J league clubs has tried to do social activity since it’s establishment. J League started in 1993 and derived from JSL, national amateur football league (You can refer to Ownership rule in J League). All clubs have their home town, but they were decided artificially by the owner companies. Then they needed to make inhabitant to cheer up them as their town football club. At the same time, they needed supports and subsidies from city councils. Therefore they started to support and contribute to regional activity. This is the beginning of social activity in J league.
J league clubs call this activity “hometown activity”. This is the same as community activity in European clubs.
J league clubs support local festivals and events. And sometime players visit day care center, hospitals and schools. These are really important for clubs to become the center of the regional community.
J league wants to improve hometown activities as SDGs actions. A lot of companies now try to increase SDGs actions, in order to support sustainable development in society. J league clubs actions are fully suitable to their purpose. Then J League created the “SHAREN” award. “SHAREN” means hometown activity contributing their regions as SDGs.
It is very unique. You cannot find this well-organized social actions by football league. But J league did not appeal this in global. J league must inform its good actions more. What they did is to translate one article…. They did not translate its HP even in English… For what do they do??
J league must open its good actions to the world more. It will still take time that J league becomes international league…
AFC announces group stage selection for Asian Qualifiers
Today Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announces group stage selection of Asian Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Top 2 countries in each group will get the ticket to WC. 3rd in each group will go to Play-off.
Japan belongs to Group B. The rival countries are Australia and Saudi Arabia. Japan must defeat one of them. Of cause Japan should be careful against other 3 countries. Especially China has strong rival mind against Japan. Away game in China is always tough to Japan.
Here is the current squad value for countries taking place in the competition.
And you can see the top 5 most valuable players in the competition.
Son Heung-min (Korea): 85M€
Daichi Kamada (Japan): 25M€
Sardar Azmoun (Iran): 25M€
Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan): 20M€
Mehdi Taremi (Iran): 16M€
Then which countries do you think win in the competition?
What is the route to become a professional football player in Japan? As I told in the article After-school club activities culture in Japan, Japan has its unique football culture. Then there are 3 main route to become a professional football player in japan.
How many people are professional football player in Japan?
When we see the registered professional football player in J League, the total Japanese players are 1,564. And if we combine 478 Japanese players who plays abroad, the total number is 2,042 in 2020 season.
The new registered professional football players are 203. There are 89 players graduated high school (including 58 Youth team players) and 114 players graduated universities.
Consequently, players graduating universities can become professional football player easier than ones graduating high school. There is mainly 5 reasons existing.
Players who graduated universities are over 23 years old. Their physical condition is better already
It is normally difficult to transfer to abroad for players over 22 years old who become professional football players first time.
Current J League champions squad selects players 25 – 30 years old who are good player but cannot reach National team or European clubs.
These well experienced player can contribute much longer and more stably than young players
What is the rate to become a professional football player in Japan?
JFA (Japan Football Association) shows that 173,135 players in U15 – U18. Let’s say 56,354 players in U-18. Then you look back to the number 89 players who become professional in U-18. The rate could be 0.15% (≒89÷56,354).
On the other hand, if you look back to the number 114 players who become professional over 22 years old, the rate could be 1.0%(≒114÷10,762).
In conclusion, if you want to become just a professional player and don’t need to go abroad, it is good choice to go to university. Because J League clubs now demand physically matured, well- experienced and stable players.
Lower squad value in Japanese club in transfer market
Why Japanese club isn’t profitable in transfer market? The main reason is that European clubs don’t think J League is as high level as European Leagues. When you see the total squad value in J1 League, you can find the big difference.
The total squad value of J1 League is 316M€ with 20 teams. The average is 15.8M€ This figure is lower than only one club in Eredivisie, Ajax 350M€. Fortuna Liga the 1st division in Czech Republic has 280M€ with 18 teams. The average is 15.5M€. Czech is 17th in UEFA.
As you can see, this shows the top transfer deal in J league in 20-21. Almost all transfers relating to foreign players and they are purchasing transfers. There are few selling transfers. It shows that the Japanese player transfers from J league to other countries cannot generate enough profits compared to European leagues.
The world thinks J league is not competitive league in the world
As I mentioned in the article The rule for foreign players in J League, J league is for Japanese players. Japanese players fight against Japanese players in J League. That makes J League is just a east local league in the world. European people doubt that Japanese players are not enough level to play in Europe.
That’s why Japanese players go to European leagues with low price, then their player value becomes higher. But the transfer sales profit does not go to J clubs but to European clubs.
For example, Takehiro Tomiyasu playing in Bologna FC now transferred to STVV from Avispa Fukuoka with only 800K €. Then STVV sold him with 7M€ after 1 and a half year. Now his player value reaches 20M€. There was a possibility for Avispa Fukuoka to sell him to Bologna FC directly with 7M€, but it never happened, because of the problem of J league structure…
J League must be open to the world and restructure itself as international league.
AFC Champions League 2021 is 19th competition since 2002-2003. If it includes former competition, it is 40th. The champion team can get the ticket to FIFA Club World cup 2021, which will be held in Japan. 8 teams increase in this cup and total 40 teams participate.
There is 46 football federations belonging to AFC (Asian Football Confederation). Then main 2 regions exist. West area has 25 federations and mainly western Asian countries (=Arabian countries) organize it, on the other hand East area has 21 federations and eastern Asian countries (=ASEAN + China, Korea and Japan) mainly organize it.
When you say ASIA, it is spread from Japan to Saudi Arabia. The distance is longer than Russia. So it is impossible to have home & away games in the mid-week like as Europe, if it mixes up West and East in one pool.
DAZN took the broadcasting right in Japan. It has been difficult to say it is successful business. The popularity or recognition were not high. So AFC took action from this season, and announced its rebranding finally.
This year, the schedule is concentratively short term. The group stage in East area is undergoing just behind EURO 2020. West area already finished in April. Then knock out stage will be in September to November. The schedule is anomalistic like as the last season because of COVID-19. Each participants consumed their games in national league faster than other teams.
It is very tough condition for players, even thought it avoids the hottest season July and August in summer.
Kawasaki Frontale, Gamba Osaka, Cerezo Osaka and Nagoya Grampas participate from Japan. It is 8th time for Kawasaki, but they could not get outstanding achievement in this cup. Gamba Osaka became the champion once in 2008. They had Corona pandemic in the beginning of the season, and also they fired the head coach because of not good performance in J League. Let’s expect their recover from this cup. Cerezo Osaka was 4th in J League 2020, then they got additional ticket to the cup. Finally, Nagoya keeps its good shape. It had no outstanding achievement in this cup, so they desire to make an achievement.
Over view of the rule for foreign players in J League
J League has a certain limitation for foreign players. The purpose of the rule is to protect opportunities for Japanese players to play. As I told in the article Ownership rule in J League, the first purpose of the league was to reinforce Japan Men’s National Team. In that meaning, J League should have secured enough play time for Japanese players instead of foreign players. So now only 109 players (16.8%) in J1, 50 players (7.3%) in J2 and 34 players (7.5%) are in J League. And the most players come from Brazil. Total 110 Brazilian players are playing in J League (as of the article published date, Transfermarkt). It seems like a Japanese and Brazilian football league. We can say the purpose the rule is lost now.
Detail of the rule
You can see the original rule document here. The translation is as following:
(1) There is no limitation for registration of foreign players in J League
(2) A club can register foreign players in each match as follows:
J1 : 5 players / J2 & J3 : 4 players
(3) The following countries are alliance countries. Players from them are not regard as a foreign player:
Thailand / Vietnam / Myanmar / Cambodia / Singapore / Indonesia / Malaysia
When we see the current members in J League clubs, only 3 players in J1, 1 player in J2 and 1 player in J3 come from these countries allying with J League. They can play as same as Japanese player without any restriction. However, few J clubs use this advantage. if once they use it, they can expand their market into Asia easily. Japanese clubs got used to staying in domestic circumstance.
What should J League do?
What is the most necessary thing to J League is to become open to the world. All European leagues are practically international league. Because EU labor law allows European players can play in all EU countries. Additionally lots of good players come all over the world.
Japan has to relax its rule for foreign players and then proceed with internationalization for Japanese football. That requires people to change their domestic mind completely. Therefore Japanese football business starts its growth again.
Ownership rule: J League blocked foreign owner in the beginning
This article explains the overview of Ownership rule in J League, and how has Ownership rule in J League changed recently.
The first purpose of J League was to reinforce Japan Men’s National Team. Japan had never participated FIFA World Cup until 1998. Now Japan is the country which won the most in Asian cup, but they did not won until 1992.
J League was established in 1993 to change that situation. All football strong countries have their own professional football league. Japan tried to catch up with them. And 1990s is just after the collapse of Bubble economy in Japan. Japanese companies still have economic power despite the start of a recession. Almost all J clubs are established by Japanese companies based on Japan Soccer League, which is amateur national football league.
J League blocked foreign owners in its regulation. As you know, Premier League started in England at the same time and they accept foreign owners and tried to expand their business in global… In the result, J League became domestic. It helped to soak football culture into Japan regional area, but on the other hand it made Japan football business growth slow compared to European big 5 leagues.
J League Changed the its stance
Currently J League amended its regulation. There is no restriction for foreign ownership. But it says that some crucial share movements must be allowed by J League.
[Crucial share movements] – Share movement with more than 15% – Voting rights change with more than 1 out of 3
In that meaning, J League still has the power to veto against any new owners. Japan Football business is not matured yet. They rely on their parent companies which make up for their deficits and the rate of football economic size is too low compared to whole GDP in Japan. J League is still careful to accept foreign capital into Japan Football, but the regulation itself is already relaxed. It is a big progress compared to the beginning of J League.
J League has not announced this information actively. So people hardly know that information not only in global but also in Japan. If someone living abroad has interest in investing into J clubs, you can anytime reach them at this moment.
Overview of Special tax regulation for professional sports teams in Japan
Japan has special tax regulation for professional sports clubs. This tax regulation was made for professional baseball teams at first in 1954. Baseball is the first professional sports in Japan. Historically they are managed by big companies which had economic power at that time.
Additionally baseball business was thought as fully advertisement activities by owner companies. The business model has been not profitable. Normally baseball teams made deficits to operate their team. Because owner company put its company name on the team name and they are always main sponsor of the team.
In that meaning the main income comes from the owners sponsorship. It have made baseball business not profitable. Normally other sponsor companies don’t want to bigger sponsorship than the owner company. Additionally match day revenue is not enough to cover the team costs, because the deficit condition was normal in baseball team, so almost all baseball team made their budget deficit…
The tax regulation is made to give advantage this business structure in professional baseball business. The owner company can use the deficit of its baseball team as advertisement cost for its financial statement. It makes tax deduction effect. Here is the regulation in National Tax Agency Japan.
The definition expanded from 1990s
After J league started in 1993, Mr. Saburo Kawabuchi, the first chairman in J league, discussed with National Tax Agency Japan unofficially, then it allowed to adapt the special tax regulation to J clubs as well. J clubs and their owner companies can have apply this regulation unofficially.
Corona crisis happened in 2020. J League tried to make the regulation official for J clubs to rescue their sponsorship deal. Mr. Masaaki Kimura, one of board members in J league, convinced National Tax Agency Japan officially. It resulted in that J club can use this special regulation officially from 2020. And this regulation can be applied to professional basket ball teams as well. This whole action is a big movement in sports industry in Japan.
J League Club Culture comes from European Style or South American Style
A lot of famous football players played in J-League since it started in 1993. In the beginning, J-League was one of the biggest football league in the world. European football league was not economically big as now. The 1990s can be called golden era of J-league. At that time, the base of J league club culture was built up. I list up famous players and staff who were in J-League in the past here:
・Arthur Antunes Coimbra (Zico): Technical Director 2018- Kashima Antlers ・Guido Ulrich Buchwald: Head Coach 2004 – 2006 Urawa Red Diamonds ・Dragan Stojković: Head Coach 2008 – 2013 Nagoya Granpas ・Arsène Wenger: Head Coach 1995 – 1996 Nagoya Granpas ・Ivan Osim: Head Coach 2003 – 2006 Jef United Chiba
On the other hand, Japan football clubs have had negative complex to European and South American countries. And it still continues. Additionally, European football has grown dramatically for past 3 decades. Japan kept behind them completely.
Japanese football clubs could not reach European football market very well, because almost all of them cannot speak English and J-League and JFA developed their market only in domestic. That is why a lot of Brazilian players come to Japan. Brazil has historical relation to Japan.
Japanese people immigrated to Brazil in the past and lots of Brazilian workers have came to Japan as well. Japan and Brazil culture can be close easily, and Japan respects Brazilian football culture and knowledge strongly. Then after J-League started, Brazilian football soaked into Japan Football.
That makes Brazilian football agents send players to Japan easily. Japanese sportive staff have strong connection with Brazilian agents and relied on them. You can find a lot of Brazilian players (61 / 109 on 06/2021) in J-league, please see Transfermarkt data below.
However the trend is of course different between each clubs. J clubs have their own history and choose its strategy inspired by what they selected. I can show you some examples which clubs are inspired by which country strongly. It helps you to understand J clubs more than now.
This club was really Brazilianized, thanks to Zico. The base of the club glorious history is built by Zico. Zico professionalized the club with all his experiences. After he left the club, he had a strong influence on the club.
Additionally Zico became the Japan men’s National Team Head Coach in 2002- 2006. That is why the club have got a lot of Brazilian players. The football style is based on 4 – 4 – 2, and use individual ability to attack. Its football is totally almighty in defense and offence as well.
Urawa Red Diamonds
This club has been inspired by European football, especially Germany. Guido Buchwald, who was former West German National Team Player, played in the club and became a head coach. He brought the first League Cup to the club.
After that, the club had several European players (sometime they had Brazilian players), and when Mihailo Petrović was their head coach, the club had second golden era. Recently, the club tries to reinforce the team with European players.
The club had several famous European players and head coach. Especially Dragan Stojković and Arsène Wenger influenced the team strongly. The football style is Europeanized defensive football. Additionally this club grew Keisuke Honda and Maya Yoshida in its youth academy. Then the club sends them to VVV Venlo, the Dutch club.
Jef United Chiba
The remarkable person in this club history is Ivan Osim. He installed direct pass football in the club and brought golden era for the club. The football influenced Japan football itself, then he became a head coach in Japan men’s National Team as well. After that, they were in lost and now in 2nd Division for more or less 10 years.
This club had relationship with FC Barcelona in the early days. After Mr. Mikitani, who is the founder and CEO of Rakuten, Inc, purchased the club, he tried to reinforce the club with his finance power. The football style itself was not fixed for decades but now they try to be FC Barcelonanized with FC Barcelona.
The team is also Brazilianized in the past. In the early days, Dunga influenced the team strongly. The team style was pass football with individual high techniques. The club build its own style in 2000s and enjoyed its golden era. However, after that, they cannot keep their financial competitiveness. They slightly got weaker and now belong to the 2nd Division.
Japan style clubs
If we say clubs which have own football style. It could be Kawasaki Frontale. After 2000s, they start to become competitive little by little. The representative strategy is beautiful aggressive pass football combined with positional play.
The base of style was built by Takashi Sekizuka, Yahiro Kazama and Toru Oniki. All three are Japanese head coach. In that meaning, this team purely represents Japan Football style at this moment. Of course the football style is inspired by several football trends, but they mixed and optimized to Japan Football completely. Currently the club won J League 3 times in 4 years.
There are a few examples. I will introduce each J league club cultures later one by one.
Let’s travel into Japanese football history together!
1870 – 1920：Beginning of Japanese Football history
There are four presumptions about the origin of Japanese Football. First one is that the game at the foreign residence in Kobe city in 1872. Second one is that the game played by English army at Yokohama city in 1866. Third one is that Sir Archibald Lucius Douglas, who was the Second British Naval Mission to Japan, introduced football into Japan at first in 1873.
The final presumption is that Mr. Limer Jones, who was the Scottish surveying engineer in Tokyo University, taught football to students as physical education. These presumptions are still not exact, but Japan Football Association state that the third is correct one and Japanese football history started then.
The popularity of football started in the west of Japan, especially Kansai area. It was an important event that students of Mikage college school in Kobe city football started playing football. Then in 1917, first notional college football competition was held. Mikage college school became the first champion and was the winner 7 times in a low until 1923.
The current national high school football competition derives from this national college football competition. These college movements spread football to other colleges nationwide. Japanese football has expanded and grown with education in college school.
1920 – 1990 : the early days of Japan football
The origin of Japan Football Association was established in 1921. At the same time, the first Emperor’s Cup was held. The game of the Sixth Far Eastern Games in Osaka in 1923 was recognized as a first international A match. Men’s Japan National team won against Philippine for the first time in international A match. Japan joined FIFA in 1929. So it can be said that the current base of Japan Football was made in 1920s.
Men’s Japan National team participated Berlin Olympic game for the first time in 1936. Japan won 3 – 2 miraculously against Sweden, which was one of the winner candidates in the competition. It is called as “Miracle of Berlin”.
During the World War II, all sports activities were governed, however JFA is incorporated into that action so called the Greater Japan Sports Association. Japan was expelled from FIFA during this period. Japan rejoined FIFA in 1950 finally after the war.
In 1954, men’s Japan National team participated the qualify of FIFA World Cup. Japan could not have joined FIFA World Cup until 1997. On the other hand, Japan kept participating Olympic games. Japan joined Rome Olympic in 1960, Tokyo Olympic in 1964 and Mexico Olympic in 1968.
Especially Japan became the best 8 in Tokyo Olympic and the 3rd in Mexico Olympic. The Olympic bronze medal was the first medal in Asian football history. Additionally, Japan was also admired for their sportsmanship spirits and received Fair Play award at the same time.
In 1965, Japan Soccer League, which is the origin of J-League, was established by mainly company activities. It was not professional league. All clubs belongs to a part of company sports activities. Players are a half employee and a half player. They work in day time and then have a training in evening and games in weekends.
Unfortunately during 1970s – 1980s, Japan did not show outstanding achievements in international level. On the other hand, there were important discussions and improvements undergoing.
・The first women football club “FC Jinnan” was established in 1972 ・The JSL Second Division was launched in 1972 ・A World Cup game, which was the final of the FIFA World Cup from West Germany, was live-broadcasted first time in 1974 ・The Japanese Football Supporters Club is launched in 1976 ・The Japan Cup, which is later called as Kirin Cup Soccer, was held for the first time in 1978
・The All-Japan Women’s Football Championship was held for the first time in 1980 ・The Toyota Europe/South America Cup, which is later Club World Cup, was held for the first time in 1981 ・the Association forms a professional league assessment committee requested by JSL in 1989 ・The Japan Women’s Football League started in 1989, which was renamed the L. League in 1994 and now known as the Nadeshiko League.
Japan officially declares its candidacy as host for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Japan Football had grown dramatically 1990s.
1990 -：Growing era
Finally Japan Professional Football League (J-League) was established with original 10 clubs (Urawa Red Diamonds / Gamba Osaka / Kashima Antlers / Simizu S-puls / Jefunited Ichihara / Veldy Kawasaki / Yokohama Marinos / Yokohama Flügels / Nagoya Grampus Eight / Sanfrecce Hiroshima) in 1993. J-league released “the concept of 100 years league” in 1996. It aims to improve the level of Japan Football and enhance Japan Football culture in long term.
In 1997, Japan defeated Iran at the qualify of France World Cup, the finally Japan got the ticket to FIFA World Cup in 1998 for the first time, which is called as “Delight of Johor Bahru”. In 2002, Japan and Korea held FIFA World Cup together and Japan reached the best 16 for the first time.
Japan has kept participating FIFA World Cup 6 times in a low since 1998. Japan also won AFC Asian Cup 4 times after 1990s. Current FIFA ranking is 28th (as of 06.2021), which is the highest ranking in Asia.
Women’s National team became world champion in 2011 in FIFA World Cup. It was a epoch-making event in Japan Football history.
When we look back the history of Japan Football, we can understand Japan Football has grown step by step. Japan has unique culture in sports industry. Football is influenced by this culture strongly, so that’s why the history and walk was different from European football culture. Japan is now standing the turning point where they should go forward in the future. Japan economy is stagnated in several decades. Japan Football will change from now on.