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scouting

Groundhopper's guide to..... Gwangju Football Stadium

Gwangju FC dominated K League 2 in 2022, finishing twelve points clear of Daejeon Hana Citizen in second. The club from Jeollanam-do has settled well and will look to finally establish a foothold in the top tier after a decade of bouncing between the divisions. They play at the ramshackle Gwangju Football Stadium. This is our short guide to their stadium.

More than any other club in Korean football, Gwangju FC is well used to the highs and lows of promotion and relegation. In their twelve seasons as a club, they have gone up or down in six of those, never staying longer than three years in either division. The club is well-placed to back up last year's promotion with another season in K League 1, but their stadium is an issue that needs to be addressed.

The club was formed in late 2011 and immediately moved into the recently vacated Gwangju World Cup Stadium after Gwangju Sangmu, the army team, relocated to Sangju. The creation of a new club meant Gwangju could finally buy players for the first time. One of my earliest memories of watching football in Korea was seeing the young club with new foreign talent debut in front of 15,000 expectant supporters.

Unsurprisingly, Gwangju's 40,000-capacity multi-purpose World Cup Stadium would prove far too big. The auxiliary stadium next door was remodeled and refitted to match K League standards from 2018-2020. Gwangju FC moved in that July but on the third anniversary of their relocation, one of the stands is now closed due to health and safety concerns.

Gwangju FC manager Lee Jung-hyo gives his players mid-match instructions during the recent K League 1 clash with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. (Image: All images in this article taken from instagram.com/groundhopping_korea)


Location:


Gwangju is a designated metropolitan city and the country's sixth-largest in terms of population, with approximately 1.5 million people. It is, by far, the largest city in the Honam region of South Korea. Gwangju was the scene of a popular uprising in May 1980, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. It is widely accepted the Gwangju Uprising played a significant role in Korea's transition into democracy.

The World Cup stadium and accompanying football stadium are in west Gwangju, 6 km from downtown. Residential neighborhoods and a large reservoir surround the complex. Common at most World Cup stadiums now, the area is shared with a Lotte Department Store and other public facilities. 

Transport Options:

- train: There is no metro option to Gwangju Football Stadium but that is scheduled to change before the end of 2026 when construction of Gwangju's Line 2 is due to be completed. It is expected there will be a station at World Cup Stadium. The nearest Line 1 stop is Ssangchon, 3 km north of the stadium.
- bus:  There are several buses from downtown Gwangju or the city's centrally-located Bus Terminal to the stadium, and all take approximately 30 minutes. Check local apps for your best option.
- car: There is an abundance of parking around the stadium, for football fans and shoppers at Lotte Mart and Lotte Outlets.

Tickets:

Home supporters entering the ground on the north side pass by a ticket booth.
- Online: Gwangju FC's tickets are sold on Ticketlink. Be aware, the map and the information don't match, due to the temporary closure of the South Stand.
- Ticket booth: Tickets can be purchased on match day behind the North and East Stands. Queues can be long, so purchasing in advance saves time. Also, with Gwangju's limited capacity, it is advisable to get your seats early to avoid disappointment.

Where to sit:


Gwangju Football Stadium is a rectangular field with four small, temporary yellow stands. This means there's no running track (that's where the good news ends). However, the South Stand is currently closed due to ongoing work after serious safety issues were discovered (see Twitter post above). Away fans, formerly housed in the South Stand, have moved to the East Stand.

The West Stand. Officially, the game versus Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors was sold out and tickets were not for sale in the upper deck. I've no idea how or when those seats were purchased.
The West Stand is the main stand and, therefore, the only one with cover (albeit, very limited). There are eight blocks pitch side and tickets cost ₩15,000.

The East Stand. Due to the closure of the South Stand, away fans can be seen at the far end. There was no segregation, which is cool. The gap between home and away fans is a small entrance (see lead photo).
Across is the East Stand, now shared by home and away supporters. There are ten blocks of seating here, with each block earning a letter from the name of the club, GWANGJU-FC, marked on the seats. Away fans (₩15,000) are given three to five blocks (depending on demand) on the southeast corner. For whatever reason, home fans pay ₩2,000 less. This stand is closest to the car parks and exits from this shopping and stadium complex.

The atmosphere was really good in the North Stand throughout the match.
The North Stand, behind the goals, is closest to the World Cup Stadium. The main home supporters' club sits here and tickets cost ₩13,000.

Hopefully, the South Stand will open again soon as Gwangju's strong season is likely to attract more fans.
As for where to sit, Gwangju Football Stadium is small and remarkably uninteresting. The stadium has no attractive features but there's a decent view of the World Cup Stadium's arched rooves from the South Stand (when it reopens). The North Stand is a joyous place when the home team is winning.

Food:

I could see very little in the way of food trucks at this stadium but there is a huge shopping center with a good food selection across the car park.

Drink:

K League merchandise is too expensive for me.
Beer, snacks, and merchandise are combined in Gwangju. You can buy a jersey, a pint, and potato chips from the same store in the Northwest Corner. Outside, next to the toilets, there is a small tent selling Cass for 4,000.

Post game:

May 18th Memorial Park in the Sangmu area of Gwangju. 
For more information about the Gwangju Uprising, the May 18th Memorial Park in Sangmu is well worth a visit. Alternatively, check out 5.18 Democracy Square in downtown Gwangju, a significant location for street battles.

Gwangju, and the surrounding province, have a cracking food culture with duck a local specialty. Somewhere between the city's Bus Terminal and Gwangju Station are many streets specializing in duck soup. Gwangju is also a good place for hiking.


Finally, if you are planning to visit this stadium or any others in Korea, and haven't already done so, please download the Futbology app. It is a great way to find information about stadiums and keep track of all the teams and grounds you have visited.

FNR

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