Amidst Allegations Of Organized Crime Ties,pride Keeps Pay-per-view For Now
Amidst Allegations of Organized Crime Ties,
PRIDE Keeps Pay-Per-View for Now
By Nori Yoshida
PRIDE Fighting Championships, the world’s largest and most popular fighting promotion, continues to reel from Fuji Television Network’s June 5 announcement that it would no longer nationally televise its events for what it described as "damages to [Fuji Television Network's] programming credibility, dignity and image," and thus a "breach of contact." In what has become a trickle-down effect of separation from the event’s promoters, Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE), in recent days has at least stopped with their pay-per-views, aired by Sky Perfect Television, which agreed yesterday to at least carry PRIDE’s next two events, the June 17 pro-wrestling event "Hussle Aid" and July 1′s second round of the PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix.
"We have not made any concrete decisions and therefore do not plan to make any changes in the upcoming schedule," Sky Perfect Television representatives said Monday in an official announcement. "However, if new facts come to our attention, there is a strong possibility that we will make changes."
On June 7, Japanese news publication Sports News had reported that Sky Perfect Television announced that although they had met with DSE CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara, "It would be difficult to independently continue the programming work that Fuji Television had been doing," and that, "there are many voices within the (Sky Perfect Television) network in favor of canceling [PRIDE] broadcasting."
PRIDE executives have called Sky Perfect Television their "lifeline," and are sure to be doing all they can to maintain good relations with their last hope for remaining on the airwaves for now until a new TV arrangement materializes, if at all.
Yesterday’s announcement was a bit of reprieve for the promotion that has been under the microscope this last week. Fueled by recent reports in the tabloid news publication Shuukan Genndai (Modern Weekly), it has been speculated that DSE has been tied to "bouryokudan" (criminal organizations).
Speculation of DSE’s involvement in criminal activities dates back to 2003, when then and still current PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko made an appearance at rival promotion Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye’s televised event. Three members of an organized crime group reportedly demanded 200,000,000 yen (nearly 1.8 million dollars) in restitution. The three were arrested on charges of attempted blackmail in February of this year.
At a June 8 emergency press conference, DSE CEO Sakakibara called the recent accusations unfounded. "(Those reports) are completely groundless. We have never broken the law, nor have we been subject to any criminal investigation." In tears, Sakakibara finished his statement, assuring the fans that he would "defend PRIDE with his life, as long as there is the support and passionate expectation from the fans." He also included in his statement that DSE was currently in the process of filing a lawsuit against Shuukan Genndai.
With 54 PRIDE Fighters backdropped behind him, Sakakibara announced that even without the backing of Fuji Television, they would continue with all of the events that are scheduled for the rest of the year, including their first American event in Las Vegas on October 21, as well as their largest annual event on New Year’s Eve.
PRIDE’s 2005 New Year’s Eve event scored a 17% viewer rating on Fuji and Sports News has reported that it generated nearly 800 million yen (approximately 7.3 million dollars) in revenue. They also estimate that Fuji Television sponsorship accounts for 1-2 billion yen (approximately 9-18 million dollars) throughout the year. DSE CEO Sakakibara said that this is only 10-15% of total revenue and that they would still be able to continue with the events as scheduled. However, Sky Perfect Television revenues are also estimated by Sports News to be around 10% of the total, which could add to a total 25% drop if new developments were to occur.