Japanese Ministry Chipping In To Finance J.League's Push Into Southeast Asia
Japan's powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI) is supporting the J.League's push to raise its presence in Asia, with financial support for three top-tier football clubs to promote themselves in different countries. Gamba Osaka, Kashiwa Reysol and Kawasaki Frontale are to get up to 25M yen ($250,000) each in assistance from METI to hold promotional activities in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, respectively. This will begin with football coaching sessions for children from August until the end of the year, in Jakarta by Gamba Osaka, in Bangkok by Kashiwa Reysol and in Ho Chi Minh City by Kawasaki Frontale. Kei Koyama from the J.League's Asia Office told SBD Global, "Up to two-thirds of expenses will be covered by METI as part of its Test Marketing program for overseas activities, though the details of which clubs will do what and where, are still being confirmed." METI is overseeing a Cool Japan Fund of public and private money that is set to rise to 100B yen ($1B), designed to promote all things Japanese overseas, from sport and entertainment to anime and music.
SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY: The three clubs were founded by, and still sponsored and part-owned by, major electronics manufacturers, which will use the opportunity to push their products in the three emerging markets. Panasonic sponsors Gamba Osaka, Hitachi backs Kashiwa Reysol and Fujitsu is allied with Kawasaki Frontale. The J.League is struggling to expand at home, and is looking to tap into the high-growth economies of Southeast Asia for merchandising and broadcast rights revenue. Average attendances at J 1 games averaged more than 19,000 in the late 2000s, but have fallen back into the 17,000s range in the current decade. As well as a slowly shrinking population, Japanese football has been somewhat a victim of its own success as many of its best players have left to ply their trade in European leagues. Japan has also begun to export coaches, with Toshiya Miura taking over as the manager of the Vietnam national team in May. The appointment of Miura, who has previously managed six J.League teams, makes him the first Japanese coach of an overseas national team.
Gavin Blair is a writer in Tokyo.