In a bit of surprise news this morning, a Gifu Shimbun (the local newspaper) article revealed that club chairman Daijirou Kunda is to step down from his role in the next month or so. His replacement will be named at a Gifu shareholders meeting in April.

Kunda was appointed chairman in September 2012 and was tasked with two things; to turn around the financial fortunes of the club and to foster a more local outlook for the club. It is safe to say that he has done quite well on both accounts.

When Kunda took over, the club was in financial dire straits to the tune of roughly ¥136m of debt. That is well on the way to being taken care of thanks to Kunda’s most important action: bringing aboard J.Trust’s Fujisawa as main backer. J.Trust’s money helped stabilize the club, and helped the club bring in much needed reinforcements during last season, namely Stipe Plazibat, Blazhe Ilijovski & Kosuke Kitani. Those three between them played a vital role in keeping Gifu in J2 last year. And the improved financial situation is clear for all to see this year, which will continue to get better if this initial optimism can be sustained and crowds continue to flock to Nagaragawa.

As for localizing, under Kunda’s leadership the club have signed Gifu natives Tsukasa Masuyama, Takumi Kiyomoto & Junki Endo whilst at the same time securing sponsorship from Seino Holdings (based in Ogaki), Himaraya Sports (head office in Gifu) and NGK (head office in neighbouring Aichi prefecture). And of course he brought in the J.Trust group that, while headquartered in Tokyo, is run by a Gifu native.

Chairman in the main get the rough end of the stick. A lot of people don’t get to see the difficult decisions & negotiations that are made at board level. To try and guide FC Gifu through incredibly difficult financial times must have been a hugely difficult task. It isn’t to say I agreed with everything that he put forward, but he made some very tough decisions that have, in the end, resulted in benefits for the club.

My guess is that he will stay on in some capacity, while someone from one of the copious amounts of new sponsors will be moved into the top role, possibly even Fujisawa from J.Trust. We’ll have to wait until April to find out, but most fans will be thankful for Kunda’s stewardship through difficult times. Good work Mr.Chairman.

Onwards & upwards!