Recently there was an article in the Wall Street Journal Japan edition which gave some interesting information as to how Prefectural governments have been spending their reconstruction budget. The “reconstruction budget” was a special budget designed to help the Japanese economy after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (the article can be found here). It was also aimed at procuring employment for people affected by the disasters.
In the article, FC Gifu are given a special mention as it states “The Gifu prefectural government organized events to promote its struggling professional soccer team, FC Gifu.“
A lot of people have, quite rightly, questioned why the Gifu prefectural government would use these special funds to prop up an ailing football team when the funds were designed to promote spending and interest in Gifu as a whole and to directly help victims of the disaster. It seems that, according to various sources that I have spoken to and engaged with, it appears a little bit disingenuous to say that the sole reason of these events were to promote FC Gifu. Events were staged at Gifu’s Nagaragawa Complex (where FC Gifu’s stadium is) on matchdays to draw attention to many parts of the prefecture. For example, Takayama & Shirakawago in the north to the Kiso river/valley in the east and the hot spring town of Gero in the centre of Gifu prefecture. Reports vary, but a figure of ¥14m has been quoted (by FNN, so maybe not as reliable as one would hope) as the figure used to hold these events.
Gifu governor Furuta has said that his office corresponded with the rules that authorities set as to how the money should be spent (as have the governors in Tottori and Yamaguchi, both of whom have had similar bad press for their spending efforts), but theses rules are extremely vague once you get past the initial aims of helping people directly affected by March 11th. However, it isn’t a great look for FC Gifu to be mentioned in these terms even though the initial headline looks more damaging than it actually is. You can understand Gifu wanting to promote itself for tourism purposes, but it should probably have been completely separate from the football club for transparency purposes.
Perhaps a more pertinent question would be why Gifu was allocated any funds at all when there is still so much work that needs to be done in areas directly affected by the tragedies? It must be pretty galling for people whose lives are still in limbo in Tohoku to see, for example, Hokkaido spending reconstruction money on promoting cheese, or Kagoshima employing 10 locals to clean beaches & turtles, when they desperately need housing, jobs and infrastructure.