'Squirrels' president quits over attendance scandal
The 55-year-old fell on his sword after the "Squirrels" were discovered to have inflated their J-League attendances by more than 110,000 over four years, Japanese media reported on Wednesday.
"I'm angry," J-League chairman Kazumi Ohigashi told the Nikkan Sports newspaper. "It damages the credibility of the whole J-League. I can't believe they would do this."
Rival clubs also criticised Ardija.
"The onus will be on all clubs to correct this situation," said Urawa Reds president Mitsuo Hashimoto. "We will all have to demonstrate we're doing things the right way."
Watanabe said the pressure of trying to meet the club's target of 300,000 fans in a season by 2009 had led him to fabricate the numbers.
"No one else was involved," he said in a tearful news conference. "It was poor management but I wasn't aware of the J-League's standards for defining attendance."
The J-League could further punish the club following a special disciplinary hearing and is expected to examine the records of all clubs.