Kawasaki Frontale were fined $15,000 and placed on one-year probation by the Asian Football Confederation on Thursday after their fans raised a controversial wartime Japanese flag during a recent Asian Champions League match in South Korea.
If the flag reappears during its probationary period, Kawasaki will automatically be forced to play one game in front of an empty stadium.
The AFC’s disciplinary committee, which found Frontale guilty on charges of discrimination and spectator misconduct, notified Frontale through the Japan Football Association.
Kawasaki’s next AFC-sanctioned match is on Tuesday in the ACL at home to Hong Kong’s Eastern SC.
Frontalepresident Yoshihiro Warashina said supporters will likely be asked to not bring the flag to the Eastern game. If they do, it will be confiscated.
“As I said before, our belief is that the flag does not have any political or discriminatory undertones,” Warashina said. “We were hoping for a decision that found no issues but unfortunately it has not turned out that way. We’re very disappointed.
“Yet while we do not think there is anything wrong with the flag, we cannot ignore the possibility that some might feel uncomfortable by it so that is something we need to be careful of.”
JFA president Kozo Tashima echoed Warashina’s sentiments about being disappointed by the verdict. The FIFA Council member also said the JFA would consult the relevant government authorities in handling the delicate situation.
“We are disappointed the assertions of Frontale, the JFA and the J. League that the flag does not send any political or discriminatory messages were not accepted,” Tashima said in a statement.
“We will work with Frontale and the J. League in dealing with the matter, as well as seek counsel from the Japan Sports Agency and the education and foreign ministries.
“We will continue to work so that people will properly understand what the flag stands for.”