Fans flock to professional soccer stadiums. Attendance has increased significantly compared to pre-COVID-19. This year, through the 14th round (84 games), the number of spectators in the first division is 863,439. In the 2019 season, there were 697,424 spectators by the 14th round. This is a 24% increase in attendance compared to the pre-COVID-19 season.
The top club in terms of attendance is FC Seoul. The average home attendance in Seoul is 26,564. On April 8, the team invited singer Lim Young-woong and drew 45,000 spectators, and on Children’s Day, it drew 37,000 spectators. The somewhat low attendance at the beginning of the season has been filled. Second in attendance is the defending champions, Ulsan Hyundai. They have averaged nearly 17,000 fans so far this season. That’s almost twice as many as last year. It’s a championship effect. In third place is Daejeon Hana Citizens, who were surprisingly promoted to the first division this year, with an average of 13,000 fans. In fourth place is Jeonbuk Hyundai, who started off slow but are gradually recovering, with 10,508 fans.
Since we don’t have accurate personal data on spectators, we can only rely on the opinions of professional soccer leagues and club officials. First, the World Cup in Qatar had a big impact. Professional soccer continued for two months after South Korea reached the round of 16, and World Cup members such as Cho Kyu-sung, Baek Seung-ho, Song Min-kyu (Jeonbuk), Na Sang-ho (Seoul), Kim Young-kwon, and Cho Hyun-woo (Ulsan) showed steady performances in the K League. “Above all, the number of children, child-centered families, and female fans has increased significantly,” said Jeju United President Kim Hyun-hee. “Young people who are accustomed to online community activities are becoming real supporters and organized.”
The team’s performance has also improved considerably. Ulsan, which won the national championship in technical soccer, has become a popular team in the nation’s top division by maintaining good performance. Newcomers such as Gwangju FC and Daejeon Hana have risen to the first division and threatened the established teams with their fearless attacking soccer. Seoul is getting better and better and scoring a lot of goals. There are also opinions that the number of last-minute theater goals has increased the awareness and interest of fans. “As of the end of the 14th round, there were 30 goals scored in the first 15 minutes, the most since the implementation of the relegation system (2013),” said an official from the Korean Football Association. The number of goals scored between the second 30 and 45 minutes is also 48, which is second only to the 2017 season (49).”
The different stories of each team are also generating popular buzz. Ulsan is leading the way with back-to-back wins, while Seoul is gunning for the title. Jeonbuk and Suwon have bounced back after a rough start to the season, with the former firing and replacing its coach. Gwangju and Daejeon, who were expected to finish at the bottom of the table, 안전놀이터 have made a small splash with their fearless and fresh attacking style of play. Almost all the teams except Ulsan have bitten off more than they can chew. From the top to the bottom, there is a lot of buzz and the stories are being talked about all over the country. It is also helpful that clubs such as Ulsan, Jeju, Daejeon, Incheon, and others are actively working to attract spectators.
Professional soccer has been struggling with audiences that have not increased easily. The professional soccer world was discouraged by the statement that “baseball is the national sport in Korea”. As various European soccer contents were introduced in Korea, there were pessimistic interpretations that the K League was losing its place. When asked about their favorite soccer team, some people even said they couldn’t think of a K League team. Therefore, the increase in the number of spectators in the K League is refreshing and hopeful.