In an effort to combat fan fatigue and the scourge of match fixing, South Korea has reinvented its league football system this year, making distant Scotland an unlikely role model.
The traditional home-and-away league season was a bad fit for Korea, as the lack of relegation created a lot of meaningless games late in the season, which were both a turn-off for fans in a country where football fights baseball for attention, and also fodder for match fixers.
Searching the world for a better model, Korean authorities settled upon Scotland, where the standard home-and-away fixtures make up the first three quarters of the season, before the 12 teams are split into a top half and a bottom half. Carrying points over from the main part of the season, the top half plays another series of round robin games which determines the champion and European-qualification berths, while the bottom half does the same to decide relegation.
Last year, a delegation from Korea visited Glasgow to learn about the split system, and decided to adopt it this season, albeit with a 16-team league rather than 12, and with an equal number of games before and after the split, creating a marathon 44-game league campaign.
The home-and-away section of 30 games concluded on August 26, and the season will resume on September 15 with two groups of eight to determine the champion, 2013 Asian Champions League berths and relegation; also introduced for the first time this season.
"The European league system is a little boring especially in the middle of the season," Kwon Sung-jin, deputy general manager of the K-League told Associated Press. "In Korea, we are battling against other sports such as baseball and all kind of entertainment options open to people. We need to make people pay attention to the league. The split system makes the league more exciting for the whole season. "
Scotland introduced the split system in 2001, though it acknowledges it has some glitches.
"It is a way of ensuring that 12 teams can play with broadly the right number of games," the Scottish Premier League's chief executive Neil Doncaster told Associated Press. "The split was a way to create 38 games. It divides opinion. Some like it very much, others less because of the imbalances it can create. In some seasons, a team can play 18 home games and 20 away. And it is possible to play one team away three times and at home once."
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