Change good for Korean volleyball

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Change good for Korean volleyball

The Korea Volleyball Federation last month announced the signing system for foreign players will be changed from free contracts to tryouts, creating a huge controversy over whether that will mean fewer top players from abroad and lower-quality matches.

Currently, Korean Professional Volleyball (V-League) clubs can freely sign foreign players after evaluating to a maximum salary of $280,000. But it is not a secret that no club stays under the ceiling.

The federation said the tryout system will be introduced in women’s volleyball for the upcoming season. Players who want to join the V-League will gather in Anaheim, California, from April 29 to May 1 for practice games. Teams will evaluate players and make their selections.

Those who have U.S. nationality and three or fewer years of professional experience will be eligible to participate. Each team’s first pick is guaranteed a salary of $150,000 and a club-determined bonus. For men’s volleyball, the system will be introduced from the 2016-7 season and open to all players. The salary limit hasn’t been decided, but is expected to be about $400,000.

Signing good foreign players has been considered the most important factor for the success of V-League clubs. For example, behind the Daejeon Samung Fire & Marine Insurance Bluefangs championship title streaks, there always was fine foreign talent such as Gavin Schmitt and now Leonardo Leyva Martinez.

With good benefits, working conditions and salaries, the V-League has become recognized as a good place to play. Teams have attracted such world-class players as Robertlandy Simon.

Some fans are worried the tryout system won’t attract top players, because the league says it will enforce the salary ceiling.

On the other hand, it means more Korean players will get a chance to play. Since foreigners started playing in the V-League in 2005, they have been dominant, supplying more than half of the offensive production.

Giving more chances to local players should raise the competiveness of the Korean national team, as well. Since the V-League started in the 2005-6 season, Korea’s performance on the international stage has gone downhill.

The men’s volleyball team won the gold medal in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, but it hasn’t reached the final in the past two events. While the women’s team claimed the gold medal in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games for the first time in 20 years, China and Japan didn’t send teams because the schedule overlapped with the world championships.

In the short term, the tryout system might not bring world-class players and hurt the sport’s popularity, but if V-League clubs invest the money saved from foreign player signings in developing prospects and amateurs, it will pay off in the long term.

Joo Kyung-don [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]

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