This month's featured article
Evaluation and Accountability <RIETI Featured Fellow> HIROSE Ichiro
HIROSE IchiroSenior Fellow, RIETI
Greetings from RIETI
Japanese pro-baseball stars moving to the United States, and sumo wrestling celebrities retiring, there has been no end of exciting sports headlines so far this year. Then, there was last month's football match between Japan and Korea which timely heralded the first anniversary of the two countries collaboration in hosting the World Cup last year. While this was a fanfare of prowess for the victorious Korean side, perhaps supporters of the other side felt it was more like a bell tolling the death of a fever which only last year had dominated the media, hairdressers, and drunken conversations in "izakayas" for a month and well beyond. One year on, and just how much has football remained in the Japanese public consciousness? Like the David Beckham haircuts, was it all a passing fad soon to be relegated to the cultural scrapheap? RIETI Report had the pleasure of 90 minutes with Mr. Ichiro Hirose and found out some of the culprits who are letting the side down. (DC)
RIETI FELLOWS NOW
Hirose has been senior fellow at RIETI since November 2003. Graduating from the University of Tokyo Law Department, Hirose joined Dentsu Inc., an advertising company and became assigned to the Account Executive Division. Within four years, he was transferred to the Sports & Culture Division, and heading up the Kirin Cup. Then began many years of sports-related activities, which saw Hirose being involved in both national and international football, athletics, golf, and sumo events, and taking on a whole range of positions, including: attending the World Cup twice with the ISL, producing Americas Ekiden, heading up the British Open, and arranging exhibition tournaments in Hawaii with the Japan Sumo Association. His expertise is the marketing, managing, and ex post evaluation of sporting events; the latter being the focus of specific research that Hirose is currently conducting at RIETI in his capacity as Senior Fellow. His publications include: "Sports Marketing for Professional Use" (Dentsu, 1994), and "Media Sports" (Yomiuri Shimbun, 1997).
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RIETI Report: You are currently conducting research on the evaluation and accountability of the administration of sporting events, using the World Cup Soccer Championship as a case example. What was your first experience of the World Cup?
Hirose: In 1986, I was sent to Mexico for the World Cup in the capacity of head of International Sports, Culture and Leisure Marketing A.G.(ISL), a marketing team that was established by Dentsu Inc. and Adidas. It being my first time at the World Cup, I was shocked by a number of things, particularly the integration of business into sport ? something which is considered to be a rather shameful mix in Japan. The other thing was the atmosphere, not just inside the stadium, but the fever that seemed to grip the whole nation. Even after a match was over people would behave in ways they were not accustomed to, and often quite dangerously. There were some fatal accidents, but the newspapers just dismissed such events as if they were an expected and natural cause of World Cup hysteria. The event's powerful influence was incredible, and at that time any thought of holding a World Cup like that in Japan was crazy.
In 1990, the year the World Cup was held in Italy, I attended again under the auspices of the ISL, and this time also with the Japan Football Association (JFA) who were in Rome to make their invitation to hold the event in Japan in 2002. You see a lot changed domestically after the birth of J-League soccer; sports came to be regarded as a social issue, although very few actually knew anything about the World Cup and its important blend of game and business.
RR: Hasn't such a mix of business and sport been present in domestic sports, like sumo, for many years?
Hirose: Such a way of thinking can't actually be applied to sumo, because it is only recently, given its rich cultural history, that sumo wrestling has come to be regarded as a sport. As for professional baseball, well the teams are just run like Japanese banks with absolutely no regard for whether they are making a profit or not - they merely have to sustain. So it was this lack of awareness or knowledge on the matter that motivated me to distinguish the business side from the sports. I tried to look ahead to the 2002 World Cup and raise many issues with my colleagues at Dentsu Inc. that would have to be addressed: identity, communication, planning, produce, and so forth.
RR: Was further work taken in this vein?
Hirose: Well in 1998, while the World Cup was held in France, Japan hosted the Winter Olympics in Nagano. From the athletics side of the event, it was considered a great success, but certain notoriety surrounded the management of it, and I for one thought that side of affairs to be have been anything but a success. This prompted me to conduct extensive research into the management of sports events involving over 10 Japanese cities. Looking forward to the World Cup in 2002, the aim was to draw up a 100-checkpoint list, a so to speak manifesto for managing sports events. The 100-checkpoint list was to be a yard-stick against which cities could be measured in the year before the World Cup, to determine who was fit to host the event and who wasn't, separating the best from the worst. In the end however, the list was never used, but the work led to me taking up my current position at RIETI, where I am now conducting research into the management and ex post evaluation of large-scale sports events that are hosted by public authorities.
RR: Are you saying that Japan is not so good at evaluating software assets; how about the ex post evaluation of sports events in other countries?
Hirose: Well, let me first say that J-League is purely the success of management, but as to ex post evaluation, a great weakness certainly lies here. After hosting the World Cup in 1994, the US carried out extensive after-event evaluation, and did much to build on the momentum that was created by the World Cup. In Florida, Disney created 30 football pitches on their own land, and opened up the Disney Cup for young people to participate in; Pasadena proclaimed its Rose Bowl a "soccer heaven," and this went on to become an identity for the community there; and all over America the red Volvo wagon driving "soccer mamas," so they were called, began driving their kids to football training. Compare this with Japan where there has been so little mention of the World Cup since it happened that it feels already like 10 years have passed, not just one. A symposium was recently held to mark the first year after the World Cup, but with such low profile that it barely caught anyone's attention. As an Advisory Committee member for J-League, I had repeatedly stated the need to ride on the wave of World Cup fever and boost interest in domestic football. For example, I urged the rapid completion of Kobe's football stadium so new fans could begin watching football there soon after the World Cup, but even now the stadium is still under construction. Niigata prefecture and Oita city have both done well to cultivate J-League fans out of World Cup fans, but in other areas such developments have been at the mercy of strained relations between city and respective prefectural government, leading to the poor serving of soccer fans' interests.
RR: Ideally, what sort of actions would you like to see be taken as regards the proper management and evaluation of sorts events?
Hirose: In the short-term, dialogue is what is needed, dialogue between local governments, NPOs and local media. The citizens need to decide precisely what it is they desire out of holding the event, besides the event itself, and according research needs to be conducted in the wake of it to determine if these aims were achieved or not. However, in the long-term, and this is a much more fundamental issue that needs addressing, the people's perception needs to be changed. Football-lovers are not naturally endemic to Japan, and to produce the sort of fever of excitement and catharsis one witnesses in stadiums around the world requires some sort of education at a grass-roots level. I feel there are profound benefits to be gained from the education of football at school, not just for the sake of the game, but for the great learning opportunities it offers children. Like the teaching of ecology, sports at schools can serve vital roles in educating about ethics and morals, giving a strong social meaning to learning, without ever making it explicitly so. The sports field is often seen as a microcosm of the world, and sports are an important tool allowing reference to social themes through a reality. I feel there are many future benefits to be gained from bringing Japanese children up on soccer. But my views on the necessity of sports education precisely mirror my views on Japan's structural reforms. Restructuring, if it can be said to actually achieve anything, should pay more attention to the human side. Instead of changing the structure of organizations and systems as a whole, we should be looking at changing the human resources which create them.
RR: Can your ideology for sports administration be applied to the administration of other projects?
Hirose: Yes, and I would like to see it expanded to other areas. Japanese management is bound to government, advertising companies, so many things. But management should be infused in ex post evaluation. Just as private companies which manufacture goods are subject to evaluation by markets, public enterprises need to be subject to ex post evaluation. If goals are never at the scrutiny of evaluation, how can they be properly aimed for? My model for the management and evaluation of sports can be seen as a paradigm for structural reforms as a whole. Without the urge to build and improve, things are merely sustained at a constant level or lose wind; and the driver of this urge is the scrutinizing eye of evaluation.
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