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More Goals for More Fans

Posted December. 13, 2004 22:38,   


“Korea’s 13 professional soccer clubs spend more than 150 billion won annually. In fact, it is doubtful that Korean fans are getting what they want for that much money.”

This is only a part of what an owner of a soccer team said, arguing that Korea’s professional football league should change. The gist of his saying was that unless the football league as a whole changes, there would be a crisis of some sort in the near term. When even an owner of a football team is keenly aware of problems of the professional league, there is no doubt that Korean soccer fans are greatly disappointed by the poor management of game schedules and equally poor performance of players.

Fans are constantly annoyed by seemingly endlessly changing schedules and by rumors of corruption in hiring foreign players. Another source of irritation is the fact that the executive branch of the Korea Football Association was too eager to cater to demands of the association. Still worse, lousy marketing schemes failed to attract soccer fans.

To the contrary to the current dissatisfaction of soccer lovers, this year’s professional league had a fairly smooth start. Many expected another boom in the professional soccer games as Football Club Seoul (FC Seoul) moved from Anyang, Gyeonggi province to Seoul, the biggest football market in Korea. Moreover, star coaches such as Cha Beom-geun of the Suwon Samsung Blue Wings and Lee Jang-soo of the Chunnam Dragons got top jobs at professional clubs.

Despite much anticipation, in the beginning of this year’s season, a scandal surfaced on hiring foreign players and as expected the impact was huge. The scandal haunted the league the entire season. The case was closed by arresting 10 people including assistant coaches, team officials and sports agents. But the case can resurface depending on the results of an additional investigation and remains a ticking bomb in the football league.

On the one hand, players also failed to live up to expectations of spectators. This year’s K-league saw a total of 299 goals made in 160 games played, which means that there were 1.87 goals per game compared to 2.6 goals in 2003. And another disappointment came from the fact that most of the 299 goals were scored by foreign players with Korean athletes lagging behind this year. Only Woo Seong-yong (Pohang Steelers, 10 goals) and Kim Eun-jung (FC Seoul, eight goals) were placed respectively in fourth and fifth on the goal-scoring list.

Korean fans can find some relief now because the Korea Professional Football League decided to lower the maximum number of foreign players on a team from current five to four to give more opportunities to Korean players. The new limit comes into force next year.

In addition, the number of spectators shrank from 2,448,868 last season to 2,429,422 for 2004.

Sang-Ho Kim hyangsan@donga.com