Last-minute legislation gives a boost to pro sports

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Last-minute legislation gives a boost to pro sports

Just before the calendar moved on to 2016, Korea’s professional sports industry took a big step forward.

On Dec. 31, the National Assembly passed a revision of the Sports Industry Promotion Act that regulates on the national level how much financial support regional governments or state-run organizations can give to professional sports clubs.

In the past, financial support was individually regulated by regional governments, which meant some clubs were able to receive more funding than others.

“The ordinance itself varied among each regional government,” a spokesman from the K-League, which runs the nation’s professional football league, said. “The revision of the Sports Industry Promotion Act is meaningful because now there is a clear state law that allows regional governments to give financial support.”

Many in the industry see the revision as a critical way of promoting sports clubs’ image as something citizens can enjoy that also contributes to a region’s economic development.

Another revision insiders are welcoming allows teams to more easily rent and operate public sports facilities for up to 25 years on a consignment basis.

The government previously allowed pro sports clubs to broker long-term rentals of sports stadiums, but this was often complicated in practice because of conflicting clauses in other legislation.

This latest revision clearly states that regional governments can let sports clubs manage their facilities in trust for 25 years despite the existence of other legislation.

The move was welcomed by teams like the Kia Tigers in the Korea Baseball Organization, which have been in conflict with the Gwangju city government over the right to operate the Gwangju-Kia Champions Field.

Kia Motors, the mother company of the baseball club, covered 30 billion won ($25 million) of the baseball stadium’s 99.4 billion won construction cost and in turn received the right to operate the stadium for 20 years.

But nation’s second-largest automaker ran into problems when it tried to transfer its operation rights to the Kia Tigers because there was no judicial ground to support the transfer of a sports facility’s management rights to a baseball club.

The revision means that the Kia Tigers can have the right to operate the Gwangju-Kia Champions Field for the next 25 years.

Experts said that setting judicial ground for sports clubs to rent stadiums for 25 years will help them improve their financial health, which will in turn enhance the quality of games.

BY YOON TAE-SEOK, JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]
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