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Will Opening Round High Attendance Last?

This season started with lots of new faces, new talents and some drama like Kim Shin-wook's winning goal at 93' vs Jeonnam Dragons. But the thing I'm surprised (or should I say pleased?) with the most is the high attendance in each stadium. K League's official website claimed that 98,353 people went to witness matches this weekend. Having watched live matches and highlights it seems to me that indeed there were more fans than usual. Sure, a high attendance was expected in the Super Match between FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung, with the traitor (according to Suwon's supporters) Lee Sang-ho facing his former team in the opening round of this league campaign. But who could predict 5,523 people in attendance for last season's revelation, Sangju Sangmu, facing the newly promoted and very ambitious Gangwon FC? As far as I remember, only rarely did Sangju ever come close to those numbers last season... mostly when big teams like Jeonbuk or FC Seoul went to play there, but otherwise the average attendance in the Sangju civic stadium was rather low. If a team like Sangju is getting numbers this good does it mean a trend is here to stay or is this a one off?
(header image via facebook.com/fcseoul)

Here there are the number of attendance for each game:

FC Seoul vs Suwon Samsung: 34,376
Incheon utd vs Jeju utd: 13,301
Ulsan Hyundai vs Pohang Steelers: 12,388
Gwangju vs Daegu: 11,830
Jeonbuk Hyundai vs Jeonnam Dragons: 20,935
Sangju Sangmu vs Gangwon FC: 5,523


Reason(s) Behind These Numbers?

I will try to give some reasons behind this high overall attendance, in no particular order:

1) K League's Continental Success: There wasn't a more successful country than South Korea when it comes to results in the 2016 AFC Champions League. Jeonbuk won the title after beating K League rivals FC Seoul in an All Korean Semifinal. Both games were high quality and indeed it was a very good spot for K League.

2) Jeonbuk's Bribery Controversy: Controversy draws attention and the one which involved Jeonbuk...well... was indeed huge. The club based in North Jeolla was fined and suffered a 9 point deduction last season as a result of a bribery scandal from the 2013 league campaign. The reduction led to them losing the K League title to FC Seoul on the last day of the season. However, the punishment didn't end there. Jeonbuk were ready to defend their continental title in ACL this year only to be excluded from the competition just few weeks before it started and be replaced by Ulsan Hyundai. Jeonbuk's Kim Jin-soo posted (and later deleted) on Instagram about Ulsan losing to Kashima Antlers (2-0) just added fuel to the flame. Since this controversy Jeonbuk has become a rather hated club in K League (and Asian football in general). Personally, I don't feel this way towards Jeonbuk. Sure they made a mistake, but they paid for it. However, I feel a lot of fans will got to K League matches just to watch Jeonbuk lose as many games as possible and fail their main goal of winning another K League title.

3) Enthusiasm From Different Clubs: Teams like Jeju United, Jeonnam Dragons, Gangwon FC and Sangju Sangmu all come in more excited than in years past. Quite surprisingly, Jeju finished last season in 3rd place and earned a spot in ACL for it. The first two matches at the continental stage were a good show for the islanders, and this will bring even more attention towards the club. Newly promoted side Gangwon FC was very active during the transfer window (I dare to say the most active club in the league), and built a team who can easily reach mid table position this season. Other teams who did well in 2016 will bring attention as well.

4) Marketing Strategy: Another reason behind these numbers could be marketing promotions such as tickets sold for cheap (or even gave away for free) etc. The league deserves more visibility and this could be a very good way to obtain it.

Whether this past weekend was just a one off or something that is going to last for long, only time will tell. For now, I'm just happy to see the K League reach numbers that are usually very uncommon by our league standards.


What do you think? How many people will show up for Round 2 matches this weekend? Will attendance averages stay higher this year than in recent years? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment below or join the conversation on Twitter.

2 comments

  1. Obviously we won't see numbers THAT high all season, but numbers might be up from last year. The Korean national baseball team is really crap right now. Kicked out of both 2013 and 2017 (probably) World Baseball Classic in the first round. People might swing back towards soccer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm going to be super happy even with an average (overall) attendance of 60.000 every round. That would be great.

    I don't follow baseball so i really don't know, but the korean national team in soccer isn't doing that great either.

    ReplyDelete

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