Whilst it should be fairly obvious to most observers that clubs in J2, outside of Gamba Osaka & Vissel Kobe, don’t have the soundest of financial footings, it may surprise people to find the extent of the financial difficulties that clubs are facing. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give a decent picture as to what is going on financially in J2.

Today, Tochigi SC’s financial difficulties were laid bare this week when they announced that they were expecting to make further losses in addition to their already eye-opening ¥56m loss in the 2012 year. The club, probably deciding that the play-offs are out of reach after a defeat at V.Varen Nagasaki, have said that they plan to build a young squad for the future, and that they plan to rely less on foreign imports. Currently Tochigi have four Brazilians on their books (well, actually Alex Santos is Japanese, but he will still command a hefty salary) and with them being major contributors to their team, one wonders what kind of salary they will be making. Reading between the lines of the Tochigi statement, it is fair to say that Paulinho, Cristiano & Sabia won’t be plying their trade in Utsunomiya next year. Add to this that board members have agreed to take a 10% pay cut immediately, and board members are never known for their enthusiasm towards pay cuts, and you can see a very bleak picture emerging at Tottori.

Of course, Tochigi aren’t the only ones in financial strife. It has been well documented (especially at http://avispafukuoka.wordpress.com/) that Avispa Fukuoka have been balancing on a financial precipice for some time. A lot of this can be attributed to their time in J1 when they spent big (particularly on salaries) and when they were relegated, a lot of these salaries remained but the attendances in J2 were not nearly big enough to support them. Recently, the word around Fukuoka is that companies are loathe to deal with the incumbent chairman – a situation which if it remains at an impasse could be very dangerous for Avispa.

Gainare Tottori don’t especially need any bad news at this particular moment, but their finances aren’t in a particularly healthy state. Their move to the new YAJIN Stadium has been postponed because the club and the local authorities haven’t been able to find the money to properly finish it. Earlier this year they were in a dispute with the local bus company over unpaid monies. This is a team that regularly “attracts” less than 3000 to games. You wonder if going down to J3 and becoming a semi-pro team might be in their best interests.

FC Gifu have had well documented financial problems, although there are small signs of light at the end of the tunnel. However, there are still major hurdles to overcome. For starters, there is the thorny issue of the club being partly supported by the Gifu taxpayer. Note that this is from the prefectural tax, not the city residence tax. There seems to be no love lost between the current incumbents of the Gifu boardroom & the city civic authorities. The fact that Gifu played their home game against Gainare Tottori in Ogaki – a city 20km or so away from Gifu – speaks to the fact that FC Gifu aren’t afraid of exploring other options. I’m told that there is a sizable business lobby in Ogaki that is pushing for more games to be held in the city next year.

Recently the J.League published the “member licence agreements” for the 2014 season. A full list can be found here, but it is very noteworthy that seven J2 clubs were given warnings that they had to show how they planned to cut their deficits while four clubs – Tochigi SC, FC Gifu, Roasso Kumamoto & Thesap Kusatsu Gunma – will have to submit financial planning forms/plans/strategies to the J.League before the start of the 2014 season.

It would be wrong to see this as a phenomenon that is only apparent in J2. “Big” clubs like Yokohama F.Marinos & Nagoya Grampus are suffering from their own financial turbulence, but given that nearly half the teams in J2 have some kind of financial cloud hanging over them (and bear in mind that next year, the likes of Oita Trinita & Shonan Bellmare, neither of which are pictures of financial health, will be joining J2) it seems that the J.League must address this problem of clubs not living within their means.

Stricter regulations? Salary cap? Feeder clubs? More financial assistance from the J.League itself? All of these are options that should be being considered by the J.League.

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