Gates in the J.League – a cause for concern? (Part 1)

Football in Japan should, in theory, never be more popular. One of its greatest exponents has signed for one of the world’s most successful, popular and richest clubs; Keisuke Honda continues to draw admiring glances from leading teams across Europe, while several young talents including Hiroshi Kiyotake and Hiroki Sakai will soon look to further their careers in the Bundesliga; the Nadeshiko are the reigning FIFA Women’s World Cup holders and strongly expected to reach the final of the London 2012 Olympic Games, with Homare Sawa the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, and the Samurai Blue have advanced to twentieth in the latest FIFA World Ranking, one place away from their highest position since 2005.

This strength internationally, however, is not necessarily reflected in the domestic game, which is showing some signs of attrition, among which are reductions in gates across a number of traditionally well-supported and garlanded J.League teams. This two-part post will attempt to provide some understanding as to whether the loss in supporters is for obvious reasons – it’s reasonable to assume a major factor in the sharp dip of nearly 17% in 2011’s average weekly gate was the devastating 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami – but with some clubs showing little change in the numbers through their turnstiles and others increasing their supporter turnout last season, it’s also clear that last year’s tragedy does not fully explain why some fans are no longer appearing in the stands.

The full analysis will appear on Football Japan on Sunday, but the data per club is set out below with the regrettable exception of Sagan Tosu, who have been excluded from this analysis solely on the basis of this being their inaugural season in J.League Division 1. Please note that some attendance figures have been subject to small changes, particularly for those where a home match has been held a significant distance away from their normal ground. A typical example is the 2002 fixture for Consadole scheduled to be played at the Sapporo Atsubetsu Park Stadium, but which instead took place at the Kochi Haruno Athletic Stadium on Shikoku owing to adverse weather conditions in Hokkaido, and which distorted their 2002 attendance figures accordingly. Best efforts have been made to reflect a more appropriate gate in circumstances such as these. In addition, pictures are thumbnails – simply click the relevant image for the full size version.

Finally, in attempting to ensure these figures are as precise as possible, rather than simply utilising a team’s current ground and its commensurate capacity across all seasons, percentage of capacity utilised has been calculated on the basis of the frequency of all stadia used since 2002, which, in the instance of Reysol in the 2007 season, for example, saw them split their home games between the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium, the National Olympic Stadium and the Kashiwanoha Park Stadium.

In the meantime, and while I’m writing the second part of the post, if you have any queries about the data or if there’s anything you would like to ask, drop me an email or send a tweet to

Av. Stadium Gate v Av. J.League Gate Av. Stadium Gate v Stadium Capacity
Albirex Niigata
Cerezo Osaka
Consadole Sapporo
FC Tokyo
Gamba Osaka
Jubilo Iwata
Kashima Antlers
Kashiwa Reysol
Kawasaki Frontale
Nagoya Grampus
Omiya Ardija
Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Shimizu S-Pulse
Urawa Red Diamonds
Vegalta Sendai
Vissel Kobe
Yokohama F-Marinos

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