Shiga prefecture. Know it? You might know Lake Biwa. You might know the historic castle town of Hikone. You probably won’t know it for it’s footballing prowess. In the second of his looks at the prefectures with no professional league team, @GifuRichy looks at Shiga-ken.
Shiga Prefecture is known predominantly for the biggest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. It is this lake though, through isolating the main cities away from each other, that is one of the main reasons that the prefecture has failed to gain unity into pushing a local team anywhere past the JFL. Last year though, local JFL team MIO Biwako Shiga indicated that they might be finally heading in the right direction.
MIO Biwako Shiga
- 2006 Kansai 1st Division
- 2008 JFL (14th) ~ (Highest place – 8th 2009/12) (Lowest place – 16th 2013)
- 2016 JFL
In 2007, Mi-O shocked the football world when they did well enough to gain promotion to the JFL along with FC Gifu and TDK Akita (Now Blaublitz Akita). After years of finding their feet in the JFL the team formally known as FC Mi-O Biwako Kusatsu changed it’s name into the more sensible MIO Biwako Shiga in 2012. The change of the area name Kusatsu to Shiga was significant because a) it took confusion away from Thespa Kusatsu in Gunma, but more importantly b) gave the team a name that the whole prefecture could identify with.
Last year the team announced that it would try and merge with local team Lagend ShigaSC in order to help soothe the problems created by having two teams fighting for territory in the Eastern and Southern reaches of Shiga Prefecture. Unfortunately it was reported that a compromise on the merger couldn’t be made because of a number of issues, including financial and stadium issues, and that the teams would be playing in their respective leagues in 2016.
As we saw with Volca Kagoshima and FC Kagoshima with their merger to become Kagoshima United FC, sometimes these things take time. For MIO’s sake hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. Should that happen, they will still need to upgrade the seating in their stadium in Higashi-Omi. Fan numbers too have been down in recent years and the team only averaged 644 fans per game in 2015. They have gained crowds over 2000 in past years, however it looks like fans are just waiting for the team to get some direction and really push for J3.
MIO Biwako Shiga look like they will stay in the JFL for a few more years at least. Interestingly, the proposed move of Kyoto Sanga’s base to Kameoka in the West of Kyoto Prefecture in 2019/20 could lead to renewed interest in MIO. Without regular J2 games right next door, this may force local football supporters to find interest within their own prefecture.
This year MIO have already started well on the field (3 wins, 1 draw 1 loss), however they are going to need things to happen off the field if they want to see themselves on the J3 Highlights Show anytime soon.