Japan scraps night games after quake

TOKYO - Matches in Japan's J-League will kick off before 2pm to help save energy after last month's deadly earthquake and tsunami knocked out a nuclear power plant.

The J-League also said matches in May would start by 4pm as Japan battles power shortages and planned blackouts to reduce the strain on the country's electricity grid.

The Japan Football Association (JFA) told Reuters the national team's elite J-Village training complex close to the stricken nuclear plant was to temporarily move south.

J-Village is currently home to the workers struggling to avoid a catastrophic meltdown at the plant in Fukushima, some 150 miles north of Tokyo.

Japanese baseball has also pulled the plug on night games following the 11 March quake and tsunami that left more than 11,000 dead and over 15,000 missing in northeast Japan.

Japan's Kashima Antlers will play Yokohama F-Marinos in Tokyo when the J-League restarts on 23 April with their stadium (pictured before the quake) still undergoing repairs from quake damage, the league said.

The club's 2002 World Cup stadium could be unusable until the summer.

"It is a very difficult situation," J-League General Secretary Daisuke Nakanishi told Saturday's Japanese media. "It could take until June to fix."

The J-League was suspended after the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent crisis in Fukushima.

In addition, this season's J-League Cup, scheduled to begin on 5 June, has been switched to a knockout format as a result of the disaster, the group stages being scrapped.