Japanese Non-league Football News

JFL Team Profile - SC Tottori

Gainare Tottori are one of several JFL outfits who have announced a specific timetable by which they intend to achieve J-League membership, and there are several factors that count in their favour as good candidates for a place in the J-League. The first is that they have as a home stadium the excellent 16,000 capacity Tottori Bird facility, which - despite requiring some building work in order to bring it up to the standard required to host regular J2 matches - has over the years staged a good few games in both the J-League and Emperor's Cup.

Secondly, Tottori are well-established as a club independent of any parent company or individual main sponsor, a key criterion for entry into the J-League. In fact, having been formed under the name Tottori Teachers Soccer Group, the club's rise to their current status of knocking on the door of the country's professional elite amounts to a major success story of grassroots football: a fact that is rightly a source of local pride.

Their first experience of league competition was a positive one. After being founded in 1983, Tottori Teachers Soccer Group took the Tottori Prefectural League Division 2 title and so gained promotion at the first attempt. In both 1985 and 1986, they proceeded to win Division 1 and then moved up to the Chugoku League.

As it turned out, this promotion was to herald a long period of yo-yoing between the two levels, for despite five times winning the Prefectural League, it took SC Tottori – a name adopted in 1989 – until 1998 to make it to the Regional League and stay there. In 2000, though, the club made a huge step forward, coming from nowhere first to triumph in the Chugoku League and then to fight their way through to the expanded JFL (in fact, the club applied for and were awarded JFL membership, despite having finished last in the Final Stage of the Play-off competition).

However, such sudden progression caused considerable financial headaches for team management and, although attempts were made to mobilise the community in support of their local club, on the pitch results were poor - Tottori finished last in their inaugural season, managing just eight points out of ninety. Although modest improvements have since been made, 2004 and 2005 saw the shift towards the expansion of the pro game in Japan gather pace and SC Tottori found it hard to keep in touch.

While Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, Thespa Kusatsu and Ehime FC – provincial teams all - were getting promoted to J2, the club from the Japan Sea coast slipped back towards the bottom of the table. The need to make across-the-board improvements was obvious, if SC Tottori were to avoid simply being left behind.

In the run-up to the 2006 campaign, therefore, announcements were made of a change of approach and a plan to aim for J2 membership in 2008. This would entail the development of a corporate body that has the financial strength to support activities associated with J-League membership: sponsorship raised for Tottori in 2005 about 13 million yen, whilst 300 million was generally thought to be a suitable equivalent figure for a J2 team.

But their results in 2006 showed almost no corresponding improvements and the second half of the year in particular was a disaster in terms of attempts by coach Kei Kinoshita to take the team forward. He has since been replaced for 2007 by the experienced Yuji Mizuguchi, as Tottori seek to rise to the difficult challenge of competing with Rosso Kumamoto, Tochigi SC and the other ambitious JFL clubs. As well as adopting the name Gainare Tottori, prior to the 2007 season they were awarded associate membership status of the J-League, meaning that - assuming that they were able to satisfy all the other relevant criteria - a top four finish would more or less guarantee promotion.

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