When we last updated this story, there were still a few unanswered questions about Asan Mugunghwa’s future after disbanding. What would happen to the remaining 14 players who hadn’t completed their military duty with the auxiliary police? When exactly would the city of Asan assume ownership of a citizen club? According to Yonhap, the K League, Asan city government, and the National Police Academy have reached an agreement that allows Asan Mugunghwa to take part in the 2019 K League 2 season.
The 2019 season will be transitional for Asan Mugunghwa as it will be the last season that the squad will feature players currently serving out their two year military duty. When the season kicks off in March 14 players, including familiar KNT players Lee Myungjoo and Ju Sejong, will be entering their second year of duty. Those players will be joined by around 10-15 players signed by the Asan city government to make up a full squad. At the end of the season, the 14 conscript players will be discharged and rejoin their professional clubs and Asan Mugunghwa will transition to Asan FC, a team fully owned and operated by the Asan city government. Let’s look at the positives and negatives to come from this late deal to keep the club alive.
The first positive about this deal is that Asan gets to keep its football team. The fans of Asan Mugunghwa were vocal about wanting the team to continue on and it’s a definite positive that in both cases of Mugunghwa undergoing a sudden change, the local fans have gotten to keep their team. When Ansan Mugunghwa relocated to Asan, the Ansan city government founded Ansan Greeners FC. In this case, when the National Police Academy ceases to recruit players and disbands their team, the Asan city government will assume ownership and found Asan FC.
Another positive is the National Police Academy allowing for the 14 remaining players to finish their duty. When it was initially announced that Mugunghwa would disband entirely following the 2018 season, it left those 14 players in limbo. Would they have to return to their clubs and try to get picked for a one-year stint at Sangju Sangmu in the future? With this agreement, the players get to fulfill their military duty and the National Police Academy gets to stick to their original goal of ceasing recruitment. It’s an agreement that works for both parties.
Asan Mugunghwa, even though they won K League 2, will still not be allowed promotion to the K League 1. If this agreement had been reached before the K League 2 season concluded, the K League could have granted promotion to Asan instead of second-place Seongnam FC.
This agreement between Asan Mugunghwa and the K League is only effective for one season. Since the 14 remaining military players will have to be discharged after the season, Asan FC will once again have to confirm with the K League their recruitment plans and ownership structure. While it most likely will be just a formality that the team will continue on as Asan FC and transfer operations to Asan city government, it’s still going to be something to deal with after the 2019 season.
Even if the 2019 Asan Mugunghwa squad were to repeat as champions of K League 2, there would probably be more confusion as to whether they will be allowed promotion. The 2016 Ansan Mugunghwa squad won the title but were denied promotion because of their relocation plans. Re-organizing the club after the season as Asan FC might also mean that the K League would not grant them promotion after the season.
In the end, this is an agreement that, while agreed later than necessary, probably helps resolve the situation in the best possible manner. The National Police Academy gets to adhere to its policy of ceasing to recruit players to complete their military duties, the last remaining class of players gets to finish their duties, and the city gets to transition to local ownership of the club after this season.
To look at the silver lining of missing out on promotion this season, it might be safer for the club to establish themselves in K League 2 as a new citizen club. Even though they were the best team in the K League 2 this past season, it could have been difficult to make the signings necessary to compete in K League 1 right off the bat. Hopefully the successful scouting and recruiting that have yielded the club two titles in the past three years will translate into smart signings in the coming months. Being able to complete this transition in the safer setting of a relegation-less K League 2 could help Asan in the long run. I’m hoping to see Asan FC make it to the K League 1 in the future. For now let’s all rejoice that the club won’t be disbanding after all.