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2 Stage --> 1 Stage
This season, the J-league returned to a One Stage format. Previously, the entire season was split into two stages: at the end of the season, the winner of the two stages would fight it out in home/away games and decide the "true" champion of the year. In the 2003 season, Yokohama Marinos won both stages and asserted their quality. In 2004, Marinos won the first stage, Reds won the second stage, and the two teams battled in two stress-filled games that ended in a penalty shoot-out for a Marinos win. With the One Stage format, the now-18 teams in J1 have a long road to travel to arrive at the true "true" champion of the year.

Continuing in my log of interesting articles found in this past week's Weekly Soccer Digest No.780 (next week I will find a different magazine to read from), I found an article written by FC Tokyo coach Hiromi Hara (he wrote it prior to the start of the season) discussing the concerns surrounding the One Stage format. The season has already started, but with all the notable surprises in the rankings so far I thought it would be a good time to review this issue and see if we may be facing these concerns..

- Concerns Surrounding the One Stage Format -
The move to a One Stage format was a natural one, and I was in agreement with the decision. Who is truly the strongest team? There would be little doubt as to who the true champion is. This is a good thing. But is this system really good for all of us? It is important to view the One Stage format with some caution. Will this format cement itself in Japan? This is probably the question that will be asked of the Japanese football culture.

On the whole, Japanese are characterized by a short attention span, a tendecy to give up easily. This year, with the number of teams increased to 18, I wonder if the supporters of all 18 teams will stick it out to the end. I wonder if the total spectator numbers will decrease for each team.

From the position of coach, there are many surrounding aspects that I honestly cannot calculate. For instance, if the team loses three games in a row at Home, if the team gets off to a bad start to the season, I don't know how that would affect things.

If this was the Two Stage format, the supporters and the players are given a mental "reset" button at the end of the first stage (halfway through). They could say to themselves, "Well, there's nothing we can do about the first stage, but we still have the second stage. There's still a good chance for us." The two stages, the championship-deciding game -- these are a couple of extra things that help support the energy of everyone involved in the J-league. The Two Stage format had its advantages.

The 34 games that stand before us until December. It will be a long season, and if a team starts slipping in the rankings partway through it will become very difficult to maintain motivation within the team. And with that, my biggest worry is that the supporters may start losing interest.

My point is that basically the only aim will be to rank #1. In the European leagues, the top 4 have the Champions League, the top 6 have the UEFA Cup to look forward to. On top of that there is the excitement from the League champions-deciding games and the relegation-avoiding games. I think that it provides the teams and supporters with various things to get excited about. But in the J-League now there is only the latter two -- league champions and relegations. Once we get mid-way into the season, there will be little for "middle-ranking" teams to focus on or fight for. There is a danger that these teams in the middle will be left in a sort of vacuum.

So for example, from a personal point of view, it may be exciting to give the top 2 teams a ticket to the Asian Champions League. Or, have the league #2 team play the Nabisco Cup winner or the Emperor's Cup winner for the second ticket to the ACL. Or to also incorporate the A3 into things somehow. These things may spread the excitement out at bit more in the J-league.

In the J2, the top 2 teams make it to J1; and the #3 team fights it out with the J1 bottom team. The number of teams is much less than the J1, so the target of making it to the top 3 is a good possibility for all teams and it keeps motivation up for the majority of teams. The excitement lasts from start to finish.

I believe that this season's J1 will see many like-strength teams and we will see lots of bunching up in the rankings. This will help keep hope up for many teams and supporters. Of course, FC Tokyo will participate full throttle in that race to the finish line. So it would be a shame if we lost some of the excitement and energy that was there until last season. It will become important to have foresight and figure out new ways to maintain the energy and interest levels within the J league.

I liked Hara's suggestion about mixing up the different rather random Cups and Championships -- the Nabisco, the Emperor's, the A3. I mean, the A3 was -- what? -- practice? We had the Xerox Supercup (between the League champs and the Nabisco champs), and it was a fun little preview to the J season; however it was a rather meaningless game in the big picture. It's excitement lasted for that one day, and that was it. The A3 was even more bleak -- Marinos lost a number of players to food poisoning, flu, and injuries during the A3. Didn't help them going into the season and into the group stages of the ACL. (You could even argue that the chance to participate in the A3 should have gone to Reds or one of the other promising teams in the J. Marinos had way too much on their plate, and it ended up taking away from the quality of play overall.)

There should be a way to tie some of these things together. I especially like the concept of involving the A3 because J league teams are woefully unprepared for the ACL group stage games as it is. Very few teams have players experienced in non-J-League refereeing, playing in different countries, playing against K- and C- league teams (who play with emphasis on physical and have a different style), and so on. Not only that, most Japanese football fans have absolutely no clue or interest in other Asian leagues, teams, and players (aside from those with top NTs)... there is little understanding, appreciation, or respect, really.

On the other hand, there are issues of finances and scheduling that I can't debate because I have very little info on how these things get decided. Anyway, it will be something to watch for -- how will the supporter numbers pan out? how will the J league respond if the numbers start to dwindle? will they take preventative action or only act after the fact?
1 Stage" dc:identifier="http://footballjapan.blog14.fc2.com/blog-entry-122.html" dc:subject="Magazine Articles" dc:description="This season, the J-league returned to a One Stage format. Previously, the entire season was split into two stages: at the end of the season, the winner of the two stages would fight it out in home/away games and decide the "true" champion of the year. In the 2003 season, Yokohama Marinos won both stages and asserted their quality. In 2004, Marinos won the first stage, Reds won the second stage, an..." dc:creator="Rie" dc:date="2005-04-28T12:40:36+09:00" /> -->
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上記広告は1ヶ月以上更新のないブログに表示されています。新しい記事を書くことで広告を消せます。