“In the summertime when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky” so sang Mungo Jerry. But for clubs in the JFL – Japan’s de-facto fourth tier, they’re not reaching out to touch the sky, rather reaching for that precious J.League place.
From his self constructed, air conditioned igloo somewhere in central Japan, @GifuRichy gives us the lowdown on the state of play in the JFL as it pertains to those clubs looking for promotion. This is part one of a two part series, the second part will focus on those sides in the regional leagues.
* a quick note – this piece was given to me at the end of July, but due to time constraints and a general feeling of lethargy due to the incredible summer humidity I’ve only just got round to posting it. The results might be a little out of date, but the information & analysis is watertight in the extreme. Richy, take it away…..
Chasing the J – JFL
In order to gain promotion to J3, JFL teams must:
1) Finish in the top 4 of the JFL. The winner of each stage is placed 1st and 2nd – Depending on who wins the final. 3 rd and 4 th place are decided on overall standings at the end of the year.*
2) Have a J3 Licence – Financial stability and sponsorship, appropriate infrastructure, and an average crowd attendance of at least 2000 people per home game.
* Maximum 2 teams can be promoted. If 3 or 4 teams meeting the J3 criteria finish in the top 4, the 2 highest placing teams will be promoted.
Current overall standings of “J-chasing” teams:
2 Azul Claro Numazu (41pts)
5 Reinmeer Aomori (35pts)
6 Vanraure Hachinohe (32pts)
10 MIO Biwako Shiga (27pts)
13 Nara Club (23pts)
1st Stage Winner – Ryutsu Keizai University (Currently 1st Overall (46pts)
Azul Claro Numazu
Although Shizuoka already has four clubs (Jubilo, S-Pulse, Fujieda, Honda FC) representing each level from J1 to JFL, they are included in this list because they look the most likely to gain a place in J3 next year, therefore only leaving enough space for one more team to be promoted. They are currently 3 rd in the 2 nd Stage, and 2 nd overall, so have a good chance of either gaining promotion by winning the 2 nd stage, or finishing in the overall top 4. The team has a J3 licence and average crowd figures of 1658 so far. Last weekend vs Tochigi UVA FC 2664 people turned up, showing there is a good amount of interest in the team and they look very likely to be in J3 next year.
Leading the charge in the 2nd Stage is Reinmeer, who are sitting at the top of the table with 6 wins from 6 games. They have scored 14 goals and only conceded 1. The team finished a reasonable 11th in the 1st stage but this was understandable as they played less games at home (due to snow) than all other teams, and didn’t play their first home game until Round 7. Remarkably, they have beaten rivals Vanraure Hachinohe twice, home and away, and look a good chance of either winning the 2nd Stage, or finishing in the top 4 overall (Currently they are 5th ). A big problem for them though at this stage is attendance. They managed to get 1518 people in for the derby with Hachinohe, but altogether their average attendance is only 713, so they will really have to concentrate on getting the people in if they want to get their J3 licence, and this means getting an average of almost 4000 people to their remaining 6 games which looks like a bridge too far at this stage.
Vanraure are failing to reach the heights of last year, but are no way out of the promotion race so far in 2016. They are sitting 6 th overall and 10 th in the 2 nd stage, so still have a chance of finishing in the top 4 overall. They have had some good wins, however, as mentioned above, have lost twice to their rivals Reinmeer, and just as they were gaining momentum, lost 1-0 at home to Musashino City this weekend. There is some good news on the horizon though with the opening of the upgraded & renamed Daihatsu Stadium (Formerly Taga Ground) which will be used in their home game vs MIO Biwako Shiga on October 2nd . The stadium meets J3 requirements (but not J2) and the team averages 1492 people per game, with the highest this year being 3066 for their opener. So the team has set itself up for J3 promotion but now needs the results, and the experience gained by finishing 2nd overall last year could be invaluable.
MIO Biwako Shiga
After a great start to the season where MIO beat Nara Club in front of 1003 people, things have gone downhill and promotion is looking close to impossible. Crowds numbers quickly dropped (average 419), as have results, and the club doesn’t look to be a serious J3 promotion contender at this stage. On one positive note, FW Sakamoto has scored 10 goals for the team (JFL 4 th ) which is more than any player in the above mentioned teams.
Nara Club have had a completely dreadful season to date. Dreams of promotion have almost been dashed this year, with just the slim chance of winning the 2nd Stage keeping them alive. They finished a miserable 14th in the 1st Stage and sit 13th overall meaning that basically if they don’t win the 2nd Stage (Therefore finishing 1st or 2nd overall) then their dream of promotion is over for 2016. There was a bit of hope and hype around the club at the beginning of the year but that disappeared pretty quickly as the team took until Round 10 to get their first win (3-0 over Fagiano Next). They did record an impressive 2-1 over 1st Stage Champions, RyuKei University, showing that they do have potential, but will need to put everything into the 2nd Stage, where they are currently 6th, 9 points off the pace.
One thing though that may push the team close to that miracle is the fact that the fans have stuck by the team, and they currently have an average of 1465 people attending their games despite their poor form.