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Former Kashima Antlers president Masaru Suzuki was officially elected J. League chairman at a J. League extraordinary executive committee meeting on Tuesday at a Tokyo hotel.

News photoMasaru Suzuki

The period of service will be for two years.

Suzuki’s predecessor Saburo Kawabuchi, who was instrumental in launching the nation’s first professional league and who has worked as chairman for the past 10 years and nine months, will serve as a counselor for the league. Kawabuchi recently became the Japan Football Association president.

“Mr. Kawabuchi helped established the foundation of the J. League. My task is to help it develop further and achieve our ‘100-year Project,’ ” Suzuki said at his first news conference.

The J. 100-year Project is a long-term project aimed at making J. League clubs throughout the country more community based.

“Many people have started showing an interest in soccer as a result of the World Cup. The J. League now has to work on attracting those people to our league,” Suzuki said. “We need to make them real soccer fans rather than just followers of a trend. Otherwise, we will never progress.”

Suzuki, 66, suggested that the league should settle for a draw after 90 minutes in Division One games rather than the current sudden-death extra-time system.

Suzuki, who worked as Kashima president from 1994-2000, also said it was ideal for each club to play 50 games a season in order to make them financially independent. But he played down the possibility of an immediate increase in the number of games.

However, Suzuki was worried about the financially troubled Division Two clubs and said he will soon take action to assist their financial revival.

Kawabuchi, who recommended Suzuki as his successor, said he thought the league needed someone who was experienced in running a J. League club.

“I thought it was time to bring in some new blood. The league needs to look at its operation from the clubs’ point of view.”

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