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Coronavirus

Japan pro soccer league seeks $187m loan for coronavirus crisis

J-League looks for safety net as battered teams struggle with lockdown

Japanaese soccer fans wearing face masks cheer at a game in February but the J-League has since been suspended due to coronavirus concerns.    © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japan's pro soccer J-League has requested loans and credit lines worth more than 20 billion yen ($187 million) from two banks, including MUFG Bank, Nikkei has learned.

J-League has asked MUFG Bank and Shoko Chukin Bank set up lines of credit.

As the coronavirus outbreak has widened, the league has been forced to postpone numerous matches. The loans and credit lines will help tide it over and allow it to extend financial support to financially struggling teams.

Small and medium-sized clubs have suffered particularly as ticket revenues have plummeted.

J-League is talking with MUFG Bank, seeking to set up a credit line of 20 billion yen. It is also negotiating with Shoko Chukin Bank to set up a separate credit line worth several billion yen. This is the first time it has sought credit on this scale since the league was established in 1993.

Some J-League clubs are vulnerable. Sagan Tosu, a top-division club based in Saga Prefecture, recorded a loss of 2 billion yen in the fiscal year ended January. The club has been operating in the red for two straight years. Others in the lower J-2 and J-3 divisions are in even more dire financial straits.

The sharp fall in ticket and merchandise revenues since the coronavirus outbreak have dealt a blow to clubs' cash flows. On April 15, J-League announced that it will raise its lending ceiling to clubs and extend repayment deadlines for struggling clubs.

J-League will use the funds from the banks to support the clubs. However, J-League also finds itself in a bind. Nearly 65% of its ordinary profit comes from broadcasting rights fees. It signed a 210 billion yen contract with sports streaming service Dazn in 2017. The contract runs for 10 years, but the price is likely to be cut sharply if J-League cannot hold games because of the pandemic.

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