(Kashima Antlers set a 2012 J.League season record with a 7-0 victory over Consadole Sapporo on Matchday Twelve. Consadole would concede seven times for a second time on 25 August, thrashed 7-2 by fellow relegated club Gamba Osaka)
34 games. Just four wins. Only 25 goals scored, and 88 conceded. Fourteen points. This is the record of Consadole Sapporo, relegated to J.League Division Two on Matchday 27. Their average of 0.41 points per game, saw them finish the 2012 campaign with an historic low points total. Tthe question posed here is whether are they are now officially the worst side to have ever appeared in the top flight of Japanese professional football.
Unfortunately, complicating any like-for-like assessment of performances over the nineteen completed J.League seasons is how the format of the competition has changed since its inception. The evolution of the league into a standard single-season format, whereby points are allocated solely on the basis of wins and draws inside a regulation 90-minute match, was not completed until 2005. Between 1993 and 2004 the championship took on a number of relatively unfamiliar guises, which were in summary:
|Season||Format||Champions||Match Format||Ranking Basis||Points System|
|1993 – 1995||Apertura/Clausura||Winners proceed to Final||90 mins; ET (Golden Goal); Pens||Win/Loss||N/A|
|1996||Single Season||First place||90 mins; ET (Golden Goal); Pens||Points||Win: 3 Pts; Pen Loss: 1 Pt|
|1997-1998||Apertura/Clausura||Winners proceed to Final||90 mins; ET (Golden Goal); Pens||Points||Win: 3 Pts (Reg Time), 2 Pts (ET), 1 Pt (Pens)|
|1999-2002||Apertura/Clausura||Winners proceed to Final||90 mins; ET (Golden Goal)||Points||Win: 3 Pts (Reg Time), 2 Pts (ET); Draw: 1 Pt|
|2003-2004||Apertura/Clausura||Winners proceed to Final||90 mins||Points||Win: 3 Pts; Draw: 1 Pt|
|2005-||Single Season||First place||90 mins||Points||Win: 3 Pts; Draw: 1 Pt|
As such, to provide any sort of fair comparison as to how we may come to judge Consadole Sapporo and their place in history, it was first necessary to conduct a review of the approximately 4,000 matches played since the J.League’s birth twenty years ago, and both re-evaluate and re-calculate the results and league table accordingly, excluding any goals scored in extra-time, and allocating points on a standard basis of three points for a win, one point for a draw and no points for a loss against all matches contested between 1993 and 2002.
What follows can never be described as definitive proof of which club should be deemed the J.League’s “worst” in competition, but it does provide a reasonable, evidence-based assessment of how clubs might have performed had they competed in a standard single-season league. Among a number of variables, matches played between 1993 and 1998 were in essence individual cup ties, necessitating a rather different strategy for the weaker teams in the J.League, who were unable to attempt to play out a draw and secure a vital single point, particular in matches played away from their home stadia. Furthermore, within the Apertura/Clausura system the manager of a team winning the first stage, having already qualified for the Championship final, might have chosen to focus his energies on domestic and/or continental cup competitions, swaying the outcome of one or more ties in the second stage through resting key players, which would be less likely in a straightforward league competition in which the title continues to be contested up to and including the final day of the season.
|Year||Team||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||Pts||W %||L %||PPG||GF PG||GA PG|
|1993 *||Urawa Reds||36||4||6||26||24||77||-53||18||11.11||72.22||0.50||0.67||2.14|
|1994 *||Urawa Reds||44||11||8||25||57||89||-32||41||25.00||56.82||0.93||1.30||2.02|
|1995 *||G. Osaka **||52||14||7||31||0||0||0||49||26.92||59.62||0.94||0.00||0.00|
|1996 *||K. P. Sanga||30||7||3||20||21||52||-31||24||23.33||66.67||0.80||0.70||1.73|
|1997 *||V. Kobe||32||6||5||21||40||76||-36||23||18.75||65.63||0.72||1.25||2.38|
|1998 *||A. Fukuoka||34||6||6||22||32||83||-51||24||17.65||64.71||0.71||0.94||2.44|
|1999 *||B. Hiratsuka||30||4||4||22||30||69||-39||16||13.33||73.33||0.53||1.00||2.30|
|2000 *||K. Frontale||30||3||8||19||22||56||-34||17||10.00||63.33||0.57||0.73||1.87|
|2001 *||C. Osaka||30||5||7||18||38||68||-30||22||16.67||60.00||0.73||1.27||2.27|
|2002 *||C. Sapporo||30||4||10||16||29||56||-27||22||13.33||53.33||0.73||0.97||1.87|
|2003||K. P. Sanga||30||6||5||19||28||60||-32||23||20.00||63.33||0.77||0.93||2.00|
|2006||K. P. Sanga||34||4||10||20||38||74||-36||22||11.76||58.82||0.65||1.12||2.18|
|2009||JEF U. Chiba||34||5||12||17||32||56||-24||27||14.71||50.00||0.79||0.94||1.65|
|* The points allocation/league position is calculated/rationalised|
|** No full league record could be found for the 1995 J.League season|
|PPG: Points per Game|
|GF PG: Goals For per Game|
|GA PG: Goals Against per Game|
Teams were then ranked on the basis of the worst performers for each key ratio or percentage, namely:
|Team||PPG||Team||Win %||Team||Loss %||Team||GF PG||Team||GA PG|
As can be seen from the table, Consadole Sapporo sit atop three of the key categories by which the worst performing clubs can be judged, with the worst points per game ratio, the highest loss percentage and the most goals conceded per game on a rationalised basis.
Consadole Sapporo made only one noticeable improvement in 2012. Since the introduction of the standard single season in 2005, previously only one team which finished at the bottom of the table had taken more points in the second half of the season as a proportion of their overall total, Montedio Yamagata bucking the trend in 2011 by picking up 12 of their 21 points in their final seventeen games. The inability of teams suffering at the lower reaches of the division to gain traction is presumably explained in part by injuries to key players during the course of a league season. A further suggestion is that players simply become resigned to or accepting of the likelihood of relegation, and performances dwindle accordingly, particularly if there is a significant gap between their team’s total points and those of their nearest-placed teams at the bottom of the division. This year Consadole took ten of their fourteen points in the second half of the season, and in doing so avoided setting another new and unwanted record for the fewest wins in a season in regulation time, but it barely needs saying that any corresponding tally for the earlier period would still have doomed the team to relegation.
In conclusion, setting a record low points per game ratio, the highest loss percentage and the most goals per game conceded in history, it is reasonable to judge Consadole Sapporo the worst team in J.League history on a rationalised basis.