Ryutsu Keizai University Dragons

Team Name:

School/Team Logo :

Home Stadium*

*RKU plays its home matches at a number of venues in the greater Tokyo area, though Ryugasaki Stadium hosts more than any other


Team Results: 2005-present

Year Rank Pts GP W D L GF GA G.Dif
2005 (JFL) 13 22 30 5 7 18 39 79 -40
2006 (JFL) 16 25 32 7 4 21 44 78 -34
2007 (JFL) 10 50 34 15 5 14 58 49 9
2008 (JFL) 6 57 34 17 6 11 56 48 +8

As a general rule, clubs in the JFL fall into one of two categories, in terms of their organisation and financing. On the one hand, there are the corporate teams, which are bankrolled and staffed by the parent company, whether it be Honda FC, Sony Sendai or Maruyasu. These teams receive their backing, as well as most of their players, from a parent company from which they may or may not be legally independent. Alternatively, there are what one might describe as "community-based" sides such as Mio Biwako Kusatsu and Nara Club, whose development depends on their success in attracting support from the local area, including relationships with local government and sponsorship from a range of local business organizations.

Built into the playoff system which selects clubs for promotion to the JFL, however, is the possibility for a third type of team to find a place among the elite teams in Japan's semi-professional league. In most years, the All-Nippon University Football Association nominates a candidate from amongst its members to participate in the Annual Nationwide Regional League Championship Tournament, alongside eleven teams from the nine Regional Leagues (though this did NOT happen at the end of 2005). Previous examples of university sides that have made it into the JFL are Shizuoka Industrial University and the Tokyo-based Kokushikan University.

In 2004, after participating in the JFL for nearly a decade, Kokushikan U. brought disgrace to itself, and to the JFL by association, when several members of the team were arrested and later convicted for an incident which, effectively, amounted to gang-rape. The JFA (which administers the JFL) took immediate action, banning the University from all competitions, and tossing them unceremoniously out of the JFL.

At the time, there was serious discussion of eliminating University participation in the JFL altogether. However, before this idea could gain momentum, another University club followed rather unexpectedly in the footsteps of Kokushikan U. Ibaraki-based Ryutsu Keizai University (University of Retail Economics), or RKU for short, advanced to the JFL not through the regular Prefectural and Regional League structure, but via the parallel structure of college football, which is administered independently by the All-Nippon University Football Association .

The university league is generally separate from the Prefectural and Regional league structure, up to the point of the nationwide play-offs. Indeed, apart from Japan Soccer College, a sports-education school affiliated with Albirex Niigata, there is only one other current example of a University team taking part in the Regional Leagues: Chukyo University, in the Tokai League.

RKU was formed in 1965, and entered the Ibaraki Prefecture University League, but it was not until the late 1990s that things really started to happen for the club. The appointment in 1998 of former Mito Hollyhock boss Yuji Nakano was the catalyst got RKU's develpment, and later in the same year, his team gained promotion to the Kanto University League Division 2. They were immediately relegated back to prefectural level, but by the end of 2001 RKU had battled their way through the playoffs into the Kanto University League once again.

 Nakano's outfit quickly adjusted to their second taste of regional football. Just two years later, in 2003, they won the Division 2 title and were promoted to Division 1, and at the end of their first successful season in Division 1, RKU were put forward by the All-Nippon University FA as the University League representative in the playoffs for a JFL spot. In the First Round of the playoffs, corporate side TDK Akita and the military men of the Kanto League's MSDF Atsugi Marcus proved no match for the students from Ibaraki, and the following week, after a 3-1 win in their final match against Luminozo Sayama, RKU had earned a surprise promotion.

Making their JFL debut in 2005, RKU picked up most of their points in matches with fellow strugglers Mitsubishi Mizushima, Honda Lock and Denso. The highlight of their season was a 3-2 win in October over the wildly inconsistent FC Horikoshi. But for the majority of the year, the team were rooted to thirteenth position - fourth from bottom and a long way behind the next weakest team, SC Tottori. The team adopted the very appropriate slogan: "Better Luck Next Time" and set their sight on trying to remain competitive as the makeup of the JFL changes around them.

Though the memory of the Kokushikan scandal has faded somewhat, there are still many powerful people in JFA and J.League circles who would prefer to make a clear division between schoolboy football and the amateur / quasi-amateur leagues. As noted above, there was no University League candidate in the Annual Nationwide Regional League Championship Tournament at the end of 2005 (a lingering reprecussion from the Kokushikan scandal), and there has been pressure from some quarters to eliminate this path to the JFL altogether. In that sense, RKU is carrying the flag for all universities. Only if the team continues to perform reasonably well, both on and off the field, is there a chance that the JFA will preserve this traditional opportunity for university teams to take part in the JFL.

Considering the level of competition they face, the Ibaraki schoolboys have done a very good job of responding to the challenge. The team has remained in the JFL since 2005, and often finish high in the table. Although they may experience sudden changes in fortunes when a top-quality player or two graduates (for example, when current NT keeper and Sagan Tosu stalwart Akihiro Hayashi did at the end of 2009), their reputation as a football-oriented school with fairly good academic quality has allowed RKU in recent years to attract a lot of talented players who want to finish university before turning pro.

Hayashi is not the only National Team player to have pursued a university degree while keeping their football skills sharp by playing for RKU, Japan Soccer College or one of the other universities that participate in the amateur pyramid. Yuto Nagatomo is perhaps the best known example, but others like Rio Olympics member and FC Tokyo wingback Sei Muroya have also graduated from RKU. Now that most JFL members are truly amateur, and rising semipro clubs quickly are shifted into the J3, RKU a good position to solidify its position in the top amateur league and perhaps even vie for a title on occasion. Its unique position -- offering prospective J.Leaguers a chance to get a university education while still honing their football skills at a high level -- makes RKU a valuable part of Japan's football landscape.