Back to the future: The J.League Two-Stage is here, and it’s welcome

It’s all change in Japanese professional football.  As part of a significant rebrand and overhaul of its sponsors, the top two divisions will become the J1 and J2 Leagues, mirroring the third tier introduced in 2013, while Meiji Yasuda becomes title sponsor for all three competitions.  Agreements with Calbee and Konami as primary sponsors have come to an end, the latter potentially providing an opening for EA Sports and its FIFA franchise to be granted the J.League’s licence, ending the Winning XI series’ long-standing monopoly.  Gamba Osaka’s new arena is scheduled to open in the autumn of 2015, the first stadium with a capacity in excess of 30,000 to open since the co-hosted 2002 FIFA World Cup.  With venues for Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Montedio Yamagata, Shimizu S-PulseKyoto Sanga, Giravanz Kitakyushu, V-Varen Nagasaki, FC Ryukyu and AC Nagano Parceiro at various stages of discussion, planning and construction, it may be the prelude to a raft of modern, football-specific stadia in the coming years.   Most importantly, after a decade the decidedly European single-stage, double-round robin format has come to an end.  Next season, the 50th anniversary of top-flight organised league football in Japan, will see the country’s first division comprise two stages and a championship play-off.

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A return to Football Japan

After a lengthy absence aused by the author undertaking an MBA in Football Industries at the University of Liverpool, this blog has returned, albeit with a different slant to before.  For the foreseeable future, there will be an attempt to make sense of the business of Japanese football at a club and organisational level and some of the data including some statistical analysis of players past and present.  With Manchester City’s parent organisation City Football Group purchasing a stake in Yokohama F.Marinos with a view to taking a majority share, and the J.League’s expansion to three divisions and a change to a two-stage system in J1, there likely isn’t a better time to help understand, for example, which other clubs might be ripe for targeting by domestic or foreign investors.   Video of games and goals will also appear from time to time.  If you have any suggestions of content you would like to see, please drop me a line or contact me on Twitter.

J.League, Samurai Blue and Nadeshiko Fixtures (Football Japan Fixtures Calendar 2013)

A full, comprehensive fixtures calendar for the forthcoming Japanese football season, including kick-off times and stadium addresses, and which covers J.League Divisions 1 and 2, the Yamazaki Nabisco and Emperor’s Cups, the AFC Champions League matches in which Japanese sides are participating, and senior Men’s and Women’s internationals can be accessed at the following links:

XML iCal HTML

iCal (.ics file type) is compatible with most calendar software including Google Calendar, Apple iCal, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes and Yahoo Calendar. It will also work with Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. Any updates made to the calendar as the season progresses will automatically be reflected on your device.

To add the Calendar to a Google Calendar, click “Other Calendars”, then “Add by URL”. Copy and paste the iCal link provided above into the field marked “URL”, then click “Add Calendar”. The Football Japan calendar will be added to your list of calendars. A summary of these instructions on the Google website can be found here.

To add the Calendar to an iOS device, tap the “Settings” icon. Tap “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”, and then “Add Account…”. Then press “Other”, and “Add Subscribed Calendar”. Copy and paste the iCal link from above into the “Server” field, and press “Next”. Your device will then attempt to verify the subscription, and once successful, simply choose “Save” to complete the subscription. However, if you have any other Apple devices it is highly recommended that you first subscribe via Calendar or iCal on OS X, before adding the calendar on iOS. See page 67 of the current iPad User Guide here for further information if required.

Details on how to subscribe to the calendar using Microsoft Outlook can be found here, for Lotus Notes users a video guide has been produced here, and details on subscriptions via Yahoo Calendar are available here.

If you wish to see Japan Football League or L.League fixtures added to the calendar, or if you have any feedback or suggestions, please send me an email or contact me on Twitter at

J.League Player Distribution – Data Visualisation

Leading up to what, for many reasons, should be an enthralling 2013 season, I’ll be creating some visual representations of data containing a number of interesting insights into the J.League and the wider of issues surrounding the growth of football in Japan. This post, which relates to the prefectures of birth of J.League Division 1 and 2 squad members at the end of the 2012 season, uses two methods to look at the same data. Initially each prefecture was accorded a simple total of squad members born inside their respective boundaries, and later, in an attempt to assess which prefectures could be regarded as the “football hotbeds” of Japan, I calculated that same number of players in the context of the relevant prefectural population.

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J.League to launch Division 3

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.

J.League Division 1 digital media accounts

After the jump is a list of official, frequently used digital media accounts where available for teams in J.League Division 1. For the avoidance of doubt, this list is accurate for the forthcoming 2013 season. Where a club utilises more than one account, that with the most likes or followers is specified. No accounts dedicated to or that primarily concern official mascots are included. Click the relevant links for similar lists for teams in J.League Division 2 and the Japan Football League, and the relevant football associations and authorities and national teams.

If you note any that are absent or are incorrect, please send me an email or a tweet to

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J.League Division 2 digital media accounts

Click “continue reading” for a list of official, frequently used digital media accounts where available for teams in J.League Division 2. This list is accurate for the coming 2013 campaign. The most popular accounts have been listed for teams with more than one official account, and no accounts dedicated to or primarily concerning club mascots are included. Click the following links for similar lists for teams in J.League Division 1 and the Japan Football League, and the relevant football associations and authorities and national teams.

If you note any that are absent or are incorrect, please send me an email or a tweet to

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