The professional football K-League celebrated the 40th anniversary of ‘Unholy’ (不惑). 스포츠토토 The K-League, which started with five teams in 1983, the first year of its launch, and has undergone several evolutions, has transformed into a huge market with 25 clubs in the first and second divisions in 2023. It is also the league that won the most championships (10 times) in the Asian Champions League. In terms of numbers, the K-League continues to develop its external competitiveness. However, in the still poor football industry environment, corporate clubs are gradually reducing the scale of investment, and city and village clubs are becoming political scapegoats. There are also many teams with poor crowd mobilization, so they couldn’t completely get out of their ‘league of their own’. Sports Seoul aims to examine the reality of the 40-year-old K-League over four episodes and include suggestions for securing future competitiveness. <Editor’s Note>
[Sports Seoul | Reporter Park Jun-beom] The K-League is still closed. In particular, they tend to keep their mouths shut about information related to the injured. It is safe to say that even if a cheering player is absent, there is little way to know why. It is known through game press conferences, but it is difficult to say that it is a 100% accurate case. Players who have not been mentioned through the media have no way to confirm the location of the injury, how and when it is possible to return. It can be seen that the ‘right’ that fans need to know is not sufficiently guaranteed.
The main reason is ‘power exposure’. In particular, it is judged that it is not helpful to the team to notify the fact through official channels when a main player or key player leaves. An official from Team A said, “Isn’t it necessary to say and disclose the hand our team is holding? In itself, it can affect the tactics and strategy of the opponent.” An official from Team B said, “Injury is an issue involving not only players but also other officials such as medical staff. If the player does not return by the time the club announced, the club should be criticized again.”
However, abroad, they are very open to disclosing the injured. In the case of the English Premier League (EPL), when an injury occurs, the relevant information is announced on the official website of the Premier League as well as the club concerned. Even if you don’t necessarily support the club, anyone can access and check the information. The area of injury and the timing of his return are written in more detail than expected. As such, there is no hesitation in disclosing information about the injured.
Some argue that if it is difficult for clubs to participate voluntarily, disclosure of the injured should be made mandatory under the leadership of the Korea Professional Football Federation. Even if it is not realistically easy, if it is difficult to announce the injuries of all players, it may be a compromise for the club to notify through official channels in the case of long-term injuries or season outs.
An official from Team C said, “Through the club’s SNS, many fans ask about the situation and details of the injured. There is an aspect that is difficult to answer,” he said. “The club says they hide the injured, but it is not hidden. It is a reality that you can know the situation of the opposing team through various channels. There is no reason not to disclose it.” An official from Team D said, “If the injured player is hidden, it is also cautious for the player to accompany the club’s social contribution or local activities. I hope that this aspect will be taken into account.”
In addition, in most cases, the K-League does not disclose the terms of contracts between clubs and players. Many cases are kept private through agreements between clubs and players. When the season ends, all it does is reveal the top 5 annual salaries of domestic and foreign players. On the other hand, professional baseball, the two major professional sports in Korea, as well as European soccer, discloses details of the contract period, down payment, annual salary, and options. It is because of concerns about the back story that may come out in the future due to the contract period, but I can’t erase the feeling that it is overly hidden.
The right to know is not satisfied even in off-season publicity. Public relations managers do support work, but most of them are short-lived, and their main job is to support reporters. If it had not been for the media camp led by the Professional Football Federation for two consecutive years since last year, even that period would have been short. Even when reporters go to the scene, they often have difficulties. There are occasional live performances using the club’s YouTube or social media, but not so many times. It is difficult to find trivial stories that occur at the training camp or stories of newcomers or transfer students adapting. In some clubs, there are also places that show a negative stance on coverage of the field training ground.
The evaluation campaign conducted in the field training is also close to ‘private’. Even if you look at professional baseball, you actively respond to the reporters’ demands for player interviews as well as delivering the results and record sheets. There are quite a lot of materials and items produced by the club itself at the field training ground. Unlike this, the K-League sometimes discloses only the results and scorers, but this is also limited. With the mitigation of the new coronavirus infection (Corona 19), most clubs chose overseas training grounds, and promotion of off-season clubs further decreased. Some fans also get news of the team and player they support through the player’s SNS.
In order for the K-League to become a more popular sport, it needs to get rid of its closed nature. The core value of professional sports is the fans. It is difficult to become a popular sport by simply hiding what fans are curious about.