Go to contents

Soccer Teams Becoming “Money Eating Hippos”

Posted August. 10, 2005 03:11,   


SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won recently said, “10 billion won is enough money to build a factory, yet Bucheon SK is spending 10 billion won every year and losing money. If this continues, dismantle the team.” He showed his will not to sit by and watch a “money eating hippo.” Bucheon SK is being studied by Seoul National University and Sejong University as to whether it is reasonable to maintain the existence of the soccer club.

Although the professional soccer league has been around for 23 years, the 13 clubs (including the military team) annually lose up to 15 billion won. There isn’t a single club that is bringing in profits.

Clubs Spend Up to 25 Billion Won Every Year, Yet Don’t Try to be Self-Sufficient—

The key reason for the feeble management of professional clubs, is because soccer clubs are structurally parasitic to their parent corporation. Corporations don’t think of soccer clubs as anything more than a way to get publicity. Instead of thinking to run a soccer club competitively and earn profits, they think that it is good enough to spend as much money as possible to acquire good players and get publicity. That is the reason soccer clubs belonging to large corporations and religious organizations annually spend 15 to 25 billion won. Clubs belonging to civic organizations that spend about eight to 10 billion won are endeavoring to be self-sufficient, but some clubs affiliated to large corporations totally don’t care about that. Rather, they violate league regulations created by themselves and engage in ruthless competition. In their minds, since the money is coming in anyway, they should only care about getting good publicity.

Focusing in Acquiring Star Players Even By Breaking League Regulations—

According to the new rookie registration regulation, if a K-League rookie player’s contract is three years long, his annual salary cannot surpass 50 million won and he does not receive a signing bonus. However, in the case of the biggest rookie of this year, Park Ju-young (FC Seoul), other clubs as well as league officials claim that he received somewhere between two to three billion won. FC Seoul said, “We didn’t not pay him anything else but the annual salary of 50 million won.” They explain that they did give Park contracts for commercials, however. That means the club signed a secret contract. If a second Park appears, it is inevitable the same situation will recur.

There are reports that another club is breaking the rules by paying 30 to 50 million won in playing fees for every game to its players. The concerned club adamantly refuted, “That means we need two billion won when playing 40 games, but does that rationally make sense?” But it also means that ways to find loopholes in regulations are being widespread. It is even routine for clubs to lure players that play well on other clubs by offering them an additional 100 to 200 million won. Under such circumstances even incompetent players gain hundreds of millions of won, making a bubble in the player market. This being the case, the quality of soccer is further decreasing and fans are growingly looking away from the sport.

It is also frequent for clubs to sign up with high school and university students. In order to acquire better players than other clubs, black money is being transacted. Some even build grass fields at the school of the future player. In such an atmosphere, amateur team coaches are openly asking for money from professional clubs. These are all problems arising from standings-oriented-only clubs violating the regulations.

Sejong University Professor and KBS sports commentator Lee Yong-soo said, “That is because there are no people that value and love soccer, but only people that make a living out of soccer.”

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com