“History of the Nadeshiko League” 16. “Title Sponsor”
From the time when it was still unusual for women to play football, through to the birth of the Japan Women’s Football League, victory in the Women’s World Cup, and creation of the Japan Women’s Empowerment Professional Football League, social conditions and the environment surrounding girls’ and women’s football have undergone great changes.
We intend to publish a series of 22 articles before the end of the year in which we will look back over the tempestuous history of girls’ and women’s football in Japan.
Thanks to the exploits of “Nadeshiko Japan” in the 2004 Athens Olympics, women’s football became widely recognized in Japan, and this provided a boost to the Nadeshiko League. This was most vividly manifested in the contract signed with the “League title sponsor” in 2006.
On April 17 of this year, the League conducted a press conference for the new season in an event hall in Tokyo and announced the signing of an official sponsorship agreement with MOC Corporation, which was involved in the restaurant, bridal and lifestyle businesses among others. As a result of this, the league’s nickname was changed to “moc Nadeshiko League”.
The men’s Premier League in England had a “title sponsor” from the 1990s, however, for football in Japan, this was the first time that a sponsor was signed to a year-long league. Even the J. League didn’t acquire a title sponsor until 2015. Unsurprisingly, the “moc Nadeshiko League” garnered a lot of attention.
When a sponsor signs to a league, rather than an individual club, it vitalizes the league’s activities, boosts excitement and increases the entertainment value of games.
MOC Corporation, considering its line of business, also announced the presentation of “tiaras” having a market value of 100 million yen to the champion team. Furthermore, admission was charged for all games; a number of clubs signed players on professional contracts, and other initiatives were implemented with a view to enhancing the spectacle of the league as an “industry”.
Running a club in the Nadeshiko League does not generate great profits. However, if the Nadeshiko League grabs the attention of people, it can impart dreams to girls and play an important role in invigorating women’s football in Japan.
Mr. Saburo Kawabuchi, the President affectionately known as the “Captain” of the Japan Football Association, expressed the following powerful message of gratitude in the address he made at the press conference: “I am convinced that this will trigger the great development of women’s football in Japan”.
With the influx of funds, in 2007, for the first time in eight years, the League Cup was resumed as the “moc Nadeshiko League Cup”. This competition was staged from 1996 for three seasons as the OKI L. League Cup with support provided by Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd., which sponsored a team in the L. League at that time. After the tournament lost its title sponsor in 1999, it was held for a fourth time, but was cancelled from 2000. Staging of the League Cup in tandem with the League is very important for boosting the number of games each team plays and developing young players.
The contract with MOC Corporation was intended to last for three years up to 2008, but it was cancelled in 2007 after two years due to a sudden downturn in the company’s business results. In April 2008, however, Plenus Co., Ltd. was announced as the new title sponsor.
Plenus operates the nationwide restaurant chains of “Hotto Motto” and “Yayoiken”, and its company ideal of “supporting the world’s hardworking women for realization of a society where women can be more successful” fitted with the image of the Nadeshiko League.
The League’s nickname was changed to “Plenus Nadeshiko League” in 2008. Plenus Co., Ltd. is a sponsor of the “WE League” that started this year, and it also continues to be the “top partner” and greatest “supporter” of the Nadeshiko League.
The presence of such “partners” for a league is not something that can be taken for granted. We should not forget that the reason why companies are prepared to offer huge financial and psychological support over many years is above all thanks to the players in the league who pull together and play the game with a degree of fairness and commitment that is truly becoming of the Nadeshiko image.
Yoshiyuki Osumi (football journalist)