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K League Matches Amid COVID-19

The recent uptick in cases of COVID-19 in the Seoul Metropolitan Area has led to strengthened social distancing measures. The result of which is K League teams being forced to revert back to games behind closed doors once again, just a week after clubs were able to welcome 25% of their stadiums capacity in through the turnstiles. (updated 24th August 12:10pm)

UPDATE

Just a week after clubs in K Leagues 1 and 2 were permitted to allow 25% of their stadiums capacity in through the turnstiles, a recent cluster infection in the Seongbuk District of Seoul meant that South Korea has been reporting triple figures of daily coronavirus patients for over a week starting Friday 15th August.

The result of which was South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun announcing tightened quarantine measures for the greater Seoul area on Tuesday 18th August, and then for the whole country on Saturday 22nd August.

Although the country is still at Level Two and not Level Three of social distancing, it still means that sports events are required to revert back to being played without fans in attendance. This affects the greater Seoul area as well as other regions in the country which have been upgraded to Level Two social distancing. Level Three social distancing would mean professional sports league being suspended.

What's Been Said?

On August 15th, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a statement that: "Social distancing will be increased to level two in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province. The spread of the coronavirus is very serious in the Seoul metropolitan area."

Increasing from level one, as it was before, to level two means that sports events can no longer have spectators in attendance. This was effective as of Sunday 16th August and will last for two weeks before a possible extension is considered.


Meanwhile, a statement realised via Busan IPark's social media accounts said that, because the Busan area is also at stage two social distancing for the next two weeks (Monday 17th August to Monday 31st August), the home fixture with Pohang Steelers on August 22nd is now behind closed doors. Incheon United also confirmed that they will be playing behind closed doors.

On 15th August, K League also released a short statement via its press website to say that, from 16th August, games in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province will be played behind closed doors, adding: "The federation will continue to cooperate with the government's quarantine efforts as much as possible and do its best to ensure safe league operations."


What Does It Mean?

Games being played behind closed doors at stadiums nationwide. Initially, the measures only affected those in the Seoul Capital Area, Incheon Metropolitan City as well as Busan (Incheon United, Suwon Bluewings, Seongnam FC, FC Seoul, FC Anyang, Ansan Greeners, Seoul E-Land, and Bucheon FC 1995, Busan IPark).

Despite being in South Chungcheong Province, and not technically part of the 'sudogwon', or capital area, Chungnam Asan made the decision to revert to playing home matches without spectators. Other clubs voluntarily decided to close their stadiums too such Daegu FC and Gwangju FC, both released statements to say that the decision was made with fans' safety in mind. But due to government restrictions, stadium closures now affect all 22 K League teams.


Eulji Lewis

UPDATE*

Which Stadiums Can I Go To?

None. It was supposed to be three over the weekend commencing Saturday August 22nd, but on Thursday 20th August, Jeju United, Gangwon FC and then Jeonbuk all announced that games will be played behind closed doors that weekend. Jeju United announced on Friday 21st August that the club will revert to games being played behind closed doors, effective immediately. As did Gangwon FC, announcing that their fixture with Daegu FC was to be off limits to the public, followed by Jeonbuk who initially announced that the club was reduce capacity allowance to 10% from 25%.

Following on from Level Two social distancing measures being extended nationwide, ALL K League games for the foreseeable future will be played behind closed doors.


Impact

According to a report by Yonhap News, K League prepared guidelines for a possible reduction in players' salaries. K League have said that the proposal would not affect players in the lower income bracket or players currently on military duty with Sangju Sangmu.

It also said that the proposal, which isn't final and clubs would not be allowed to cut players' wages without their consent, will only affect those who have a base salary of at least 36 million Korean Won (US$30,520). This would potentially affect 477 out of 743 non-military players. A cut of 10% has been proposed for the final four months of the year.

However, the Korean Professional Football Association (KPFA), the players' union on Thursday dismissed any notion of wage cuts: "We'll do everything in our power to prevent teams from cutting salaries without players' consent. If that happens, we'll respond sternly."

One person who has offered to take a pay cut, however, is Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors manager Jose Morais, according to a report by Yonhap.

Summary

K League 1


Team
Stadium
Behind Closed Doors?
Forced/Voluntary
Ulsan Hyundai
Ulsan Munsu Stadium
Yes
Forced
Jeonbuk Hyundai
Jeonju World Cup Stadium
Yes
Forced
Sangju Sangmu
Sangju Civic Stadium
Yes
Forced
Pohang Steelers
Pohang Steel Yard
Yes
Forced
Daegu FC
DGB Daegu Bank Park
Yes
Forced
FC Seoul
Seoul World Cup Stadium
Yes
Forced
Seongnam FC
Tancheon Sports Complex
Yes
Forced
Gangwon FC
Gangneung Civic Stadium
Yes
Forced
Busan IPark
Gudeok Stadium
Yes
Forced
Gwangju FC
Gwangju Football Stadium
Yes
Forced
Suwon Bluewings
Suwon World Cup Stadium
Yes
Forced
Incheon United
Incheon Football Stadium
Yes
Forced

K League 2

Team
Stadium
Behind Closed Doors?
Forced/Voluntary
Suwon FC
Suwon Civic Stadium
Yes
Forced
Daejeon Citizen
Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Yes
Forced
Jeju United
Jeju World Cup Stadium
Yes
Forced
Gyeongnam FC
Changwon Football Center
Yes
Forced
Seoul E-Land
Seoul Olympic Stadium
Yes
Forced
Jeonnam Dragons
Gwangyang Stadium
Yes
Forced
Bucheon FC 1995
Bucheon Stadium
Yes
Forced
FC Anyang
Anyang Civic Stadium
Yes
Forced
Ansan Greeners
Ansan Wa~ Stadium
Yes
Forced
Chungnam Asan
Yi Sun-sin Stadium
Yes
Forced

Information accurate as of 12:10 PM, 24th August 2020

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