Japan has been given until the end of next month to resolve the issue of two competing basketball leagues or its participation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games could be at risk, International Basketball Federation (FIBA) secretary general Patrick Baumann has warned.
FIBA has been talking for years about a merger between the two leagues in order to bring some cohesion to the otherwise fragmentised structure of the sport, however no agreement has yet been made.
An attempted merger was brought in to effect during the 2012-2013 season, although this fell through after conflicts between the two organisations.
The main issue with the conflicting league is the spilt it has brought to the sport of basketball, with ticket sales, audience figures and the standard of basketball slipping as a result.
The bj-league established in 2005 after a section of the then Japan Basketball League wanted to break away from the corporately-run league and create Japan's first professional league.
The now 21-strong league was recognised in 2010 by the Japan Basketball Association (JBA), which allowed players from the league to represent the national team.
Money issues brought a halt to a hopeful start to the league, with teams finding it hard to gather enough financial clout to recruit, and keep, top talents within their clubs.
Speaking to insidethegames, Baumann warned the JBA had until October 31 to resolve the issue to "our satisfaction" otherwise the national team's qualification to the basketball event at Tokyo 2020 could be in jeopardy.
"They have to do three things, they have to merge a league, but they have to do it concretely so we have to really see concrete evidence of how it will work competition format and things," said Baumann, a member of the International Olympic Committee
"They have to merge; have to sign contracts and agreements between the two sides so that they simple get together.
"Then they have to change a few things in the governance of the one federation because basketball has good potential of being a good league in the country, there's no reason why it shouldn't be better than it is today but for this they need to change a little bit of the decision making mechanism; who are the members and how they deal with the professionalism of the clubs, and then they have to present a proper sports plan for around 2024.
"Because 2020 is behind the door.
"These are their three tasks and we gave them a deadline until October 31 so it's up to them, and now we are pushing really hard so there is really a lot of pressure from our side and they know that at the end of the day what is at stake is to qualify for the Group A in 2017 which then allows them to go to Tokyo so they feel the pressure."
Japan's men have appeared in the Olympics six times, including Berlin 1936, when the sport made its debut in the Games, finishing ninth, which remains their best-ever performance.
They have taken part in the Olympics on five other occasions but have not qualified since Montreal 1976.
The women's team have taken part in the Olympics three times, finishing fifth at Montreal 1976, their best performance.
They have not competed in the Games since Athens 2004, when they finished tenth.
Speaking about the current issue within the sport in Japan, Baumann added: "It's two groups, they don't talk to each other.
"One is absolutely out of the control of the Federation, they do whatever they want, and they play with other rules.
"They just need to have one voice and one image for the people in Japan, it's very important for them.
"It's the only way for them to progress the national team to the right level.
"They are good in women, which is fortunate enough.
"They won the Asian Championships; their women's school, coaching school, is extremely good.
"But on the men's there are side too many fragmentations between high school, university, leagues and they need to sort that out."
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December 2013: FIBA chief warns Japan they might miss out on automatic place at Tokyo 2020 unless problems resolved