Football Tribe SEA Editor
The long-awaited news has finally arrived for fans of Japanese football. The J.League will restart its three leagues within the months of June and July, with both the second-tier J.League 2 and third-tier J.League 3 kicking-off simultaneously on June 27th, while the top flight J.League 1 will resume on July 4th. This comes after Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has officially ended the country’s COVID-19 state of emergency on Monday. The announcement came after three months worth of footballing activity suspension within Japan, which is done as a measure to curb-stomp the spread of COVID-19 within the archipelago nation.
A week prior to the J.League’s announcement on Friday, a panel of medical experts gave the green light to both the J.League and the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) for them to restart competitive sporting action in mid-June. And while the NPB plans to resume the 2020 baseball season on June 19th, the J.League decides to start their top flight league a little bit later in order to give adequate time for J1 teams to prepare themselves for the resumption of hostilities – five weeks to be exact. This was done due to the different policies that prefectural governments took in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, with places such as Hokkaido implementing strict measures that prevented teams from taking proper full-team training.
The J.League are also drafting up a revised schedule for teams that don’t require them to travel to far-flung places for the initial stages of the restart. This means that for a while, teams from the South such as Oita Trinita and Sagan Tosu were spared the long trips to visit Northern teams such as Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Vegalta Sendai. This was done in order to prevent teams from traveling too far away, reducing the chances of COVID-19 from spreading even further within Japan.
Players, referees, and club staffs are also subjected to regular PCR tests every two weeks, which will be paid for by the league and will be performed at regional test centers. Additionally, security measures are being done to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within stadiums – matches are initially held without spectators until July 11th, when clubs are allowed to admit up to 5000 spectators within their stadiums. August should see clubs being allowed to fill their stadiums up to half their capacity, however this will depend on any further updates regarding a potential second wave of infection that could spread across Japan. Should a second wave happen, this 50% capacity plan will be delayed until further notice.
The J.League will be taking cues from the German Bundesliga in regards of implementing rules for players and the people allowed within stadiums. This include separating players during photo shoots, individual water bottles, and the zoning of stadiums into three parts in order to restrict the amount of people within stadiums easily.
Other issues regarding the league’s restart will be announced in a few days, which include the use of video assistant referees (VAR) and an updated summer transfer window, which is scheduled to run from July 17th to August 14th. The J.League have also stated that a revised schedule and format of the 2020 J.League Cup will be announced soon.