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Japan’s J-League considering a switch to an autumn-spring schedule to fall in line with major European leagues

newsonjapan.com -- Mar 09
Japan’s J-League is considering a switch to an autumn-spring soccer schedule, which is the norm in the major European soccer leagues.

The league currently begins in February and runs throughout the summer, ending in the autumn. During the J-League's busiest period each season, the top leagues in Europe are in their offseason. It is a time in which Japanese clubs are plucked of players by European teams.

The J-League could change to a September start, with the campaign running through the Japanese winter and ending in May. Fellow Asian Football Confederation league, Australia’s A-League, altered their season campaign to mirror the ones uses by the top divisions in Europe. Now, the A-League runs during the northern hemisphere’s autumn, winter, and spring.

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The AFC decided to start the Asian Champions League and other international club competitions in August of 2024. The final will then take place the following May. Changing the structure of the J-League season, it will run parallel to the AFC Asian Champions League competition.

It is believed the J-League would slowly implement the change. The competition would push back the starting month of the league season one month over the next six years. By 2029, the J-League would be in line for an August start. Leagues such as the Russian Premier League and the A-League made the change more abruptly to get in line with the typical European structure. However, the J-League could be more methodical in its transition.

There is also the possibility that the J-League makes the change in 2026 when the next World Cup is held. The World Cup break would allow the league to start fresh in August after the event is held in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

The AFC wants all club competitions under its umbrella to align with the international schedule preferred by most European countries. However, not all European countries play autumn to spring schedules. Teams based in Scandinavian and Nordic countries play from spring to autumn due to harsh winter weather.

It is hoped that moving to an autumn to spring schedule will make player transfers much easier. In addition, the transition of coaches from one league to another may be simpler.

There are some issues with the J-League moving to a new schedule, and that is the weather around Japan. Some of the J-League's clubs play in locations affected by heavy snowfall. Games over the winter months would be hard to play. Cities like Niigata are regularly covered in snow during winter.

While Japan faces difficult weather conditions in winter, countries on the west side of Asia (Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia) experience hot summers. Aligning with these countries is difficult, as the size of Asia provides very different climates to its countries. One solution could be to divide the AFC into two parts, east and west.

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