The financial problems at Avispa have been quite well publicised over the last 12 months.
I’m guessing that they haven’t fully gone away because we are still playing with a fairly make-shift squad of players who are hoping to scrape into the play-offs by the end of the season.
It is quite embarrassing that a city the size of Fukuoka (1.5M, 7th biggest city in Japan) doesn’t have a top league football team, especially when you look at the alumni of players which have come from this prefecture.
It all comes down to money, and news this week that Australian international rugby player Nick Cummins is coming to play for the Red Sparks next season makes me think there must be something really quite wrong with the club behind the scenes.
Nick Cummins is a bonafide world-class rugby player, a player with a chance of playing on the wing for Australia at the next World Cup and an iconic image which makes him one of the most well known players in Australia.
He has now given up his chance of playing in the World Cup (non-domestic players do not get called up for Australia) to earn money to help with some family problems he is having back home.
It has been suggested that the salary he must be receiving to take this step is probably over double what he was getting in Australia. That would equate to something around $600,000 or about 60M yen.
This is where it all gets a bit mystifying to me. The Red Sparks are majority owned by Coca-cola West, the same company which is also one of the biggest stake-holders in Avispa Fukuoka.
Rugby could be seen as little more than a minority sport in Japan. Fukuoka is one of the cities where it is most popular, but it is still only really within a fairly elite group of people.
Football is the biggest sport in Japan in terms of participation, and here we have what is probably the biggest sponsor of the club putting $600,000 into a single player for a rugby club which even if they won the whole Japan Top League wouldn’t make as much publicity as if Avispa managed to promote to J1.
Some of the money thrown away at Avispa has been terrible. Estimated at 40M a year for Makoto Tanaka, 40M for Ramazotti’s 4 substitute appearances, 20M a year for Koga, but it pales into insignificance when compared to 60M for a single player at a time when the club has gone bankrupt and needed to be saved by Fukuya and the fans just 8 months ago.
If Coca-cola West had put the money for Nick Cummins into Avispa Fukuoka; a club they already have links to as one of the biggest stake-holders, we should be able sort out our central defence and midfield and become one of the favorites for promotion.
For that amount of money I would expect that they could get the short front sponsorship for the remainder of this season and become as well known as a supporter of sports in the area as they are for owning the whole club at Red Sparks.
It all seems so obvious that it suggests that there is something else going on behind the scenes which I don’t know about.
For as long as we run out to the pitch with no sponsorship on our shirts (even Regional League teams in the Emperors Cup had shirt sponsors), it will suggest to me that there is something wrong within the ownership structure at the club.