Troubled J-League side Vissel Kobe to file for bankruptcy protection

TOKYO: Financially troubled J-League First Division football club Vissel Kobe will file for bankruptcy protection from their creditors next week, a spokesman said yesterday. 

The action will be the first court-guided rehabilitation of a Japanese professional football team since the league was launched in 1993. 

The club, based in Japan’s western port city of Kobe, will officially approve the decision tomorrow at a special meeting of their board members, spokesman Noriyuki Saito said. 

They will then apply to the Tokyo District Court for protection under the Civil Rehabilitation Law, he said, adding that their liabilities were expected to reach 1.6bil yen (US$14.8mil). 

The team, capitalised at 2.2bil yen, are likely to be transferred to a new management party by tender as early as January next year. 

“A Tokyo-based Internet firm has already expressed its intention to take over the team,” Saito said. 

The transfer will be made on condition that the current team members, name and home ground remain unchanged, he said. 

“We are glad that some other companies are showing support for us,” said Vissel Kobe veteran striker Kazuyoshi Miura, better known as Kazu, according to Jiji Press news agency. 

“We players need to make further efforts from now on,” said Miura, a key member of the Japan national team for much of the 1990s who is likely to stay in the team next season. 

The club were established in 1994 by the city of Kobe and local companies, including major Japanese retailer Daiei, which later retreated from the club’s management. 

The club took a severe knock from the 1995 Kobe earthquake, which killed more than 6,000 people in western Japan, with their woes increasing as their audience declined in line with their poor results over the past few years. 

The average number of spectators stood at 11,195 per game this season, down from a peak of 13,870 in 2001. – AFP 

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