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J.League announces stiff penalties

By Jeremy Walker

  TOKYO (July 18)--J.League clubs beware! Big Brother's watching you...and also checking your team sheets.
   In Tokyo on Tuesday, Japan's professional league announced tough penalties for clubs who deliberately field weakened teams in official competitions. The league feels it's unfair to sponsors and supporters, and that every club has an obligation to put out their strongest possible line-up, barring injury, illness, suspension or national team duty. It's happened twice this season and the league doesn't want it happening again, so the following punishments will apply:
   * If a club fields an under-strength team in the Nabisco League Cup they will be banned from competing the following season and left on the sidelines when the cash from TV and sponsors is distributed.
   * If it happens in a league game, they will be deducted three points.

  The measures follow events in the first round of this season's Nabisco Cup, when two first division sides--JEF United Ichihara and Avispa Fukuoka--both rested several first-choice players for games against second division opposition. Even though both top-flight teams won through over two legs, the league executives were still not happy and made them write a letter of apology stating they would never do the same again.
   The only reason why they escaped a fine was because the relevant regulation, Article 42 of the J.League statutes, was not clear in what constituted an under-strength team. Hence a new appendage to Article 42, stating: "The starting 11 must consist of at least six players who have started at least one of the team's previous five games, except in the case of injury, illness, suspension or national team duty."

   The league are confident it will not happen again, as their records show that of the 2,703 games played in league and cup since 1992, it occured only twice: In the two cases above.