footy weekends -Kyoto & Brighton-

Football life

A special Interview
Hiroshi IMAI Kyoto SANAG F.C. President
My message to Sanga fans (Ep.2)

スペシャルインタビュー 京都サンガF.C.社長 今井浩志氏(株式会社 京都パープルサンガ 代表取締役)

What are the secrets to sustaining a business, producing consistent results, and then going beyond the norm to strongly establish yourself in the industry you are in for the long term future? How do create orders and sales, and connect with your highly valuable customers? In the second part of Footy Weekends interview with Kyoto Sanga FC’s president Hiroshi Imai, he reveals some of his secrets to these much pondered questions from the point of view of a business man in the world of football. He discusses the business aspect of the club further, giving us an insight into the community-mindedness of the club, and crucially, what the future holds for Sanga.


“Fans are born through closeness and a connection with the club.”

FW: What is the connection between the business side of the club and community centred activities that you carry out?

HI: The main work of the business side of the club is to create fans. One part of Sanga’s work in the community is visiting all the primary schools in the Kyoto area and enjoying football together with the students and teachers. We call this team of staff the ‘Sanga Community Squad’. But how do we create fans this way? You cannot simply make fans through TV and other media. You cannot even expect to increase the number of fans by having people come to the training ground and interacting with the players at the sidelines. The way to increase fans is simply to get them to come to watch a game live at the stadium, and let them experience the charm of the game and the team, for themselves. Getting people there is easier said then done though. So how do you get people who have never set foot inside the stadium to watch a game there, to come to the stadium to watch a live game? Well, you have to start with children, and the local people. Encouraging them to invite their friends and create the chance or reason for someone to go to the stadium for the first time. For this, we at Sanga take it upon ourselves to get out into the local community, and work incredibly hard and dedicate time to connecting with our fans out there and potential fans. Then, those people that we meet and make a connection with, that makes a chance for us to invite them to watch a live game. It is through this interaction with people in the community that fans are born. This work in the community however doesn’t come free to the club though, but we aren’t doing it as a way to find financing for the club, we do it to realise the philosophy of the club and to create fans of the future. To continue this kind of work, all that is necessary is effort by the club itself. By making the opportunity to be able to invite local children to the games, we can invite their families to come along too, and then next time offer them discounted tickets and so on. And then, you have hopefully created a repeater and a regular at the stadium.




“To produce national team players from Sanga’s very own academy, national team players that you can see at our training ground.”

FW: What’s next for the club?

HI: We are aiming to be a strong training club. A centre of training excellence will be our great achievement, and the realisation of our efforts. Rather than get players that have been raised and enriched by training programs at other clubs from primary school to high school youth (under 18), we want to properly raise our own youth players ourselves and turn them into professional players. At the moment, we have a special course for primary school students from year 4 (9-10 years old) to year 6 (11-12 years old) called U-12 SP Course. So we already have special training programs in place for primary school children, and they can receive special coaching for their age. But there is too much focus, and limitations here at this stage. We want to give more chances to train more children who are aiming to be professional players. For example, for those year 4 students who failed to make the selection for the U-12 SP Course, there are times when those children fall down at this hurdle and are considered to not have what it takes, but actually turn out to be very talented. They are simply late developers. So from next year, in a bid to keep an eye our for and be alert to this overlooked talent, we are looking to change the system at the training academy. We want to give more chances to more people. We have approximately 600 to 700 children apply for the selection process into the U-12 SP Course, and about 500 of them don’t make it through. To write-off these children at this age is a huge waste of potential talent, and we simply have to work with them further and help them to improve and become the talent they could be. If that then means that our Junior Youth U-15 program is overflowing with players, we will simply just create another team. If you increase the Junior Youth U-15 team, we’ll have more players that will make it through to promotion to the Youth team (U-18) and we will have less need to recruit from outside. If you raise up players from the U-15 level to the U-18 level, but end up recruiting players externally, for a club aiming to be a centre of excellence for training and have a strong academy, relying on external recruitment is like putting the cart before the horse, it makes no sense at all.



「現在は、小学校4年生から6年生がスペシャルコース(U-12 SPコース)として小学生のスクールの中でも特別な指導を受けていますが、そこを絞り過ぎています。もっとたくさんのプロを目指すような子どもたちを我々で指導していきたい。例えば、小学校4年生の時にセレクションを受験し不合格になっても、たまたまその時ダメで後に上手になる子はたくさんいます。そうした才能を見逃さないよう、そのあたりの仕組みを来年から変えていこうと思っています。そして中学生年代のジュニアユース(U-15)がもし溢れたということであれば、もう1チームを作ればいいと思っています。」「ジュニアユース(U-15)が広がると、ユース(U-18)では外部から獲らず、ジュニアユース(U-15)から昇格するようにする。ジュニアユース(U-15)で育てていても、ユース(U-18)の段階で他から選手を獲得していては育成型クラブとして本末転倒じゃないですか。」
「スペシャルコース(U-12 SPコース)のセレクションでは、600から700名が参加をして、そこから500名くらいを落としてしまう。それはやはりもったいない。そこの層を充実させてあげないといけないですね。」

As a club, we work on a 3 year plan system, so each year we have a rolling plan in place. We came ever so close during Oki’s 3 years as manager (2011- 2014), but again we found some areas that were lacking and needed to be worked on. From next year we will be focusing hard on making a new and improved team, 3 years from now, 3 years on from next year, in this rolling plan system, one thing that we have concretely got our sights set on is that in the 2016 Rio Olympics, there will be at the very least 1 or 2 Sanga produced players on the team. To achieve this, we need to make these potential candidate players regulars on the pitch. We need to give them game time. If we don’t use these players in games, it is less likely that they will receive the call to represent their country. So to continue to produce players that do make the national grade, we have to make those players regulars on the pitch in our games, and in turn that can only make Sanga a stronger and dominating team in the league. We have had national team players come and play for Sanga, but from now on we want players that have been raised by Sanga’s training centre to be picked for the national team, and be regulars seen at our training ground. Our biggest goal currently is for national team players, players that have worked their way up our training system, to play at our new stadium.


FW: The Japanese version of the football entertainment industry as created by the J League thus far, still remains to be different to the style that you find in say England, where you’ll find football grounds with their club houses that are the hub of the local community. After having reached 20 years since establishing the J League, Japan is at a point where it needs to focus more on building up the industry more from the football community and the roots of the industry. By connecting with the local people of the community step-by-step, and producing local town heroes for the crowds to go and watch and support, it is this that Mr Imai believes will bring people to the stadium.

Making Kyoto Sanga FC become the people of Kyoto’s pride and joy and to help to grow a blossoming football culture in Kyoto, it is this mission that Mr Imai is shouldering, whilst providing consistent achievements in an ever increasing harsh business environment. In the next 20 years from now, what kind of club will Kyoto Sanga FC actually become? This is the type of football adventure and challenge that surely many fans out there want to be part of for many years to come.

10th October 2014
Footy weekends Kyoto&Brighton

From Footy weekends

10th October 2014
Footy weekends Kyoto&Brighton

A special Interview
Hiroshi IMAI Kyoto SANGA F.C. President
My message to Sanga fans (To the episode 1)

スペシャルインタビュー 京都サンガF.C.社長 今井浩志氏(株式会社 京都パープルサンガ 代表取締役)


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