Friday, April 8, 2011

All eyes on the crowd in Korea

Asian Football Feast's Korean correspondent, Seungmin Lee, takes a look at one of the major talking points out of the first few weeks of the K-League season - the crowds.

Suwon's World Cup stadium is regularly
packed out for Suwon games

If you asked for a perspective of this season to any K-League fan before March, most of them surely would have answered that it is nothing special.

Even though K-League teams were crowned as the Champions of Asia three times in a row, the majority of Korean population follows Baseball teams with big corporation names like Samsung or LG. It’s impossible to have a footy chat except when you are talking about National team side.

Nevertheless, as much as the current league table, K-League attendance figures are unbelievable.

According to K-League official site, 193,959 people had gathered into 8 stadiums around South Korea on the opening weekend. Of course, there were improved marketing strategies, enhanced fixture scheduling and a good performance from the Korean National side in Asian Cup, but it was too much to say this is just because of those reasons.

The records didn’t stop there.

For the second round, 179,938 people had visited the eight games. What is really impressive is that those who are leading this trend are not the big clubs – Suwon Bluewings, Jeonbuk Hyundai, FC Seoul. They are the likes of Daejeon Citizens, Gyeongnam FC, Sangju Phoenix and Daegu FC, all of who experienced their stadium full like never had before.

Although K-League is enjoying their solid start, still there are pessimistic views about their ‘success’. This is partly because the Korean Professional Baseball League, their true competitor has yet to start their season. Most of Korean sport press is expecting the K-League will be drop as soon as the baseball league is started.

Sadly, their prediction seems to be true.

For Round Three, attendances across the league had shrunk to only 50,936. With those people, you can’t even fill out Celtic Park. Suddenly more than 100,000 people decided not to visit a K-League stadium.

Why? Nobody can answer but it is obvious – those figures in Rounds one and two don’t automatically mean the K-League became a success. It’s far more reasonable to look back at the end of the year and judge.

The attendance for Round Four was back in 6 digits, but it’s still hard to expect it is going to be the same for the rest of April.

As the Korean Pro-Baseball League starts, we will see whether it is going to be as K-League the hoped or whether the packed K-League grounds were just unusual scenes of March.

For the K-league, now is the time to set a new goal - to be the Champions of Asia off the pitch.

1 comment:

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