Korean Football Reform – K League Attendance

It is all too common to see the stands empty like this in the K League.

First of all, I want to thank you all for the great response to the first edition of this new Tavern series. I was blown away by the response in the comments section and became more and more motivated to make this series the best that it can be. Moving forward, you can expect me to be really active in the comments because I have really enjoyed the back and forth discussions that we got from last week’s piece. My vision for this series is to tackle as many topics as I can think of (or that you all suggest) and then revisit those topics over the years so that we can see progress or regression (hopefully not) in the Korean football scene. Hopefully, the Tavern will expand further into Korea so that we can be on the ground watching Korean football change and evolve over the years. I hope that you will come along for the ride.

For this week’s column, I decided to tackle the issue that is currently plaguing football in Korea: poor attendance. The discussion about this issue got a little heated last week (which is why I chose to tackle this topic) so I just want to remind you all that this is probably the biggest problem in Korean football. As such, I truly believe there are no wrong answers when it comes to trying to fix it. For example, Ryan Walters wrote a great series examining the issues in play that cause the K League attendance problems over at K League United. Check out that series here: K League and MLS. With that in mind, get active in the comments to propose your own ideas as well. However, make sure to respect the ideas of others, as everyone has different ideas about how to make changes that will improve attendance at Korean football matches. In fact, over the last week or so I’ve gotten lost in my thoughts pondering just exactly how I would solve such a complex issue. In the end, I decided that there is absolutely no one foolproof way to solve this issue. Instead, there are only ideas that can function as steps forward and experiments that could get people out to football matches on a more regular basis. Alright, we’ve got the ground rules down! Let’s get into it!

How did it get this bad?

Believe it or not, football in Korea used to be way more popular than it is now. My friend Jun from @6thofJun always wows me when he talks about the attendance figures that K League clubs used to get just 10 years ago. He shared a site (Here’s a link: K League Attendance) that documented K League attendance over the years and you can see that the best figures were in the 2000s, around the time of the 2002 World Cup. That clearly makes sense as we all remember how World Cup fever gripped Korea in that fateful summer. In 2002, the K League attendance average peaked at 14,651 and 2.65 million people attended matches! Over the next 9 years, the average attendance remained stable at around 10k per match, nothing special but much better than what we have now. Unfortunately, in 2011 the floor fell out from underneath the K League. We all know what happened so I’ll just summarize the issue here and leave you an article for further reading (Here is our friend Steve Price’s analysis of the ongoing corruption in the K League from 2016, Match Fixing in the K League). In the 2011 season, multiple K League clubs, players, coaches, and referees engaged in match fixing and there was a large-scale criminal investigation into the practice within Korean football. Players and coaches were banned from the league, clubs were fined heavily, people were jailed, and unfortunately there were a few player suicides (RIP to all the lives lost in the scandal). It was a terrible time to be involved in Korean football and it was the moment when fans lost faith in the K League. Take a look at Tim’s graphic of the average K League attendance since 2008.

The 2012 season saw a sharp drop in average attendance to 7,157 people and last season dropped to 6,486 people. Seeing some of the figures that our friend Steve Han and my fellow Incheon United fan @tpbarnes86 are reporting weekly, it is hard to say whether 2018’s average attendance will be better or worse than last season’s. It can be disheartening to go to K League matches and see all those empty seats. It’s not even just the K League. The KNT has struggled to get good attendance for their World Cup qualifying and friendly matches. Steve Han reported that Monday’s KNT friendly in Daegu was the lowest reported attendance for a KNT match at Daegu Stadium. So, where do we go from here? How can we get people back to watching K League and KNT matches in the stadiums? I would never be arrogant enough to think that I can even come close to solving this problem but I want to offer my ideas for what I would like to see moving forward in the K League. Feel free to disagree with me respectfully and offer your own ideas. Like I said before, you can count on me being in the comments section discussing with you.

My Solutions

1. Stadiums

The absolute first thing I would love to see K League clubs do is build stadiums that their fans want to go to! This is clearly my MLS fan coming through, but I am absolutely supportive of the MLS requirement that new clubs build football-specific stadiums. When you have a football-specific stadium tailored to your fanbase that your fans can fill up, the atmosphere on matchday dramatically improves. Fans get excited about walking to the match together, making tifos to show the players, and developing great chants. In MLS, you see this with Atlanta United FC and their ability to sell-out their 40k adjusted capacity Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Even just watching a match of theirs on TV, I am always struck by the atmosphere that they are creating week in week out inside that stadium.

In the K League, you often struggle to recreate this atmosphere (though there are obvious exceptions I will address later) because there are two stadium trends absolutely hampering the K League. The first is absolutely FIFA’s fault as Korea was forced to build large stadiums to meet FIFA’s capacity requirements for the 2002 World Cup. The club that is harmed by this trend the most is clearly Jeju United, who struggle to get attendances of even 5k at Seogwipo World Cup Stadium, which has a reduced capacity near 30,000. The other stadium trend is caused by an obscure Korean city planning law that I believe requires all cities to have a stadium with a running track to cater to their citizens (please correct me or educate me about this law, as I seem to remember reading it somewhere a while back). Many K League clubs, including Gangwon FC and Sangju Sangmu, are playing on pitches encircled by running tracks that prevent fans from getting close to the action. With these two trends, the fans clearly respond by saying, “why would I want to watch a match at these stadiums?”

K League clubs are currently working on remedying both of these problems in various ways. Some clubs, like Seoul E-Land FC, are treading water trying to get fans to come to their huge stadiums. Others, like Daegu and Gwangju FC, are ditching their gigantic stadiums and building new and smaller stadiums. Finally, there are clubs making the best of their situations by modifying their stadiums in specific ways that help fans get into the action. Let’s try to zero in on what I like about these efforts.

First of all, as an Incheon United fan who went to Sungui Arena Park a lot in my two years in Incheon, even if we can’t fill our 20,000 seater stadium, it’s still a beaut! When I first saw it, I immediately thought of Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. The South Stand is where our supporters gather and it has safe standing that allows them to jump around to their heart’s desire. Even if the stadium is never full, you always hear them. 3 K League clubs, Gwangju FC and Bucheon 1995 FC in the K League 2 and Daegu FC in K League 1, have all announced plans to build football-specific stadiums in the next couple years. Daegu’s stadium is the closest to completion so I will show you the lovely renders and gush about what I like about the project.

What is great about this stadium concept is that it has a small capacity and it has a roof that will completely cover the fans. This is actually a huge concern as Daegu has exceptionally hot summers! In terms of capacity, Daegu FC will move from the 66k capacity Daegu Stadium to the 12k capacity Forest Arena after this season. Currently Daegu struggle to draw even a couple thousand fans to their matches so going to a small stadium will do wonders for the atmosphere at matches, even if there isn’t a huge growth in attendance. However, I am hopeful that there will be an increase in attendance for a few reasons. For one, the Forest Arena is in a much more accessible location compared to Daegu Stadium, which my friends Steve Price and Jon Christian have both said is an absolute chore to get to. The Forest Arena sits on the old site of the Daegu Civil Stadium and is part of a redeveloped sports park that will include an amateur baseball stadium, smaller soccer fields, and other sports facilities. It will be in a more populated area which will mean that more people will see the stadium and possibly get interested in checking it out. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to check out the new stadium soon!

Another strategy that K League clubs use to attract fans to stadiums that are either too big or with stands that are too removed from the action is to modify the stadium. Some strategies for this in World Cup Stadiums is to remove seats and replace them with safe standing rails or table seating. Both practices are a step forward as they allow the diehards a chance to jump and chant all match or the families a chance to enjoy a picnic at the match. At the civil stadiums with running tracks, clubs have been erecting temporary stands behind the goals to get fans closer to the action. I saw Sangju’s stand a few weeks back and I liked the incorporation of a large umbrella to give fans shade from sunny days. Seongnam FC also installed some faux turf on their temporary stand to make the fans feel like they’re on a pitch of sorts. These temporary stands should be standard practice on the running tracks and should be behind both goals. One should be for the home fans and the other should be reserved for the traveling fans. This will give an atmosphere at both ends. Put tarps in the stands directly behind those temporary stands so no one’s view gets blocked (also a good advertising opportunity for local sponsors, wink wink). There is certainly more to address with stadiums but I think I’ll move on and leave the rest for the comments.

2. Transportation Options

This one applies specifically to stadiums that are currently not easy to get to, namely Daegu Stadium and Seogwipo World Cup Stadium. In Chicago, our MLS club has come up with a very novel solution to the fact that they built their stadium out in the suburbs outside of downtown. At local bars around Chicago, you can gather for a few drinks and then a shuttle bus will drive you to the match! Jeju United and Daegu should look into this. You already see plenty of hagwon shuttles driving through cities in Korea everyday. Why not reserve a few shuttles and drive your fans from downtown to the stadium? In Seogwipo, this would really help since Seogwipo is much less populated than Jeju City. Drive fans from Jeju City to Seogwipo for the matches (think about it guys!).

3. The Foreigner Trap/Solution

One of the turning points for MLS as a league was the arrival of David Beckham. Out of nowhere, MLS had found a superstar that could fill any stadium just with his name value. However, these days his legacy has bred a very specific problem that I want the K League to avoid at all costs. The example I will use to illustrate this is a recent match featuring my Chicago Fire and the LA Galaxy, who recently signed the one and only Zlatan! For this match, the stadium sold out and the club were even forced to add a temporary stand behind one of the goals to make room for all the fans. Then the next match, we were right back to a half-empty stadium. Let’s apply this concept to the recent signing of Iniesta by Vissel Kobe by saying that hypothetically Suwon Samsung were to sign him to try to catch Jeonbuk in the league. Immediately, matches featuring Suwon would be the hottest ticket in the K League and Suwon’s away matches would sell out. However, the clubs that can’t afford that kind of star will continue to struggle with attendance when Iniesta isn’t in town.

What’s my counterpoint to this? I think that a good example would be to look at the type of stars being attracted to new MLS clubs like Atlanta United and LAFC. They are signing young and exciting players waiting to establish their names. Someone like Miguel Almiron is exciting the fans not because he was a big star before he came to Atlanta but because Atlanta fans can claim him as their pride and joy. K League teams must search far and wide for these kinds of players. Gyeongnam FC are doing a great job of this with Marcao and Negueba this season. When you sign a foreigner to your club, I also believe that K League clubs should reach out to that player’s community already living in Korea. Here’s an example of a missed opportunity that Incheon United had when they brought in the young Vietnamese player Lương Xuân Trường a few seasons back.There is actually a substantial Vietnamese community in Incheon but Luong got very little playing time and so there was very little for the local community to get excited about. Instead of wasting him on the bench, he should’ve gotten a runout early in the season and the club should have planned events in the local Vietnamese communities to introduce their new young player. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that happened.

4. Community Engagement

Another area I think is hugely lacking from K League clubs is a presence in their cities. One thing I noticed in my time in Incheon was that there were minimal advertisements for the club in the city. Incheon is a spread out city so there is that added challenge, but you could go through the city and have no idea there was a football club until you saw the stadium itself. I recently saw a post from Incheon’s Instagram that showed the Dowon subway station wrapped with banners for the club with a schedule and pictures of the players! It’s a great start. I think clubs should buy ads on the the subways and buses so that fans can learn about the club as they travel the city. On the subway, buy an ad that shows your stadium so that fans know when to get off to go to the match. It sounds simple but I’ve yet to see it done so I’m suggesting it. On a side note, last year in Gwangju I saw their subway had video ads for Gwangju FC, so that’s where my subway inspiration came from.

Other community engagement events I would consider are events in the preseason that introduce the city to the squad as well as fan clubs at local schools. Let’s start with introducing the squad to the city. The Korean World Cup squad recently held an opening ceremony at Seoul City Hall Plaza that attracted a lot of fans, featured a performance from Gugudan’s Sejeong (sorry, I have a crush on her!), and ended with a lot of autograph signings. Did FC Seoul do anything like this to begin their season? Did any K League club have any kind of event like this? It is crucial for K League clubs to get out into the community to introduce their players to the city and get fans excited for the matches. Maybe hold a local clinic for youth footballers where the squad does some teaching and scrimmaging for the public. Open training sessions? Appearances at local landmarks for photo ops? Take the new foreign signing on a tour of the city and invite fans along? The ideas could keep flowing forever. Tell me in the comments what K League clubs are doing and if you have any more ideas for this.

Now to the local fan clubs at schools. I think this could tie into the local schools that are functioning as youth sides for the club. There should be much more made of young local players making their way into the first team squad. When a young player makes the squad, do everything to get him back to his old stomping grounds to do events so that he can inspire the next generation of footballers. Remind the school that the club is investing in their growth as footballers and get those kids excited about going to matches to see that player that used to play for their school! Whether it’s free tickets for students or working with the school to have family ticket deals offered, I would hope that K League clubs could engage their youth sides more in the senior squad so that fan bases can be cultivated from an early age.

5. Matchday Environment

We’ve finally arrived at the issue that drives most people away from the K League and the one that drew the most controversy in last week’s comments section. Let’s all be brutally honest, the K League matchday experience is not great, with notable exceptions. Suwon and Jeonbuk both have very raucous supporters sections that get very loud, travel well, and seem very fun to be a part of. However, too many casual fans go to a match, find the match dull, and tune out of the match, or worse, watch baseball on their phones (K League Kilt, I know that’s a pet peeve of yours)! What can be done to rival the experience at a KBO baseball game? You might be thinking that I’m going to say that the K League should try to compete with the KBO by hiring cheerleaders and cheermasters to keep the fans engaged at every moment. Fortunately for you, I will not be doing that!

What I would suggest are modest changes that could make the average K League match a little better to attend. My MLS team has pretty average attendance for the league, hovering at 14k while MLS average last season was 22k. That being said, even an average MLS team does a few things right that K League clubs should also do. Every match, I receive a match program with the updated squad list, injuries, and all the fan songs that the supporters will sing. In my 2 years of attending Incheon matches, I do not once remember receiving a program telling me the lyrics to the songs our supporters sang. Consequently, I never learned any of the songs! This would require each K League club to engage their supporters group and have them share their song lyrics. Kids in Korea these days learn the songs at KBO games, why can’t they also learn football chants?

Another thing that the Chicago Fire do is set up a fan area before the match with giveaways as well as skills areas in the parking lot. Just having a little bit of activities to go to and a chance to interact with the club staff/players would be really fun for a casual fan. I’ve noticed that Incheon has been having weekly pre-match player signing events with the players rotating weekly. That’s a good move for the club and hopefully front offices and marketing departments can come up with more ideas along that line. In addition, clubs should ask permission to set up activities for kids on a regular basis outside their stadiums so that families can see that the K League is a place for kids to have a fun day out.

6. Ticket Deals

This is the last one I’ll address for now because I think I might be losing you guys. But I think one thing that clubs should do is have their ticket sales department calling out to local companies to try to sell ticket packages for their matches. Hweshik (or company dinner) is still very important in the Korean salaryman culture and I would love to see K League clubs advertising their matches as a nice place for a good company dinner. I mean, the Korean government wants to regulate these boozy company dinners to protect workers, so why not advertise the match as a great way to kick back with a few beers and have a good time? A K League match is exactly 2 hours, plenty of time for the salaryman to relax after work and then go home after the match. It seems like a no brainer to me, especially since there’s that new rule that you can’t go to a second spot anymore. The company dinner would have a safe time limit and would provide a nice environment for the workers to have some fun. Ticketing departments, get on it!

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and thank you for reading! These were just some of my ideas to improve attendance at K League and KNT matches going forward. There are so many possibilities for improving this issue, let’s see what kind of ideas you can come up with in the comments below! I’ll see you there!

 

 

About Michael Welch 30 Articles
That Halfie Korean-American who loves football (I mean, soccer).

16 Comments

  1. So, I’ll say the one thing you have failed to mention that MUST be improved is the actual game itself. Exciting attacking play is fairly rare in the K League these days. There’s not a lot of interest in the average fan to watch teams hit long balls down the flanks and then send in endless numbers of bad crosses. Korean football needs a mentality shift away from “let’s not lose” to “let’s go out and win this”. I can’t speak for all clubs, but I’ll make a few comments based on what I’ve seen in Busan and Jeju on your ideas.

    1. Stadiums – Yes the giant size and running tracks are a problem, but that’s more Korea/KFA’s fault then FIFA imo as they knew they would have to build them to get the World Cup. SK didn’t particularly want to come to Jeju from Bucheon, but the KFA forced them to iifc. Also smaller stadiums would certainly be nicer, but they don’t guarantee atmosphere or more fans.

    2. With a few exceptions, I don’t think transportation is that big an issue. The stadium here in Jeju is not in a good location (on the opposite side of the main city – Jeju City and located just outside of Seogwipo city itself), but there are plenty of buses that run directly to the stadium from virtually all areas of the island. I can’t remember exactly, but I don’t think Jeju Utd pulled that many more fans when they have played at the civil stadium in Jeju City either.

    4. Can’t speak Seoul, but I know Busan has an opening fan meet, autograph signing, exhibition match to kick off the season. Players do also regularly visit elementary schools and the club hosts “soccer camps” (IPark Kids I think is the name) throughout the season.

    5. Atmosphere is tricky. I know that when I went to a baseball game (in Changwon) recently they would show the lyrics on the small electronic billboards around the stadium so everyone could see and follow along. Jeju has tried to do pre-match cheer instructions/practice, but it never catches with the crowd. No one is interested. I think there is an existing attitude towards what you do at a football vs baseball game that would need to be overcome.

    6. Not sure how K League matches and hwesik fit together tbh. And is there a rule saying no 2차? That’s news to me!

    • We’ve been talking about that mentality shift for years, and it’s not happening, sadly. In any case, I question whether the on the pitch product was super exciting a decade ago. And is baseball that much more thrilling in retrospect? Maybe it’s just me, but when I watch baseball, I’m doing something else (fiddling on my phone, writing a Tavern post, doing easy schoolwork, etc.) but when it’s football I have to concentrate, since it’s continuous.

      I’m not saying the pitch product doesn’t have to be improved, but it certainly seems to me that it’s not the primary reason…

      • Tim is not wrong here. KBO is more exciting not because of fans paying attention to the games, but just the fact that more is going on outside of the actual game. I think tactics in the K League should be addressed in a future post but an exciting football match probably does beat baseball because of its continuous nature of play.

    • Alright, love the comment Jae. Let me go point by point with you! First of all, tactics in the K League is almost definitely a future Korean Football Reform column and one I would very much love to see you write! I also have to say that even now I feel that I have missed aspects of the off the pitch issues concerning attendance.

      1.Smaller stadiums in downtown areas are a big deal for me. MLS perfected that formula and I totally believe it applies to Korea. Daegu’s new stadium will be seen much more often by the casual passerby who may get interested in going there. A great example of a downtown stadium working in MLS is Orlando City Stadium. It’s small but fans see it all the time and want to go!

      2. So I get the transportation argument as public transport in Korea is amazing across the board. However, I think Jeju could capitalize on this by for example working with the local authorities to wrap special buses in Jeju logos and offering an express bus directly to the match. When you know that the bus is specifically to go watch football you might want to take it on a matchday afternoon.

      4. I like the stuff I see from Busan and my club Incheon to get involved with fans and think it just has to be more and more planned out. Make sure the community knows you have K League football and that there is youth football throughout the city.

      5. You’ve hit the nail on the head with the match atmosphere at K League. I think there is this attitude that the hardcore fans will do the singing and everyone else is free to not pay attention. I see that at Chicago Fire matches as well but then the supporters section has a stand for a leader to call out songs and chants and he gets the other fans involved. This is similar to the KBO cheermaster in a sense, but it could clearly be adapted more to football.

      6. The hweshik idea is a novel idea that I think that K League clubs should try. I wholeheartedly believe that K League ticket offices should be trying to get business to buy ticket packs to have their company dinners at the match. I am pretty sure I read that there are specific new regulations on the length of hweshiks as well as a limit to only 1 venue. No more 2차 and no more partying late into the night!

  2. You should try sending your suggestions to the clubs. Im not well informed about that matter, so I dont really know what the core problems are and thus dont know how to solve them.
    But I think after the matchday experience improves, they should do some free ticket give aways in smaller football clubs, on Football Youtube Channels at schools etc. Maybe charge nothing for the first game in the new stadium and make sure the experience is good…hire some guys to sing those songs etc in that first match xD
    Hows the food in the stadiums?
    I do also agree that the football itself is fairly boring, especially if you watch Tottenham and the BPL as many korean football fans do. Its just a headache seeing these technical mistakes. They should work on improving youth players technique, so the fans can at least see some fluid gameplay without mistake after mistake. Thats interesting enough.

    • Hi Ben, I am hoping that K League clubs and readers in Korea are receptive to my suggestions. Would love to work on this at a K League club for sure! In terms of food at the stadiums, it can vary and I have only been to a few stadiums but for the most part beer will be cheap and snacks will be on offer. I have not heard of varied options on the level of American stadiums though. Overall, I think technical skills in Korean football is a great topic for a future column! Thanks so much for your ideas!

    • I agree on that gameplay thing. Japan is often criticized for coaching passing play too much. Its not very successful, but at least entertaining to watch. This might be a possible explanaition of the J-leagues popularity among japanese people. Full stadiums and lots of instagram followers even for smaller sides. They usually have 60k+ followers whereas Jeonbuk has roughly 10% of that. Have watched some japanese football on DAZN, its fairly entertaining.
      Excessive passing training might not bring successful gameplay itself. However, a more exciting style of playing and an increased interest in the domestic league could hugely improve the KNTs quality in the long run.

  3. I hope Ki Sung-yueng finishes his career at FC Seoul. Or Lee Chung-yong. Sounds goofy, but I feel that if Korean superstars finished their career at their home club, it may at least provide some attendance boost (but then there’s the whole Park Chu-young problem)…

    • I am totally behind both of those players returning to the K League in some form. Ki would make a great manager as well and I could still see Chungy running past players in the K League for a few more seasons.

  4. Well, firstly thank you for your enthusiastic written article. I can tell you’re passionate about the topic and speaking about it.

    I would like to look at some of the macro problems or topics you mentioned and you countered by using the MLS as an example:

    The stadiums: NYFC plays in Yankee Stadium which is far too small and competes with a converted sodding pitch due to the baseball field. Not ideal, and no professional, not the great David Villa nor the scrub making $40K on the team, will truthfully tell you that it’s anything but subpar.

    A LOT of the stadiums and the one you mentioned in Atlanta are played on artificial football turf. Again, no player will say that is optimal. Even watching it and seeing the ball bounce so high and fast people can tell this isn’t the best soccer being played.

    So the atmosphere created due to the stadiums may not be directly correlated.

    Designated players aka The MLS Beckham Rule:
    This is the only true strategy that has proven to be effective in leagues looking to improve their stature and interest in their domestic market. Might be a horse behind the carriage argument, but unless a really rich club can sign a superstar to at least get occasional upticks in attendance and garner a major television contract, Korea might not have a chance. This is singularly the largest piston in the motor that drives the MLS and China Super League.

    The MLS comparisons in general: This is a tough one. America and it’s diverse ethnic population and their strategic plans for expansion in a massive geographic area can’t really be replicated in any other country. Again, I don’t think the MLS is a great example as a model but they do some things very well. There’s a reason why the teams in small cities like Portland, Seattle, and Columbus are doing so well. The level of soccer fans in these cities were already well established.

    Also, their marketing and sales strategy is pretty aggressive and still probably isn’t as effective as it could be. They also partner with local soccer pubs and USMNT fan clubs to tap into the soccer fanatics as well. Clubs in Korea should follow this example, but I doubt they do.

    Korean Baseball: having more spectacle surrounding the game isn’t a bad idea. I just don’t think it’s a fair comparison since – well it’s baseball. But a drum line or outside stadium events aren’t bad marketing tactics.

    Again, the success of a nation’s professional league isn’t directly correlated to the success of their national team. The MLS is an example. USMNT didn’t even qualify.

    I don’t see it as a problem. As long as corporations own them and see it as a tax write-off or to launder money the league and teams will still be around.

    • Hi Keno, excited that you’re back in the comments! I want to kind of pushback on some of what you’re saying though. I used MLS as a comparison because it is a league I’m familiar with right now. I don’t mention the artificial turf pitches or resodding of Yankee Stadium since that really doesn’t apply to the K League. The US has to use artificial turf somewhat because of weather but also because for some reason we like it. If managed properly, I personally have no problem with artificial turf. But that’s neither here nor there.

      What I am more arguing with stadiums is the ability of the stadium to put fans close to the action and that’s one thing that has very much impressed me with Atlanta’s stadium. It is very large but there is a sideline level seating area that puts fans right into the action, it’s great to see and Daegu’s stadium looks great in that seats will also be close to the pitch. That creates atmosphere regardless of what is happening on the field.

      Let’s talk the Beckham rule. While I see your point, I stand by my argument in that the K League doesn’t have the financial parity to allow for it. Some teams will spend far more than others and so smaller clubs will continue to struggle. Also, I completely disagree that the Beckham rule is the single most important piston driving MLS. I think you see teams like Portland who don’t buy big stars but still get great attendance because the team works hard to listen to fans and build the atmosphere they want at the stadium. I have been very disheartened to watch Zlatan sell out matches and then have my club struggle for attendance when he’s not in town.

  5. Thanks for the piece I didnt know the sharp drop was largely due to the match fixing scandals. I like your ideas. Please continue to write these type of pieces

    • Cheers!! This column is going to be coming out on regular basis, hopefully weekly. Stay tuned, we’re also working on more column ideas as well! Thanks for reading!

  6. Nice article. My input:

    The problem everyone outside Europe (and Mexico haha) has with this attendance issue is bringing in casual fans. I feel like the article also pushed for the same. Chants in the match program gave it away… Anyway, the problem is that football is too long, too slow to attract casuals.

    They should reach out to those who already love football with the most entertaining kind of play. I don’t think K League will bring in an Iniesta any time soon. Compensate by being known as the great football league. Now, people say if you want to watch technique watch J League. Moreover, it appears as if K League is becoming one of those one team leagues with Jeonbuk appearing so ahead of the pack. K League has to correct some of these things for those who already love football.

    I don’t think you should bother too much about casuals. There is a limit to how much a league outside the European big 5 can grow in attendance right now. The competition for attention will be won by Europe. I think if Korea can have a league with small stadiums (20-25-30k) averaging 15k that will be a big success. Bundesliga is the best and they do 45k. So, I think this context is important.

    • Love this comment. Yeah, I can see what you’re saying about casuals but I guess the argument I’m sort of making is that there is a possibility to attract fans by offering a better experience on matchday. If you work to reach out to the community and have fun activities planned at the stadium, there’s a chance families may choose football over baseball. A lot of kids play football during their lunch time at school anyway. During my time in Korea I saw a lot of kids at elementary schools playing football, never baseball.

      In terms of the K League, I would love to write an article addressing the parity issue in the K League. That is definitely on the radar for Korean Football Reform. Thanks so much for reading!

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