Korean K-League fires on with hope

The most common football news since the COVID-19 outbreak is almost all football activity shutting down. Starting from major European leagues, all but three-four others decided to follow. It’s time to reverse things, though. South Korean K-League started on Friday May 8th, this is the first major Asian league (given that teams from this federation participate regularly in AFC Champions League) which has managed to take the risk.

The regular season was scheduled to begin on 29 February and to end on 4 October but was postponed indefinitely following the COVID-19 outbreak, first in the cities of Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do and nationwide.

On 24 April 2020, the Korean Professional Football Union (K League) has confirmed that they will adopt their plan of modification, which will begin to change type of the season 2020 to 22 regular season matches and 5 Final round matches per team. This is a shortcut of 33 regular season matches and 10 Final Round ties. Every team will play 27 matches instead of 43 and the league is about to end in early October, as scheduled.

The K-league also decided to set another basic rule:  the number of foreign players is restricted to five per team, including a slot for a player from AFC countries and a slot for a player from ASEAN countries (South East Asia countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.). Each team could use five foreign players on the field each game including at least one player from the AFC confederation. So far, no team have signed a contract with an ASEAN player, but there were no complains also for the foreign players rectriction. All teams acknowledge that this is a very difficult season financially, so the gap between the prosperous and not so prosperous teams will be shorter.

This shortened league has another innovation: Sangju Sangmu starts the season knowing that they will be relegated in the end regardless of their results! Why is that? Sangju Sangmu is a football team owned by Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps, consisting exclusively either by players who are temporarily serving their military duties or they’re defence forces professionals. The Corps had a 10-year agreement with the city of Sangju, but this agreement is completed at the end of the season. So, in any case the team won’t obtain a K-League licence for the next season.

If Sangju Sangmu will end the season in last two places, the other team will also be directly relegated. If they succeed in occupying a higher spot in the table, then the 12th ranked team will be directly relegated and the 11th placed team will play a double play-off tie with the 3rd ranked team from K-League 2, which also starts next week.

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