Interview: Japan’s Chairwoman of the New Pro Women’s Soccer League charts a course for success

3 May 2021

Woman's football
Photo: Alamy Kikuko Okajima, Chairwoman of WE League, in the front row holding the WE League badge, with Mr. Masashi Mori, former president of J-League club Omiya Ardija. Holding the scarf on the right are Mr. Sasaki and Ms. Junko Egawa, Secretary General of WE League. Takeyuki Okamoto, head coach of Omiya Ardija Ventus is standing second from right in the back row.

Kikuko Okajima, Chairwoman of the WE League, wants to capture a whole new type of fans. Through soccer schools for kids she wants families to attend the matches.

We League hopes to capture the followers of their uniform sponsor, mainly teens to people in their early 20s, “to use their platforms/networks, like Instagram, to showcase our athletes and bring in a new group of fans”

The WE League should also be front-runners in the diversity discussions in Japan. The country landed at number 120 out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for 2020.

Women must comprise 50 percent of each club’s personnel in the WE Leaue. This will include decision-makers and coaching staff.

Shahnaz Mahmud

On a November day in 2018 a jovial, teeming crowd gathered in downtown Tokyo to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Japan Soccer League—predecessor to the J.League. During the festivities, hands shook, business cards were exchanged—and the origins to the women’s professional league —the Women’s Empowerment League (WE League)—began.

Do you want to read this article?

Get instant access by signing up for a 7-day free trial

No credit card, no commitments and it will expire automatically.

You will receive a link that activates your trial in an email.