The K League Challenge is the 2nd tier / level of professional football here in South Korea. As it’s 3rd season draws to a close we through it would be a good point to look at a few possible way of improving it moving forward. This season attendances have dropped around 7% with sides relegated from the K League Classic having to cut back to manage the short fall. It’s not uncommon for the 2nd tier to be overshadowed, but it could be a perfect way to expand the appeal of the league.
Here are our 5 possible ways of fixing / improving the K League Challenge;
1 – Expansion / Adding Teams
This will happen for the 2017 season with 3 sides joining the league; Asan Police (moving from Ansan), Ansan Citizen (new) and Cheongju FC (from the K3 League). Taking the number of sides up to 13. However questions about Goyang’s future mean it could be fewer. The issue the past couple of seasons has been the large number of games (40) and playing each other 4 times gets a little boring. If the league cut some of the barriers to entry maybe more sides would join from the National and K3 Leagues. Creating second sides for big cities is an option, but it hasn’t really worked for Seoul E-Land.
2 – Relegation
On the point of adding teams, having some of the weaker sides drop down into the National League might not be a bad idea. We know this should come into place in a few years time, but moving the timeframe forward would create more interest (fear) for the sides towards the bottom of the league. This would be especially hopeful if the league continues to grow season-on-season.
3 – Reintroducing the K League Cup
It’s been a few years but the K League Cup previously was a summer tournament used to break-up the season and add some extra interest during the peak Baseball months. Bringing it back during maybe July or August and including K League Classic sides would give sides and fans a slight change of pace. The issue of course is that the Classic sides would not have so much interest in such an idea.
4 – Tuesday, Thursday and Friday Evening Games
The introduction of Monday games as been a bit of a flop as fans haven’t been that interested, however it has been popular with the TV channel in order to fill the hole left by the lack of baseball of Monday evenings. It makes sense to try and put games on the other weekday evenings. Tuesday and Thursdays aren’t popular with managers but it might open games up to new fans. Friday Night K League Lights, would be popular with those looking to start the weekend with a few beers down at the football stadium on a warm summers eve.
5 – Using Smaller More Football Specific Stadiums
Some sides (Busan I’Park for example) have done a good job of moving away from the main stands and creating a intimate and focused atmosphere. However others haven’t, and playing in huge 40,000+ stadiums makes it seem like nobody’s at the game and the atmosphere can suffer. The figures below from TheSoccerway.com show that no side can fill more than 20% of their stadium with most below 10% (on average). Closing parts of the stadium and using temporary stands helps bring fans closer to the action and makes for a better atmosphere. Playing in empty stadiums with fans miles away behind rarely using running tracks doesn’t work.
Moving to smaller stadiums is a big investment but it worked for Incheon United and it could work for others. We admit the money isn’t there, but building athletic stadiums in a country that doesn’t like athletics much also doesn’t make sense. Incheon Asian Game Stadium? Not used for 2 years!