Having previously noted on 9 November 2012 that discussions regarding a third professional tier of the J.League were set to commence before the end of the year, the Daily Yomiuri reports that the J.League is set to launch Division 3 in 2014.
In its inaugural season the number of participating teams is expected to be between ten and twelve, with a minimum stadium capacity requirement of just 3,000, compared to the 10,000 necessary required in J.League Division 2. While the 10,000 capacity stadia criteria in Division 2 makes little sense on the basis that average crowds across the division totalled just over 5,800, with only three teams nearer or above the 10,000 mark over the course of the 2012 season, the substantially smaller figure for the lower league should provide an easier standard of entry into the professional game for a number of teams currently residing in the JFL and the regional leagues.
There is no news at the present time as to how teams still owned and operated directly by parent companies will be affected, such as Honda FC, and where their future lies within the Japanese football league pyramid if they cannot or will not professionalise. Honda FC in particular made a deliberate decision to revert to fully amateur status having once been a J.League Associate Member, Honda Motor’s board assessing the environment and believing pursuing motor sport opportunities in the context of its main business to be the preferred option. It can only be hoped therefore that, despite the progress made by the J.League and the likely benefits that a third professional division will bring to the domestic and national game, one of the JFL’s stalwart members will be afforded sufficient consideration by the JFA in the event that it doesn’t garner the minimum level of support necessary from its fans and owners to become one of the third tier’s initial professional teams.