K-League Team Boycotts Rest Of Season After Being Relegated For Failing Int'l Standards
Korea’s professional football league, the K-League, has "relegated the military-affiliated Sangju Sangmu Pheonix to the second division for next season for failing to meet int'l club standards," according to Moon Gwang-lip of the KOREA JOONGANG DAILY. With Sangju’s demotion, "only one of the eight teams in the bottom half of the league’s split system will be demoted to the second-tier National League at the end of the season." Initially, two clubs with the worst records through the second half of the season "were supposed to be relegated." The decision came four days before the onset of the second half of the season, when Sangmu and seven other lower-ranked teams "will start a 14-game campaign to avoid relegation." The qualifications the league referred to in its rulings is the Asian Football Confederation regulation on club licensing that requires a club to be a "legal entity" ensuring "financial and sporting success in the league." There are also "issues over contracts," as players do not sign with Sangmu, but play on the team while fulfilling mandatory military service. A K-League official said, "We can’t leave a team unable to meet the qualifications for a professional club in the league" (KOREA JOONGANG DAILY, 9/13). YONHAP NEWS reported that Sangju Sangmu Pheonix "will boycott its remaining matches this season." Team GM Lee Jae-cheol said that the North Gyeongsang Province team "will not play its final 14 games in the K-League." Lee said, "The Armed Forces Athletic Corps and the Defense Ministry held talks today, and we’ve decided not to play the rest of the season. We just don‘t have the motivation to play out the season. The ministry is adamant about this." The AFC stipulates that all professional players "must have a written contract" with their clubs. However, Sangmu players "are technically under contracts with their original K-League teams because they are only playing for Sangmu to fulfill their mandatory military service requirement." Sangmu players receive the same monthly wages as other conscripted soldiers, about 82,000 won ($73) for privates and 108,300 won ($96) for sergeants. The football players, though, "also receive bonus payments for each victory, goal, assist and hat trick" (YONHAP NEWS, 9/12). The NEUE ZÜRCHER ZEITUNG wrote that healthy South Korean men between 18 and 35 "must serve in the armed forces for about two years." Athletes who win an Asian Games Gold Medal or an Olympic Medal of any color are granted exemptions. Sangmu also has teams in baseball and basketball (NZZ.ch, 9/12).