Sports Hochi has reported that the J-League’s FC Tokyo will consider playing their League Cup matches at the historic Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium next year.
FC Tokyo who play in the J-League Division 1, Japan’s top flight football league, use western Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium as their home ground but the venue is currently undergoing a large-scale redevelopment for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and subsequently will not be available for the League Cup competition, the YBC Levain Cup, which is mostly played mid-week between March and May. The club and league officials have visited the rugby ground to assess if football matches can be played there for the first time in 55 years. No J-League match has ever been played at the ground since the league’s inception in 1992.
The Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, also known as the Prince Chichibu Rugby Stadium, opened in 1947 as a rugby-specific ground in the eastern side of Tokyo, and is generally perceived by many as one of Japanese rugby’s holy grounds. Although Japan’s U20 women’s national team did use it as their training ground in 2012, no official competition match has been played at the venue since Hungary beat the then United Arab Republic 6-0 in the semi final of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games football competition some 55 years ago.
The stadium hosted five football matches in total during the 1964 Olympic Games. The specification of the floodlights at the rugby ground is not up to the standards the J-League requires but the governing body is prepared to make it an exception, according to Sports Hochi.
FC Tokyo’s current home stadium, the Ajinomoto Stadium, will host eight matches, including the opening match between Japan and Russia, during next year’s Rugby World Cup. While the club will still have to find an alternative home during the event, the redevelopment has already begun. Even though the venue will be available for football matches during weekends, that is not the case for week nights when the YBC Levain Cup group matches are scheduled between March and May next year.
The group phase of the YBC Levain Cup is played mid-week and at night. FC Tokyo’s average attendance for the cup this year was 7,258, which is significantly lower than their average league match attendance of 26,432 but still ruled out their U23 side’s home ground, Ajinomoto Field Nishigaoka, whose capacity is 5,000.
The Komazawa Athletic Stadium which holds about 20,000 spectators, on the other hand, has no floodlights for night matches and this has left the J-League and the club with no option but to look into the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium. The rugby stadium, too, will be used for Super Rugby’s Sunwolves on weekends during the Japanese spring but the rugby decision-makers are reportedly happy to help out for the week night cup matches to be hosted there.
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