All basketball fans want is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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All basketball fans want is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

While the championship series heats up, it seems the Korean Basketball League (KBL) just wants to pour cold water on it.

Game 1 on Sunday drew 6,629 fans to the 5,000-seat Dongcheon Gymnasium to see hometown Ulsan Mobis Phoebus take on Wonju Dongbu Promy. Many of them had to stand.

For Game 2 on Tuesday that started at 5 p.m., there were plenty of places to sit.

According to the KBL and Phoebus, the attendance of 3,028 was the third-worst in KBL championship series history.

And that’s after Phoebus handed out 187 free tickets before the game.

In 1997, the inaugural year of the KBL, 2,950 fans attended Game 4 of the KBL finals between Naray Bluebird and Kia Enterprise. For Game 3 of the same series, the attendance was 3,009.

Considering that Chiak Gymnasium in Wonju, Gangwon, had a capacity of 3,050, the two games were almost crowded.

A Phoebus official said if the Tuesday’s game had started at 7 p.m., as originally scheduled, 4,500 to 5,000 people would have been there.

The KBL moved up the start time from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the request of SBS, one of the three basic broadcast channels, so it wouldn’t conflict with KBO baseball games.

Sources said KBL sponsors also pushed for the earlier start.

But it turns out not many people watched Game 2 on TV, either.

According to Nielsen Korea, the nationwide rating for the game on Tuesday was 1 percent, about half the usual rating compared to other sports, and the worst in the time slot.

Arguably, the decision to move up the start of the game for broadcasters and sponsors has quickly turned out to be one of the worst decisions the KBL ever made because the league forgot one of the cardinal rules of professional sports: respect the fans.

In the past, the KBL has been criticized for many things, from the system of selecting foreign players to questionable calls by referees. Basketball fans are turning their backs.

It’s a pity the KBL doesn’t realize what fans really want. It’s about time league officials start listening and take a good, long look at whether their system is really fan-friendly.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]
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