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Volleyball league announces shakeup but will not turn professional

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

The Japan Volleyball Organization (V. League) announced Wednesday it will launch a new league but said there would be no professional competition coming anytime soon.

The new league is tentatively called the “Super League,” and starts in the fall of 2018 to replace the current V. Premier League and subdivisional Challenge League.

“The Super League is the first step toward starting a sports business in volleyball and making our league one of the top leagues in the world,” V. League chairman Kenji Shimaoka said at a news conference.

The Super League will have 10 men’s teams and 12 women’s clubs in each top division. The teams currently playing in the V. Premier League (eight for both men and women) are expected to join this division, with additional teams qualifying for the top tier.

The biggest change from the current league style is that each club will have the responsibility for staging their own games.

In the V. Premier and Challenge League, local volleyball associations have the right to hold games, but starting next fall, it will be the clubs’ responsibility to sell tickets, book the arenas and run the games.

“By giving them the right to run the games and earn revenue from that, we are aiming to make volleyball a stable sports business,” said Shimaoka. “We have never mentioned professionalizing the league.”

There had been speculation the V. League would turn pro as soccer’s J. League or basketball’s B. League have done in the past. But under the current league format, which is largely made up of corporate teams, the league failed to earned consensus from the clubs.

Some of the teams’ parent companies are reportedly unwilling to create independent entities solely for volleyball.

The Super League will have subdivisions and eight women’s teams will join the second tier, but the number of men’s teams is not decided. The third division will only have men’s teams, the number of which is also yet to be decided.

Games in the top division will have to be played in an arena with a capacity of at least 3,000. Each team will play 27 games in the regular season, and six teams in the men’s competition and eight from the women’s advance to the playoffs.

The Super League will also ask the participants to have junior teams or volleyball classes in their hometowns, as well as their own team practice facilities. The teams must also have mascots.

The league’s new official name, the identity of the participants in the top division, and the details of the conditions necessary to join the top division will be decided and announced by spring next year.