Tuesday 09 May 2023, 05:30

Japan experience a winner for FIFA Diploma in Club Management

  • Seminar held in Japan on 19-24 April

  • Development of Japanese club football occupied significant part of the programme

  • The diploma aims to provide the most up-to-date practical knowledge in key areas of club management

As part of its second edition, the FIFA Diploma in Club Management decamped to New York last September and then Doha in December and Tangier in February. The fourth face-to-face session took place in Japan on 19-24 April and underscored FIFA’s commitment to sharing knowledge and developing a more balanced football ecosystem at club level across the globe. “The aim is to create a global football environment in which there are more than just a few clubs in a specific part of the world who are competitive at the highest level,” said Ornella Desiree Bellia, Director of Professional Football Relations and Development at FIFA. “We are trying to bring in more people from outside Europe because we think that’s where FIFA needs to focus,” she added, emphasising FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s vision to make football truly global.

Hailing from every confederation, diploma participants receive advice and input from world-renowned experts. The programme is made up of online and face-to-face courses on management and leadership, sports strategy, academies, marketing and communication, stadium operations and management, governance, legal issues, and finances. Participants at the Japanese seminar heard from experts in the field about general management skills, with the focus on mental and personal aspects in sessions such as Self Awareness and Leadership, and Emotional Intelligence and Leadership. They also benefitted from the experience of specialists in Japanese football, particularly in the management of clubs competing in the J.League (Japan’s professional football league) youth football, and the growth of women’s football in the country.

Growing side by side No one is better placed to talk about Japanese club football than J.League President Yoshikazu Nonomura, who provided an overview of the national league and its development strategy. “Japan has to take a more competitive approach, both in terms of management and the standard of players, which go hand in hand.” Setting out some key focal points, he added: “We have 60 clubs excelling in their regions and the J.League promotes exposure at a local level. We have to support this project and prioritise investment in support activities. Local exposure generates engagement, which leads to increased revenue from partnerships and ticketing.” Nonomura is also looking at the bigger picture, as he went on to explain: “The objective is to become the best league in Asia and lead the way. We want to develop J.League fan clubs in South East Asia, particularly in Thailand and Vietnam. To make that happen, we need to attract the best Asian players to the J.League. We have to create the environment for that, to allow the players of South East Asia to grow and the J.League to grow with them. The league has to provide capital for this and ensure that players progress in the championship. Growth has to be mutual.” Another topic that came up for discussion at the seminar was women’s football and its part in the development strategy. In a country that has won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in every age group (U-17, U-20 and senior level) and which has produced legends of the game such as Homare Sawa, Aya Miyama and Yuki Nagasato, the popularity of the women’s national teams is no longer in question. That said, the national league has struggled to compete with its European and North American counterparts, hence the creation in 2021 of the WE League, which strives to be more competitive and bring about equality.

FIFA Diploma in Club Management in Japan - April 2023

A driving force for equality “To achieve progress Japan needs more women to be involved in football,” commented Miyuki Kobayashi, who sits on the WE League’s board of directors and is the head of its Empowerment Division. “There’s a lot of inequality between men and women, and very few women in management positions in a lot of areas.” The WE League has been founded with the aim of driving gender equality in Japan, laying the foundations for professional women’s sport, and contributing to the growth of women’s football. “The WE League strives to promote an inclusive society in which everyone can dream and live the life they want and where individuals can shine through the power of women’s football and sport,” added Kobayashi. Change is already taking place. Half of the league’s administrative personnel are women, there is at least one woman on the coaching staff in each age group, a dedicated team has been put in charge of supervising tasks relating to women’s football, and academies have been set up in the U-18 and U-15 age groups. “The WE League has also introduced measures for the players themselves, guaranteeing them a minimum wage, training bonuses, and protection for pregnant players and maternity benefits,” explained Kobayashi. In the long term, the club football development strategy for both women’s and men’s football should work to the advantage of Japan’s national teams. In Nonomura’s case, he hopes it will lead to the Samurai Blue winning the FIFA World Cup™ by 2050, while Kobayashi is anxious to see the Nadeshiko become world champions again.

Winning the battle from the off The future provided the focus of the contribution made by Tom Byer, the founder of Football Starts at Home, who spoke about the importance of educating young students about the world of football. The trainer, who comes from the USA, uses a methodology that allows parents to build confidence and focus on their children as they develop essential football skills, helping to create a relationship based on a love of the sport.

FIFA Diploma in Club Management in Japan - April 2023

“Skills acquisition is something that can take place at the age of two, three or four,” he told the seminar participants. “Countries with very strong football cultures around the world have the battle won straightaway. The leading countries in the world, who develop the best players in the world, win the battle at that age, when the rest of the world believes that battle takes place at elite level.” Byer, who has rolled his ideas out in many countries around the world, has been working since 2008 to introduce Japanese children to the football world, all with the idea of helping them to adapt better when they make the move into club football.

Thanks to contributions such as Byer’s, which were backed up by visits to local clubs Cerezo Osaka and Gamba Osaka, and talks given by Brazil legend Zico, who has done so much to develop Japanese football, and former Switzerland international and Servette FC director of football Philippe Senderos, the seminar participants left Japan armed with new knowledge that will help them obtain their FIFA Diploma in Club Management. Just as importantly, they also went away with a clear idea of how to put that knowledge to good use in their future jobs.