provided by the Japan Sports Council (JSC). Furthermore, when a general sports organisation applies to the JSC for a grant, it is required to self-explain and publicise its status of compliance with the governance code. The governance code does not specifically provide for matters regarding bankruptcy of a sports organisation.
The JSC, JOC, JPSA and JSPO are awarded administrative grants, subsidies, etc, by the Japan Sports Agency, and they then provide funds to the various national federations to improve athletic performance and international competitiveness as well as to enhance the competitive environment. This sports promotion fund is also provided to athletes and coaches of Japan's national teams. Such subsidies are estimated to comprise about 25% of the income of the national federations.
Subsidies may also be granted to other athletic organisations by the Japan Sports Agency and by the JSC as sports promotion lottery subsidies. Furthermore, “lottery tickets co-operating with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games” and “lottery tickets co-operating with the Rugby World Cup 2019” were sold and a portion of the proceeds was used to support each event respectively. The Japan Sports Agency has formulated a supplementary budget to provide subsidies to athletes and coaches to combat COVID-19 infections. More details of this are given in 9 COVID-19.
In Japan, the Rugby World Cup 2019 was held in 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Games are due to be held in 2021, with both events being extremely important to the Japanese sports industry. For the Rugby World Cup 2019, there was a total of JPY67.6 billion in revenue, including JPY38.9 billion in ticket revenue. The total revenue for the Tokyo 2020 Games is forecast to be JPY721 billion.
In sponsorship contracts for large international sporting events and other events, the sponsor is often granted exclusivity for a particular product or service category in order to increase the value of its sponsorship. However, at the Tokyo 2020 Games, with the approval of the IOC, a scheme has been adopted whereby multiple companies coexist as sponsors in the same categories – such as banking, aviation, and newspapers – which is a new and unique form of sponsorship. As a result, domestic sponsorship revenues reached an Olympic-record of JPY350 billion.
A trade mark right arises only after registration with the Patent Office by identifying the trade mark to be registered and filing an application with the Patent Office specifying the scope of designated goods or services for which the trade mark is to be used.
Trade marks which do not have a distinctive function, which are contrary to the public interest, or which are similar to another person’s trade marks, cannot be registered.
Sports organisations often register trade marks in the categories of clothing (class 25), toys, sports equipment (class 28), advertising (class 35), and organisation, arranging and conducting of sports competitions (class 41).
The duration of a trade mark right is ten years, but because it is renewable, it can be made semi-permanent by repeating the renewal, which makes it easier to use in the sports business.
For this reason, sports event organisers, such as leagues, may require their member clubs to register the trade marks for their logos and emblems.
Anticipation and Abuse of Trade Mark Rights
Anticipatory trade mark applications have been filed for famous names in the sports world. For example, this sort of anticipatory activity was disputed in the case of "Juventus". In that case, the plaintiff, who held a trade mark registration for "Juventus" despite being unrelated to the “Juventus" football club in Italy’s Serie A, claimed infringement of a trade mark right against a defendant who had been licensed by the club and used the mark domestically. The court rejected the claim on the ground that the plaintiff's position constituted an abuse of rights.
In Japan, the Copyright Act grants copyrights and moral rights of the author to the author of a work which is a cultural product. Databases that display creativity through the selection or systematic construction of information are protected as copyrighted work. Because a copyright accrues automatically when content is recognised as creative, sports organisations both create content themselves and acquire rights to copyrights under contracts with copyright holders. Unlike trade mark rights, copyrights have the advantage of being granted without applying for registration or involving complex procedures and are therefore widely used in sports businesses. That being said, it is necessary to bear in mind that copyrights may be unclear in terms of copyrightability or the attribution of rights, and it is therefore not easy to determine the presence of infringement. For example, the official emblem of the Tokyo 2020 Games was said to resemble the logo of an overseas theatre, and because the existence of copyright infringement was therefore at issue, TOCOG changed to another emblem.
Although not stipulated by Japanese law, the rights to the names and portraits of celebrities such as athletes (their image rights), are recognised. They are generally recognised as (i) the right to exclusively use names and portraits to attract customers and promote the sale of goods and (ii) “publicity rights” in the context of Supreme Court rules on tort under the Civil Code. In the case of infringement committed by a third party for the purpose of exploiting an athlete’s ability to attract customers by their own portraits, injunctions against infringing acts in tort and claims for compensatory damages are allowed. The following three types of infringement of publicity rights are common:
Under Japanese law, there are no special restrictions on the licensing of intellectual property rights, such as trade mark rights and copyrights, to third parties. In addition, the Supreme Court considers that the basis of publicity rights, such as names and portraits of athletes, as described in 5.3 Image Rights and Other IP, is a moral right. Therefore, publicity rights are construed as personal and cannot be assigned. However, there is no restriction on the licensing of these rights to third parties. For this reason, sports organisations and athletes often license their intellectual property rights and publicity rights to sponsors and licensors for remuneration.
The data of athletes is used for coaching and training as well as improving their athletic performance. It is also used for fan engagement and to develop products and services for sponsors and other stakeholders.
On the other hand, by accumulating and analysing spectator data – such as visit history to venues, age of fans, and purchase history of tickets and goods – sports organisations have refined their marketing activities and increased the number of visitors and fans and acquiring sponsors; as well as improving product development and sales promotional activities for sponsors and other stakeholders.
In addition, information regarding the results of doping control testing is strongly protected as “special care-required personal information” and it is essential to obtain the consent of the person in question when acquiring such information.
When handling the personal data of individuals residing in the EU, it is necessary to comply with the GDPR. The European Commission adopted a privacy adequacy decision for Japan in January 2019, whereby the transfer of personal data between Japan and the EU has been made much simpler and smoother.
Any disputes concerning the existence or non-existence of specific rights and obligations or legal relationships between the parties which can be finally settled through the application of law can be heard in court. However, non-legal disputes such as those involving athlete selection or those completely within an organisation, cannot be settled in court. Domestic sports-related arbitration and mediation are prepared by the Japan Sports Arbitration Agency (JSAA), detailed in 6.2 ADR, Including Arbitration, and by the sports organisations that have their own mechanisms of dispute resolution. It is not necessary to use the arbitration or mediation of the JSAA or dispute resolution procedures by sports organisations prior to resolving a dispute in court.
Any dissatisfaction with a decision made by a sports organisation may result in an appeal within the sports organisation itself or to the JSAA. The goal of sport arbitration is to come to "a decision made by a sports organisation or its organs in relation to a sport competition or its operation". Sports disputes that cannot be resolved in court may be appealed as well. Dispute resolution using the JSAA is conducted in accordance with the Rules of Sport Arbitration and other regulations. Any appeal to the JSAA must be filed within six months from the date on which a party became aware of the decision by the sports organisation concerned, and the arbitral award rendered by the JSAA shall be final and binding upon both parties.
Sports governing bodies may dismiss or suspend persons, reduce subsidies or impose sanctions in accordance with their own rules. Any person who wishes to challenge the decisions made by a sports organisation may file an objection under the appeal system established within that sports organisation. The proceedings will be in accordance with the rules established by such organisation.
See 6.2 ADR, Including Arbitration for further information on the appeals system administered by the JSAA.
There are several types of relationships between sports organisations and players. These relationships depend on the nature of the sport (eg, individual or team), the history of the sport, the degree of professionalisation of the sport, the level of popularity of the sport, the level of competition and the policies of the governing body. For example, players who engage in individual sports, such as tennis or golf, may conclude a contract with each sports organisation hosting each competition and receive remuneration from the organisation concerned. In contrast, players who engage in team sports, such as baseball, soccer or basketball, may receive remuneration from their club (or the company that owns the club).
In general, a "professional player contract" is considered to be a consignment contract, instead of an employment contract. That being said, for certain sports, such as rugby, in addition to having professional player contracts, "semi-professional contracts," having the characteristics of a consignment contract and an employment contract, are sometimes concluded depending on the degree of professionalisation of the sport and the skill and competence of the athletes. These semi-professional contracts may include provisions wherein each player of the club becomes an employee of the company owning the club and continues to work for the company after retirement.
In addition, there are some sports where professional athletes have different contracts, and others some where all professional athletes enter into the same uniform player contracts. Uniform player contracts are particularly present in large-scale and established sports, such as baseball, soccer and basketball in Japan.
Salary Caps and Transfer Restrictions
Salary caps have been introduced in some sports. For example, in the J. League, there are certain limitations on players’ salaries, which are based on contract type. A salary cap of JPY6.7 million applies to "Professional A" contract players in their first year, but there is no cap from the second contract year onward. An annual salary cap of JPY4.6 million applies to "Professional B" and "Professional C" contract players.
The Japan Fair Trade Commission has officially announced that any rules that limit or restrict the transfer of athletes indefinitely may violate the Anti-monopoly Act. Therefore, sports organisations having rules limiting or restricting the transfer of athletes are required to verify the rationality and necessity of such rules.
In general, a professional athlete does not fall under the category of "worker" under the Labour Standards Law. A worker under the Labour Standards Law is "a person who is employed at a business and to whom wages are paid regardless of the type of occupation". However, labour unions may be organised and collective bargaining may be sought against employers if an athlete is recognised as a "worker" under the separate Labour Union Law. Under the Labour Union Law, a worker is a "person living on wages, salaries or other equivalent income regardless of the kind of occupation". In fact, the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association and the Japan Pro-Footballers Association are recognised as labour unions under the Labour Union Law. Therefore, in these cases, relevant leagues and teams may not treat an athlete in a disadvantageous manner because of the activities of the athletes' union, and they may not reject the collective bargaining sought by the athletes' union without due cause.
There is no Japanese law directly restricting the participation of foreign athletes. That said, all activities undertaken in Japan by foreigners seeking entrance to Japan must correspond to an authorised activity under one of the statuses of residence provided in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. In general, the activities of a professional athlete would fall under the status of residence of "Entertainer", and the activities of amateur athletes (when the company pays such athlete a monthly remuneration of JPY250,000 or more) fall under the status of residence of "Designated Activities".
Certain leagues have established for themselves foreigners' quotas, including the leagues for baseball, football, basketball and sumo. For example, in the J. League, each J1 club is currently allowed to include five "foreigners" in the starting line-up, with exemptions for players from "J. League Partner Countries" such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
In Japan, esports have been attracting increasing attention in recent years. Many large companies have entered the market, which was estimated to be worth approximately JPY7.6 billion in 2020, compared to approximately JPY6.1 billion in 2019. It is expected to grow to approximately JPY9.1 billion in 2021 and over JPY15 billion in 2023.
Esports may involve in-person competitions whereby players compete against each other at venues in the presence of each other. For these types of "offline" events, the effects of COVID-19 have resulted in cancellations, postponements, or competitions with limited audiences. For example, the Final and Playoffs of the League of Legends Japan League (LJL), held in May 2020, were conducted without an audience. On the other hand, esports are characterised by the ability to compete remotely and hold competitions while maintaining physical distance, which makes them uniquely suited to an online format. Some events were held online without a reduction in their size. In addition, esports have been embraced by traditional sports players, as these players can easily play esports titles and organise esports competitions.
Recently children have become interested in esports and the number of young esports players is increasing. As a result, it has become necessary to consider the effects of esports on child health (eg, gaming addiction) and to think of ways to improve the environment for young esports players.
In March 2020, the Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed due to COVID-19 until the summer of 2021. In April 2020, the government declared a state of emergency and many sports competitions were suspended regardless of whether they were professional or amateur. Since then, the government has:
The Japan Sports Association and certain national sports organisations provided subsidies to their member organisations and individuals. In addition, the Japan Sports Association established the Guidelines to Prevent Expansion of Infections and to Resume Sport Events, and each professional sports organisation has also issued its own Guidelines for Coronavirus Infectious Diseases Control. Various sports organisations have taken measures against COVID-19 at their venues. For example, the professional baseball league started its league on June 19th, and the J.League resumed its league on July 4th. Initially, the games were held without spectators, but from September 19th, spectators were allowed into stadiums again, up to an upper limit of 50% of their capacity. In January 2021, another state of emergency was declared, but thorough anti-coronavirus measures were taken for athletes and tournament officials, and competitions were held, once again, without spectators. Various ideas and efforts are continually being put forth to ensure that events can be held safely. If the spread of COVID-19 can be controlled by a vaccination programme, such restrictions will be relaxed while putting the safety of athletes and spectators first.
The Tokyo 2020 Games, scheduled to be held in the summer of 2020, were postponed to the summer of 2021 on 24 March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the first time in Olympic history that the Olympic Games had been postponed. TOCOG has since faced a number of legal challenges, including securing venues, hotels, staff and volunteers; handling tickets that have already been sold; extending sponsorship contracts; and amending other contracts. However, vigorous efforts are being made to resolve these issues in advance of the 2020 Games being held in 2021. The Act on Special Measures for the Olympics, which provides for matters such as taxes and holidays related to the Tokyo 2020 Games, was also extended for one year.
In addition, in December 2020, the Co-ordination Conference for Coronavirus Countermeasures, which is composed of the national government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and TOCOG, developed guidelines for stakeholders, including athletes and games staff, in dealing with COVID-19. Furthermore, the Government of Japan has established a so-called “athlete track” system which provides for special entry procedures for athletes entering Japan to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Games and allows athletes who have undergone certain procedures to participate in sports activities even during the quarantine period. The public and private sectors are working together to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Games as a testament to humanity's efforts to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget of TOCOG was previously JPY630 billion, but the total budget, including the additional budget for the postponement, has increased to JPY721 billion.