Monday, March 14, 2011

K-League has the turnstiles clicking over

Seoul World Cup Stadium is packed for the opening
day clash between FC Seoul & Suwon Bluewings
Can anyone hear that noise? It sounds a little like turnstiles clicking over. Is that, is that coming from Korea?

If you’ve seen a lot of K-League crowds from the last few seasons you’d be crazy for thinking it was. But that’s exactly what has been heard right across the country in the first two weeks of the K-League season.

Last year in Round 1 a total of 71,357 people attended the seven matches across the opening weekend, an average of 10,193. Hardly a terrible effort, although there were three games that attracted fewer than 5,000 people.

Fast forward 12 months and the picture couldn’t be any more different.

With the addition of a new team, Gwangju, the league grew from 15 teams to 16 meaning an additional game each week.

Even taking that into consideration, the growth in crowd numbers is astronomical. The opening weekend of the 2011 K-League season saw 193,959 people go through the gates at an average of 24,244 per game.

That’s a 138% increase on last year. Phenomenal figures in anyone’s language.

It also won’t surprise anyone to learn it’s a new record for the K-League, beating the previous best of 172,142 set in 2008.

It’s not the only record broken on the opening day either, with the 51,606 who attended the FC Seoul vs Suwon Bluewings clash a new attendance record for an opening day clash (eclipsing the previous record of 47,928 for the FC Seoul vs Busan clash in 2004) and was the fifth highest crowd of all time in the K-League.

A new attendance record for Gwangju World Cup Stadium was also set when 36,241 people came through the gates for the clash between Gwangju and Daegu.

It wasn’t just a flash in the pan for the opening day either, with the crowds still strong in Round 2 action completed across the weekend.

An aggregate of 179,938 attended the eight games at an average of 22,492, with four of the eight games attracting more than 25,000 people.

When you combine the first two weeks the average attendance to date so far is 23,368. Compare that to last year when after two rounds a total of 158,872 attended the first two weeks, at an average of 11,348.

The aggregate of 158,872 after two rounds is lower than the attendances at both the opening two rounds this season.

It is a stunning turnaround.

Perhaps 2011 could be a watershed moment for the K-League when it comes to attendances.

Last year Korean Football Association President Cho Chung-yun conceded they needed to do work on building their attendances at K-League games, with a view to emulating Asia’s number one league, the J.League.

Speaking to, Cho said, “..the problem right now in the K-League is obvious - only the big clubs are able to attract a big number of fans.

“It will be good if the small clubs can think out of the box to do their part (to boost their stadium attendance) with the K-League’s help.”

If the first two rounds are anything to go by that has certainly be achieved with stunning effect.



  1. Hate to be pedantic, but Gwangju have had a club since 2003, when the Gwangju Sangmu Phoenix joined the league. I see the Sangmu have moved to Sangju, and there's a new Gwangju team, though. It will be interesting to see if the attendances continue to stay high. In my experience, opening day tends to see a lot of sponsors employees and other freebies at matches, who disappear from week 2 until the final day, when they're all bussed in again.
    When I was there, (2002-03, 2005-2008), Koreans would fill the ground when the national team played, but barely anyone cared about the league. Seoul, Suwon, & Incheon drew crowds, but as a percentage of population, they were still poor.

  2. Technically you are correct, Gwangju has had a side previous to this year, but with Sangju moving to Sangmu, Gwangju effectively got a new team.

    The Rd 3 crowds were interesting, took a massive dip. Only averaged 6k, way down from the 22k of the previous weeks. Someone did mention something about a lot of freebies being handed out for the opening rounds, perhaps that was what it was.

    It's a shame, I thought for a second that the K-League might have turned the corner this year. Alas it seems not. Will keep a close eye on the figures over the coming weeks.

  3. I'm not too surprised. I had a season ticket at Gyeongnam FC for their first 3 years (06-08), usually in home crowds of 2-3000. Even after having been away for a couple of years, I have probably still seen more Korean club matches than your average 'football' fan in Korea.

  4. When the security turnstile of the stadium starts to click over and over, you know that the game is highly anticipated.