After weeks and even months of delays and postponements, professional sports associations in South Korea are announcing new season start dates. The improving COVID-19 situation in the country means that Korea's professional baseball and football leagues can finally get underway. Our sports editor, Paul Neat, is in the studio again this week. Paul, I am sure this is the news sports fans have been waiting for.
Yes, Conn-young, absolutely. One month on from when the baseball season was supposed to start, and two months on from when the football season was due to kick off, we finally have official start dates. KBO will begin on May 5th and the K League football season will start three days later on May 8th.
The K League season will kick off with the traditional curtain-raiser of the league champions versus the FA Cup winners, so it will be Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors versus Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Friday 8th May, but behind closed doors. The rest of the opening round fixtures will be played on the 9th and 10th, full details of which will be announced.
This announcement comes after today's K League board meeting, as well as the new start date, what else was discussed?
Well, before the meeting officially got underway, K League President Kwon Oh-gab said that he wants football to bring people hope during this difficult time. He said that it is inevitable that there will be reduced income from local governments, ticket revenue, advertisers, and broadcasters but will overcome this together. He wants K League to become an example for other leagues around the world in terms of how they dealt with COVID-19.
What was said about the schedule and the format?
It is as we discussed recently, there will be 27 games in K League 1 not 38. The only fixture we know right now is the season opener, the rest will be released soon.
But, we do know that there has been a change to the promotion and relegation system. The army team, Sangju Sangmu, are set to move to a new city next season and so will be relegated regardless of their league standing. One other team will be automatically relegated. There will be no playoff system, instead two teams from K League 2 will win automatic promotion.
So that's the logistics of how the season will be played out, but have K League said what will happen if a player or a member of staff contracts COVID-19?
Yes, they said that if a player or coaching staff is infected during the season that team will not play for 2 weeks and games will be postponed. If it happens on the day of a game, and there are players, referees, or staff found to have COVID-19 then it will be cancelled.
Incheon United played a friendly match with Suwon FC on Thursday. During this game they tested some new measures. Temperature checks at every gate, mixed zone interviews to be done on the pitch not in a confined space indoors, designated passage for media from outside straight to press box. They even had a special water bottle holder which had each players water bottle labelled so there was no mixups.
With very few football leagues operating around the world, could this be an opportunity for K League to receive some international attention?
That's right, it is a golden opportunity. K League will be one of the few leagues in the world operating when it finally kicks off. Football-starved fans have turned to the Belarussian Premier League and the Tajik League for their fix. K League is of a high standard and it has been reported that broadcasters from 10 European counties have shown interest in obtaining broadcast rights for K League.
Okay Paul, thank-you for that. We will see you next week.