In favor of a relegation system (and cheerleaders)

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In favor of a relegation system (and cheerleaders)

It’s one of those things in sports that is long overdue. The very thought of it riles up football fans, and we all know with certainty that it adds excitement to the game.

No, I’m not talking about cheerleaders, although you can bet they would liven up games plenty. I’m talking about the possibility of a relegation system being introduced to Korean football.

Kwon Oh-gap, the newly appointed head of the National League, a second-tier football league, has stated his goal of implementing such a system within three years.

“K-League teams spend on average 700 million won to one billion won [$597,100 to $853,000] per season,” Kwon said at a press conference on Monday. “National League teams spend about 200 million won and K-3 teams operate on a budget of 20 million to 30 million won. The difference in average operating budget means it will not be easy for the three leagues to come together on the issue. But it’s something we must do. I will work hard to make it happen in the remaining three years of my term.”

While there are plenty of teams in each league to make this system work, as Yoo mentioned it’s the difference in operating costs that can offset the optimism of football purists. The K-League is the country’s top football league and has 15 teams. The semi-professional National League has 13 teams and the K-3 has 17 teams primarily made up of young prospects and players who have slipped through the ranks due to injuries and bad luck.

The relegation system is widely used around the world, especially in Europe. It involves a link between several tiers of football leagues, where the bottom feeders of the higher-ranking leagues each year are dropped and replaced by the best teams from the lower-ranking leagues.

If a relegation system had been in place this season, Daegu FC, Jeju United and Gangwon FC would fall to the National League and Suwon City FC, Changwon City FC and Ganeung City FC would rise to the K-League. The three teams with the worst records in the National League would fall to the K-3, which would have its top three teams promoted.

For those who are not familiar with the system, the benefits are simple: It encourages teams to compete until the very end of the season, which in turn creates an exciting brand of football for the fans and makes every game meaningful. Furthermore, it can create heated rivalries. Take for example the K-3’s Bucheon FC, which was formed by football fans after their K-League team was moved to Jeju Island. The possibility of the two teams clashing in either the K-League or the National League is enticing. The system can also lead to in-province rivalries, such as the Suwon Bluewings versus the Suwon City F.C.

The positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to adopting a relegation system, but the financial costs of running a team in the top league can be backbreaking for those clubs currently in the lower two tiers. The K-League and the National League actually tried to introduce a relegation system in the past. What eventually got in the way was a demand by the K-League that newly promoted teams be required to dole out 400 million won to the league. It might sound like a reasonable fee, but when considering National League teams work on an annual budget of 200 million to 300 million won per season, it was a ridiculous demand. According to Kwon, the Korean Football Association and the National League are planning to create a task force to focus on resolving their differences on this issue.

As a fan of the sport, I hope K-League officials can be more reasonable with their demands this time around. And maybe they can also discuss getting some cheerleaders at football games while they’re at it.

By Jasen Kim []
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