The ancient sport of sumo wrestling was today bracing itself for a fresh assault on its reputation, after police said they had found evidence of match-fixing on several wrestlers’ mobile phones.
Japanese media reports said the text messages showed the wrestlers had gone as far as agreeing which winning moves would be used during bouts, and how the losing opponent should fall.
The messages were found on phones belonging to wrestlers in sumo’s second division, the Kyodo news agency said. The phones had been confiscated during an investigation into allegations of illegal gambling involving scores of wrestlers that surfaced last year.
They suggested that match-fixing was common in the 2,000-year-old sport, with hundreds of thousands of yen resting on the outcome of a single bout.
The Japan sumo association summoned one elder and nine wrestlers, including three from the top division, to an emergency meeting to discuss the allegations.
"We are examining the situation," the association’s chairman, Hanaregoma, said.
Reports suggested the police would not take action against the wrestlers, as match-fixing is not illegal and there was no evidence that anyone had bet on the predetermined bouts.
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