Come 6pm on Monday November 19th a decision will be made in the corridors of K-League HQ that will have ramifications from the satellite city of Seongnam to the historical enclave of Gwangju. This decision, of course, relates to the ‘final’ deadline given to the Police team of Asan Mugunghwa expiring and a ruling finally being dragged kicking and screaming from the blazers in charge of our game akin to Linda Blair’s finest cinematic moment. The ‘K2’ finished last weekend with the top five placed teams having no real idea as to what they were playing for or indeed when their season will end….come Monday surely everything will finally become clear.
For those of you who haven’t been following the story since it first broke what feels like a lifetime ago the short version is that the National Police Academy has halted recruitment for all it’s sports wings as the Auxiliary Police force are to be phased out by 2023. The various forms of ‘Police FC’ have served as an alternative to the army team of Sangju Sangmu for those players who need to complete their military service and gives footballers the chance to continue to play competitive football as opposed to picking splinters out their legs as a result of wasting time on the Sangju substitute bench.
A lack of further recruitment has thrown the future of Asan into doubt as they will be unable to meet the minimum squad registration requirements of the K-League for next season. To help with this the K-League has given them multiple deadlines to submit a recruitment plan, the last of which is due to expire on Monday.
*You can read the excellent blog post from The Tavern here which goes into more detail*
There are two possible outcomes from Monday’s ruling.
Asan Get Promoted
Outcome number one sees the Police team allowed to continue as a club under some kind of recruitment promise and as a result exercise their right as K-League Two Champions to be automatically promoted and take their place at the top table of Korean football in 2019. This outcome, although the fairest, is potentially fraught with future issues as we know that the auxiliary police force is being phased out and so the entity of Asan Mugunghwa will cease to exist as it does now. You could reasonably argue that were the Police to survive in the K-League One for a season or two that this issue could be hugely damaging for the integrity and image of the K-League as a whole were it to affect it’s premier competition as opposed to its second tier league.
Seongnam Get Promoted
This outcome does have a precedent as this is what happened at the end of the 2016 K-League Challenge season as runners-up Daegu FC took Ansan Mugunghwa’s place in the K-League Classic. On paper, this would probably be the ruling which would meet with the least resistance and should be the smoothest to implement. It requires no promises or guarantees from the promoted club about stability or future and of course gives the league it’s ‘phoenix from the ashes’ story as the one of the country’s most successful clubs makes their return to the top flight. Rumours this weekend are that Seongnam have signed Martiniquais international journeyman Mathias Coureur and while not exactly a marquee signing it would suggest that they may already know where they will be plying their trade next year.
No matter which outcome is decided upon this has been another episode in the K-League’s long-running drama of poor management that is almost certain to keep tongues wagging throughout the icy close season…….who knows maybe they’ll extend the deadline to the 2019 opening weekend!!