Japanese Non-league Football News

JFL Team Profile - Sony Sendai

Sony Sendai were founded in 1968 and for the first 25 years of their history remained a small company club that represented only the Sendai branch of Sony Corp. Playing in the well-established Sendai Industrial League between 1968 and 1980 before being promoted to the Miyagi Prefectural League in 1993, they received little attention from central office.

With the commencement that same year of the J-League, however, a five-year plan was introduced by club management, who aimed to strengthen the team within the environment of the newly set up JFL. In 1994, Sony Sendai won the Prefectural League title to gain promotion to the Tohoku League and in three years had charged to three consecutive Regional championships - the last of them by a margin of nineteen points from Morioka Zebra and TDK, not bad for a fourteen-game season.

By this time, it was clear enough that the club had indeed improved enough to take a place in the top tier of the semi-pro game in Japan. This fact was underlined by their performance in the 1997 Regional League Championship Winners’ Play-off competition by which they clinched promotion, thrashing both Sapporo University OB and Shikoku’s Kagawa Shiun FC before triumphing in the Final Stage group (a J-League-headed Albirex Niigata moved up with them).

Having participated in the JFL since 1998, Sony Sendai have achieved somewhat inconsistent results, but essentially are – or were; see below - established as a top-half team, comparable with the pre-merger Sagawa Kyubin Tokyo. 2005 in particular saw Sony get off to a flying start and win the first half dozen matches of the year, but they were quickly overhauled by Honda FC and others, slipping down the ranking as the season went on to end up seventh.

Nevertheless, the bizarre nature of the club’s 2006 campaign can be held up as indicative of the genuine chasm in quality that has always existed in the JFL between the main contenders and the low-ranking, just-about-hangers-on. Having found a comfortable niche in mid-table at the halfway point in the season, Sony found that the top eight sides simply accelerated out of sight. At the same time, their own form collapsed and they managed only five points from the last fourteen matches of the season – but even despite such an appalling run, they maintained their ninth place and were not overtaken by any of the clubs lower down the table.

Not that this augurs terribly well for the team’s status in the rapidly-evolving world of the JFL. Such a profound change in Sony Sendai’s fortunes (their results over a period of some months were considerably worse than that of any of their rivals) means that they will potentially commence the 2007 season regarded as one of the league’s weakest clubs, picking up the scraps from fixtures with Mitsubishi Mizushima and Ryutsu Keizai University.

Moreover, as with Honda FC or YKK AP, one also has to wonder what the longer-term future holds for Sony. The team generally attract a respectable 500 or 600 fans to home matches in the JFL, but even so the parent company have long indicated their intention that the club stay as an amateur, company side. This is without any doubt a realistic approach to adopt, since they share their home city with the extremely popular Vegalta Sendai - but whether Sony will continue as a third tier outfit while the move to populate an expanding J-League gathers force remains to be seen.

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