Japan unveils plan for new women’s pro-league as 2023 WWC bid inspectors due

February 18 – In 2021, Japan will replace their existing women’s Nadeshiko League with a fully-professional league that will require one female executive at each club. 

The Japan Football Association (JFA) first mooted the plans in 2019, but with the country bidding for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and FIFA’s inspection team set to arrive in Japan next week, the plans to rebrand domestic women’s football have been re-upped.

The new league will have six to ten clubs, run from September to May, out of sync with the men’s J-League, and require each club to have one female executive. Within three years, 50% of staff will be required to be female as well. The existing women’s Nadeshiko League, founded in 1983, will continue as an amateur competition beneath the new professional league.

At present, the Nadeshiko League has three divisions with ten clubs from all over the country competing in the top flight. NTV Beleza are the current champions and hold a record 14 titles. INAC Kobe Leonessa is the only club that would match the budgetary requirements the new league envisages with an operating budget of about $4 million. Most Nadeshiko top-flight clubs operate with far smaller budgets, somewhere in the region of $1-2 million.

The new league will be closed. There will be no promotion or relegation to the Nadeshiko League. The inaugural teams are expected to be announced this summer after a review process.

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