Saburo Kawabuchi, the J. League's first chairman, was astonished by how far Japan's sporting infrastructure lagged behind when he visited Germany for a national team training camp during his playing days some fifty years ago. The sports school where they stayed had many grass pitches and every community possessed a wide range of sports clubs where people of all ages, men and women, boys and girls, could participate in sport to their fill. He longed to establish an equivalent sporting environment here in Japan.
Thirty years later, the newly established J. League included among its core goals not only the management of a professional football league and fostering and strengthening of professional players but also the creation of comprehensive sports clubs rooted in the community where large numbers of people would find it easy to participate and take pleasure in sport.
The J. League began with 10 clubs in 1993 and the number of clubs that embrace its principles has grown year by year ever since. The addition of a second division in 1999 brought the total to 26 (16 in J1, 10 in J2). In 2011, the J. League's 19th season, that rises to 38 (18 in J1, 20 in J2) with the admission of one more club and more still are seeking admission.
The J. League wants its member clubs to serve as fully integrated members of their local community. Each club promotes sporting development in its designated hometown area. The hometown concept is for each club to be a self-sufficient entity based on the combined support of local citizens, administrators and companies, functioning and growing as a community gathering point and symbol. Each club is therefore called after its hometown area with the addition of a moniker of its own choosing.
The J. League's clubs are striving together with the league to realise these goals of growing as and disseminating comprehensive, community-based sports clubs nationwide, learning not only from the clubs of Europe and other regions of the world but also always from each other.
With so many clubs now seeking to join the J. League, the JFA and J. League established a J. League Future Vision Committee to consider the future shape of the whole Japanese league pyramid, with the J. League at the top, and also of the J. League itself, including the business models for club membership, in October, 2005. The committee's first report, on the vision for J2, was announced in March, 2006 following approval by the JFA and J. League. It envisaged that the number of J2 clubs should rise to at least 22 and laid down new conditions for admission to J2, citing tangible club development models and proposing a system of affiliate membership.
A more detailed vision, which approves the eventual introduction of promotion and relegation between J2 and the Japan Football League (JFL), was then produced in July, 2008.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) informed member countries in March, 2009 of the introduction of a club licensing system as a qualification for participation in the AFC Champions League, in accordance with FIFA's introduction of the same, and decided in March, 2010 to implement the change from 2013. The JFA and J. League are now preparing to implement this system from the 2013 season. A Club Licensing Administration was established for this purpose in July, 2011.
The J. League shall recognise as an affiliate member a club that seeks admission to J2 and fulfils certain conditions. This system of affiliate membership is not limited to clubs that belong to the JFL but encompasses clubs in the regional and prefectural leagues as well. Admission to J2 is, however, restricted to affiliated clubs that belong to the JFL.
The JFA and J. League have set up an advisory team to provide various kinds of support to help affiliated clubs satisfy the conditions for entry to J2.
|Promotion to J1||Promotion to J2||Affiliate Membership|
- Top 3 finish in J2
- Between 15 and 25 players with Professional A contract
- Ability to field Satellite League team
- Top 3 finish among affiliate J. League member clubs together with top 4 finish in JFL
- Manager with S licence, junior coaches with B licence or above
- At least 5 players with Professional A contract
|- Participation in Prefectural, Regional or Japan Football League (JFL)|
|Incorporation||- Management systems accord with J1 promotion standards||
- Public-interest corporation or limited company
- At least 1 full-time executive and 3 full-time staff members
- Annual revenue of at least 150 million yen
- No capital deficit.*
- Advertising revenue of at least 100 million yen after admission.
- Public-interest corporation, limited company or special non-profit corporation
- At least 1 full-time executive and 2 full-time staff members
- Proper management practices
- Confirmation of home town
- Letter from municipality and prefectural football association that provides tangible details of support
|- Letter of intention of support from municipality and prefectural football association|
|Home stadium||- Stadium that satisfies J. League requirements (at least 15,000 seats) and ability to host at least 80% home matches||- Stadium that satisfies J. League requirements (at least 10,000 seats) and ability to host at least 80% of home matches||
- Capability to host a number of games equivalent to the number of home league matches
- Feasibility of improvements to satisfy league requirements
- Average home crowd of at least 3,000 in JFL
- Existence of official fan club, support organisation etc.
|- No stipulations|
|Nurturing||- U-18, U-15 and U-12 teams, (football schools, clinics etc. can be counted instead of U-12).||
- U-18, U-15 and U-12 teams, (football schools, clinics etc. can be counted instead of U-12).
Clubs are exempt from any one but only one of these stipulations during their first 3 seasons in J2.
|- No stipulations|
- About one full year of affiliate membership (application must be made by November 30th of year but one prior to admission)
- Other items required by the league
|- No stipulations|
|Fees||- Joining fee of 60 million yen. Annual fee of 40 million yen.||- Joining fee of 20 million yen. Annual fee of 20 million yen.||- No joining fee. Annual fee of 1.2 million yen.|
* Capital deficit is defined as the net assets, namely the sum of total liabilities subtracted from the sum of total assets. The assessment of liabilities shall take the form of (1) Net assets at the end of the previous accounting year + (2) Anticipated revenue for the current accounting year + (3) Additional capital received during the current accounting year. (2) here shall be the balance of revenues and expenditures for the current accounting year as anticipated at the end of November. Such estimates received from each club shall be appraised by the Consultative Committee on Management.