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Gangwon FC fined for Playoff Final "ballboy controversy"


Gangwon FC have been fined 30 million Korean Won ($25,000) for its involvement in the ballboy controversy. Before the announcement was made on Tuesday 21st December, Daejeon Hana Citizen earlier in the day released its official stance regarding the so-called "Ballboy Gate".

What Happened?

On Sunday 12th December 2021 Gangwon FC took on Daejeon Hana Citizen in leg two of the Promotion/Relegation Playoff Final. Daejeon took the lead in the 13th minute but Gangwon scored three quickfire goals - three in four minutes - to turn the game on its head. 

Once Gangwon took the lead following Han Kook-young's 30th-minute goal, the ballboys appeared to be slow in reacting when it was time to give the ball to a Daejeon player as a possible way to waste time. This prompted a furious reaction from the Daejeon fans situated behind the goal and in the stand nearest to one of the ballboys in question. Six minutes of time was added on at the end of the second half and Gangwon went on to win 4-1, 4-2 on aggregate. 

What Happened Next?

But the game left a sour taste in the mouth and, until today, Daejeon hadn't released an official stance on the matter. That was until Tuesday 21st December, prior to the outcome of the K League disciplinary meeting scheduled for the same day.

Summary of Daejeon's Official Stance

  • On bottle-throwing from Daejeon fans in direction of one of the ball boys: Daejeon says the club will take full responsibility but point out that this wouldn’t have happened if the ballboys' conduct was dealt with.
  • Ballboys used delaying tactics 11 times starting from the 30th minute (after Gangwon had gone 3-1 up) to the 73rd.
  • Notes that because the delays were repeated, it was deliberate and organised behaviour.
  • Stadium announcer told Daejeon fans to stop singing but actually encouraged home fans to help support the home team.
  • Ballboys also cheered when Gangwon scored, which showed the delays were deliberate.
  • Corrective action of the match supervisor was ignored.
  • Game delays became more severe in the second half.
  • Daejeon notes this is clear evidence of it being “intentional and organized”.
  • Such acts violate the K League Code of Ethics for fair play and respect. 
  • The actions don’t fit the home game management manual which outlines ballboys’ mission.
  • Again, reiterates that actions of home club ballboys cannot be carried out so systematically and repeatedly without there being instruction from someone else. Therefore, thorough fact-finding and action are needed.
  • Labels Gangwon’s stance of it being “home advantage” as “irresponsible”.
  • Asks for a review of measures to prevent reoccurrence.
  • Also says K League as the organiser has to ensure a fair game.
  • Requests for action at halftime fell on deaf ears.
  • K League rules and codes of ethics were completely ignored, "intentionally, systematically, and repeatedly violated."
  • Acknowledges that similar instances have happened in Europe (as per Lee Young-pyo's statements) but this case is different because it was "intentional, organized, and repeated" and so cannot be compared.
  • Calls the incident "embarrassing history" that should be erased from the K League. 
  • Similar issues could happen at any time in the future, which could lead to a serious crisis in which the K League is not trusted by fans. 
  • In a 2021 New Year's greeting, the president of the K League promised, "We will continue to practice close marketing, social contribution activities, fairness, and improvement of performance to create a more fun and high-quality K League for fans."
  • In the past, K League engaged in a "five more minutes campaign" to reduce intentional game delays.
  • This game seriously broke the trust between the clubs. Daejeon are very concerned about which club will be able to be trusted when playing away games. 
  • Daejeon Hana Citizen officially demands K League's clear position on the matter. 

Outcome

Gangwon have been fined 30 million Korean Won ($25,000) for the ballboys' actions while Daejeon have been fined 2 million Korean Won ($1,677) after fans threw plastic bottles towards one of the ball boys. 

What's Been Said?

Lee Young-pyo apologised, saying:

"I feel direct responsibility for the K League being filled with other stories than the great play of the players, and I promise to do my best so that the Gangwon FC can become a mature club in the future. I apologize to Daejeon Hana Citizen club officials and the Daejeon fans for the unsmooth match. I apologize to Gangwon FC fans and all fans who love the K League."

What's Next?

The result still stands and Gangwon FC will play in K League 1 next season, Daejeon Hana Citizen in K League 2.

Sources: here & here

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