On 14 March the J.LEAGUE announced plans for Japan’s first sports digital asset hub, J.LEAGUE FUROSHIKI.
The hub will make a range of digital assets including video content, still images, and statistical data available, which can then be produced and edited to aid in aggregation and distribution, both domestically and overseas.
A key focus will be to capitalise upon the J.LEAGUE’S growing contingent of stars from around Asia and the rest of the world by providing more localised content in overseas markets, while J.LEAGUE clubs themselves will also receive access to the hub in order to further increase competitiveness domestically.
“In recent years, the J.LEAGUE has produced its own videos of league games and acquired its own production copyright,” J.LEAGUE chairman Mitsuru Murai said. “We also introduced the ‘tracking system’, which enables us to obtain the running-distance data of athletes. This is creating an environment in which we can provide more attractive images and data to our customers. Remarkable advances in technology have created a strong need for images and data, and there is a need to provide them in a variety of forms, rather than in a uniform manner.”
The hub will fundamentally comprise of the ‘DIGITAL STADIUM’ for fans, the ‘LIVE SCOUTER’ service to aid clubs, and XR broadcast technologies. It will also offer potential to build on tools such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), with NTT, as an official technology partner of J.LEAGUE, focused on developing programs aimed at enhancing audience interaction.
“I am confident that digital transformation in the field of imaging will lead to the presentation of Japan’s original form of smart sports to the world,” NTT president and chief executive Jun Sawada said. “This will enable us to rediscover the attractiveness of our players and plays, and lead the development of Japan’s sports industry through domestic and international communication.”
In March the J.LEAGUE announced plans for the 2019 eJ.LEAGUE season, with two competitions taking place.
Following on from last year’s success it was confirmed on 12 March that the FIFA19 GLOBAL SERIES eJ.LEAGUE SAMSUNG SSD CUP will kick off at the start of April.
The eSports competition forms part of the FIFA eWorld Cup 2019, and will initially comprise of an online qualifying tournament between participants playing in the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) mode of the EA SPORTS FIFA 19 game, before the final round takes place offline.
The victor will then earn 200 ‘global series points’, which must be accumulated in order to stand a chance of qualifying for the FIFA eWorld Cup 2019, as well as prize money of 1 million JPY (approx. US$9,000).
Prior to that it was announced on 1 March that the maiden mobile eJ.LEAGUE WINNING ELEVEN (PES) 2019 Season would also take place.
This series will initially see three players from each of the 40 clubs in MEIJI YASUDA J1 and J2 LEAGUEs selected – one for each of the U15, U18, and Full competitions – and after the online qualifiers in March, the top ranked players will progress to the next round in June. Then, in July, the finals will take place to determine the champion, with a total prize fund of 15 million yen (approx. $130,000) available and distributed to the J.LEAGUE clubs according to the performance of their player.
The J.LEAGUE has always striven to provide opportunities for people to participate in sports irrespective of their age or gender, and the ongoing expansion of e-sports offers a rapidly growing field in which this approach can be further built upon.
April set for top of the table drama
Nagoya Grampus are the pacesetters after five rounds of the 2019 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season, wrapping up an impressive first full month of action with a 4-0 defeat of Chanathip Songkrasin’s Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo on 30 March.
That victory, secured off the back of a brace from Gabriel Xavier, an own goal, and a strike from Ariajasuru Hasegawa, enabled Nagoya to leapfrog F.C. Tokyo to the top of the rankings after the capital city club conceded a late equaliser to draw 1-1 against Urawa Reds.
Despite remaining unbeaten this campaign that left Tokyo one point adrift of Nagoya in second place, while fellow unbeaten side Sanfrecce Hiroshima join them on 11 points and sit third on goal difference.
Andres Iniesta’s Vissel Kobe made sure to keep up the pressure on the leading pack in style in their final game of March, coming from two goals down away to neighbours Gamba Osaka to ultimately emerge as 4-3 victors thanks to Lukas Podolski, David Villa, and a double from substitute Junya Tanaka.
The picture should become slightly clearer after April’s action, with some huge fixtures on the cards at the top of the table.
First up Nagoya face a test on 5 April as they travel to AFC Champions League holders Kashima Antlers, while Tokyo play host to Kashima in the following round on 14 April. That same day Vissel will welcome Hiroshima to Noevir Stadium, before Hiroshima and Tokyo come head to head in another mouthwatering tie five days later.
The final round of the month will produce even more fireworks, as Vissel take on two-time defending J.LEAGUE champions Kawasaki Frontale on 28 April and Sanfrecce travel to Nagoya, for what is sure to be another decisive clash at the summit.
J.LEAGUE clubs set new record with community activities
At the recent board meeting on 19 March it was confirmed that 2018 saw a record number of 20,032 hometown activities carried out by the J.LEAGUE’s member clubs.
This marked a 12 percent increase on the previous year’s achievements, when 17,832 events were held, representing an average of 371 activities for each of the league’s 54 clubs in 2018.
These encompassed a variety of contributions, including those in areas recovering from disasters, players making appearances in the local community, and efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of residents in clubs’ respective hometowns.
J.LEAGUE chairman Mitsuru Murai was delighted by the efforts made, commending clubs for “eagerly carrying out activities”.
One such example came in the form of Albirex Niigata’s Fumiya Hayakawa, who this season returned after a battle against Leukemia, and last year spoke about his experiences at an event aimed at providing support for cancer patients.
Around 65 percent of the activities were classified as those focused on promoting wholesome living, while 23 percent were centred upon local promotion and 13 percent had the aim of resolving issues faced in clubs’ local areas.