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E-Land Group to establish team in Seoul

New football squad the first to be started in Korea since 1995

Apr 10,2014
E-Land Group, a fashion and retail conglomerate, will sponsor a professional football club based in Seoul that will compete in the K-League Challenge next year for the right to advance to the K-League Classic.

The Korean Professional Football Federation said yesterday that Vice Chairwoman Park Sung-kyung expressed the group’s intention to establish a team during a Tuesday meeting with federation chief Kwon Oh-gap.

“E-Land Group said it is willing to join the K-League Challenge, the minor league of the K-League Classic, starting in the 2015 season,” the federation said in a press release.

The federation said E-Land Group will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. Monday to announce its intent to establish the club and submit the application. The winner of the K-League Challenge automatically joins the classic league and the runner-up must beat the 11th place K-Classic team in order to advance, according to Hong Seung-min, a public relations official representing the federation.

E-Land Group owns more than 250 retail and fashion brands and had a revenue of about 10 trillion won ($9.6 billion) last year from branches in more than 10 nations, including China and the United States. In December 2012, the group tried to acquire the Los Angeles Dodgers.

If the group establishes a club, it will be the first new professional team in Korea since the Suwon Samsung Bluewings in December 1995.

The football federation said the new football team will be based in Seoul, a city with a population of more than 10 million and only one football club - FC Seoul.

The team will use the Jamsil Sports Complex Main Stadium in Songpa District, southeastern Seoul. FC Seoul’s home field is the World Cup Stadium in Sangam-dong, western Seoul.

E-Land Group will pay 500 million won to join the federation. In 2004, FC Seoul paid 7.5 billion won to the federation when the team moved from Anyang, Gyeonggi. Of that, 5 billion won was to defray the cost of building World Cup Stadium for the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup and to guarantee long-term lease rights.

E-Land Group likely will cooperate with Seoul Metropolitan Government in remodeling the Jamsil stadium to bring the seats closer to the field, which is currently surrounded by a track.

The new football club is expected to have a strong rivalry with FC Seoul, which has been a competitive club for years in the league, and attract more fans. In London, there are 14 professional football clubs, and six of them play in the English Premier League. Four clubs, including Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, are based in the capital city of Spain.

In baseball, three teams - the LG Twins, Nexen Heroes and Doosan Bears - are based in Seoul and attracted more than three million fans last year. FC Seoul drew 451,845 fans last season.

Football insiders said E-Land Group is trying to beef up its global brand image, especially in China, which is the source of about 24 percent of the conglomerate’s annual revenue. “The group has developed a good brand image among the Chinese,” said a Xinhua News Agency reporter. “I think it would give them a chance to attract Chinese fans if they acquire a China-born star player.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]





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