Japanese Non-league Football News

JFL Crowds On The Up As J-League Beckons
One particularly striking aspect of the start to the new JFL season has been the marked increase in the number of supporters attending the first two rounds of fixtures (eighteen matches in total) when compared with 2006. So far, there have been five crowds in excess of 3000 - all of them at clubs who have stated a serious interest in moving up to the J-League. Indeed, this denominator seems to be the main motivation behind the greater levels of support, for the smaller company teams have in contrast recorded no real variation in the number of people attending their games.

But the total crowd figure for 2007 currently stands at 38,120, an average of 2118, with Tochigi SC leading the way by virtue of their having attracted a stunning 12,539 for the match against FC Ryukyu. Newly promoted FC Gifu pulled in more than 5000 to see their 2-0 win over Arte Takasaki, despite ticket prices being among the most expensive in the division - presumably a measure to counteract their reported financial problems.

A year ago, the total attendance for the opening two rounds stood at 22,648, an average of 1258 at each game. Tochigi SC's match with FC Ryukyu again was watched by the biggest crowd - but this was 6153, just under the half the equivalent figure from last weekend. Ryutsu Keizai University also doubled their first gate from 2006 - 502 people saw their fantastic 3-0 defeat of YKK AP - while ambitious Gainare Tottori recorded an even more impressive more-than-five-fold increase: 3811 this season against Sony Sendai, as opposed to 708 against Alo's Hokuriku twelve months ago.

These sorts of statistics tend not to be too representative of the season as a whole, but are indicative of the fact that there is a growing audience for lower league football in Japan - especially in the context of a potential for development. The public is, it would appear, becoming familiar with the idea of a pyramid through which well-supported and well-financed clubs can move up to the J-League. And increasing numbers of them want to be in on the ground floor, watching their local team progress through the ranks.

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