Japanese women’s football took a major step towards full professionalism with Wednesday, June 3 unveiling of WE League, which will replace the Nadeshiko League as the top tier of the women’s game when it kicks off in 2021.
The Japan Football Assocation (JFA) hopes the WE League – pronounced ‘we’, based on the acronym for ‘women’s empowerment’ – will feature between six and 10 teams in its inaugural season, running from the Japanese autumn to the following May.
The JFA also announced a ‘vision’ for the fledgling competition, which includes establishing the WE League as the one of the top women’s football leagues in the world.
There will be no relegation from the new top division for the time being, although there may eventually be a pyramid system linking the WE League and the Nadeshiko League.
JFA President Kozo Tashima hailed the establishment of the new league, declaring it will bring benefits beyond the football pitch.
“The first women’s professional soccer league in Japan is not just about developing Japanese women’s football,” he said.
“We also aim to contribute to the further advancement of women in society, to create various jobs and to expand the options of people’s ways of life centred on the women’s professional league.”
Japanese women’s national team head coach Asako Takakura shared Tashima’s enthusiasm, saying: “The WE League – a women’s professional soccer league – is a female soccer player’s long-term dream.”
“Players must be prepared for this league to succeed. That determination will surely make Japan stronger.”
Japan is already among the strongest Asian nations in women’s football.
They lifted the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany and are the holders of the current Asian titles at senior, U-19 and U-16 levels, with Nadeshiko League club Nippon TV Beleza also winning the inaugural AFC Women’s Club Championship in 2019.
The unveiling of the WE League comes three weeks before Japan will discover if its bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is successful.
Fellow AFC member association Australia is also aiming to host the event, as part of a joint bid with New Zealand.