The Fate of Football Managers in Korea

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Yes, dismissing Claudio Ranieri was completely disgraceful, yet it was the reality of modern football. English football especially has always been about producing short-term results and some wonder if the recent increase in wealth in the Premier League has given clubs the luxury to start replacing managers in short cycles. But it’s not just the EPL managers who face the fate of losing their jobs. The problem is just as severe in the Korean League where money isn’t as bountiful as the Premier League.

The Korean League, simply referred to as the “K-League”, is divided into two professional leagues: Classic and Challenge. For the 2017 season, K-League Classic saw four teams out of twelve replace their managers. Challenge, on the other hand, suffered even greater turnovers: two teams from last season completely withdrew from the league (Goyang and Chungju), six teams replaced their managers, and two brand new teams entered the league (Ansan and Asan). Only Suwon FC and Gyungnam, out of the ten teams in Challenge, kept the manager from the previous season. More than half of all the teams in both leagues (12 out of 22 teams) started the new season with a new manager. Sadly, the numbers get worse if we include managers replaced in-season.

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Why is it that teams are replacing managers so quickly? Is it the forthcoming system pressuring teams to perform? Is it the relationship between the manager and club owners? Is it the pressure from the fast-growing and cash-strapped leagues in China and Middle East? Whatever the reasons may be, we will never get the full picture, but by examining how club administrators work with managers in the Korean League compare to those in the Japanese League, we get a general idea of the existing problems in the K-League.

Seoul E-Land of Challenge for instance closed the contract with Martin Rennie and his coaching staff mid-season in 2016. Rennie was pressured to promote the team into Classic in his first year in charge of a brand new team. And for failing to promote the team into Classic, he was asked to leave only after 18 months in office. Martin Rennie was an exciting recruit to the league, having plenty of experience in the MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps. He was tipped to bring a unique Western footballing influence into Korean football. If only he had more time to adjust to the Korean league and assess his team’s potential promotion to Classic, he may have truly seen his work bear fruit. 

KunHa Park replaced Rennie mid-season. Seoul E-Land’s results for that second half of the season improved with Park in charge. The team won 11 games, drew 8, and only lost 4. K-League Challenge doesn’t have relegation yet, but Park had successfully turned the table around for a struggling E-Land side. Everyone expected coach Park to lead the team for the new season, but he was dismissed at the end of that season. The club’s statements for his dismissal was simply “to start fresh with the new club executives.” Talk about an outrageous comment. Poor decisions from the club continue to hinder the club. Seoul E-Land is currently (5/29/2017) sitting 9th out of 10 teams with just two wins in 13 games. Now leading the team is a coach from the U-League (University-League), a first-timer to the professional league. We do not know for sure how secure his job is, but the club has grandiose plans – its website lists as one its goals to become Asian club champions by 2020 (win the Asian Champions League). 

What can the K-League sides learn from this Japanese team? Since 2010 for seven straight seasons, Shonan Bellmare had gone up and down in the first and second division in the J-League. The team only won 7 in 34 games and was comfortably relegated to the second division in 2016. Despite its inconsistent performance in the J1 League, Cho Kwi-jae continues his management since 2012. Experiencing two promotions and two relegations during his regime, he could have easily been sacked by the standards set in modern football, but the club, acknowledging his leadership qualities, gives him full assurance that he’ll be given time to build his team. Shonan Bellmare is sitting third place out of total 22 teams in the second division, ready to be promoted again and challenge the first division.

Sir Alex Ferguson says the support from the club administration played a significant role in the development of a football club. In his book, Leading, he describes the support he got from the club owners and executives as a ‘privilege’ that a leader needs and must have. The fact that he was free from an urgent pressure to produce immediate success enabled him to concentrate on building the basis for the long-term generational success of Ferguson’s teams.

This is the culture K-League needs to inherit – developing a working relationship between the club administrators and coaching staff, together setting realistic goals, together taking time to move up the ladder one step at a time. And as Korean football system experiences more change in the upcoming years, teams must live up to the challenge of strengthening the cooperative relations between the club administrators and the coaching staff. 

October 18, 2016

I needed to find something other than reading to entertain myself here at the military hospital. So I decided, why not give an update on me.
Fall is finally here in Korea. It was here for a while actually; I’m just glad that summer is gone. It was probably the worst summer because of the heat and the work I was forced to perform. I’ve been jokingly describing my past summer ‘ traumatic’ to my acquaintances in Korea. So meeting cool, windy fall after a treacherous summer couldn’t be any better.
It pains me to complain about my knee, but here I go again. I couldn’t keep up with all the daily tasks in the army. After going in and out of various hospitals ever since I enrolled in the army, I was finally put onto hospital bed for some rest. The base gave me one month to sort my situation. Not long for a problem I had for more than two years, but I really needed this break. My knee was just not keeping up. It came to a point where I couldn’t even walk, but liquid forming in my knee made my walking very uncomfortable. It almost felt like I forgot to walk again. It was that awkward with the swelling. My past few months have been frustrating because of this. I thought I would never adjust to the army life as long as my pain was there to hinder me from doing things that all my comrades were doing. I couldn’t understand why I was in the army when I really needed time to sit down on a treatment to follow for my knee to return to ‘normal’. Sad reality is that I can’t control what I want to do here.
For now, I’m trying to stay positive by focusing on what I can control. That’s getting rest and treatments the hospital has for me, stretching and strengthening my legs, and staying calm in His word. Also reading Malcom Gladwell’s books to get my mind off of my knee.
One thing I’m realizing though is that there are guys here who are in similar situations. Guys who are seriously hurt, probably worse than I am, but stuck in the army with their current health. Some are on crutches, having to move around in a wheel chair. Some can’t even rehab properly because the joints stiffened after a long period of isolation. I should be thankful, I thought, for being able to walk and exercise to some extent to prevent from getting worse. Just this past month, I was dejected from what I was going through, but here I am lighting up, thanking God for the small things. Praise God.
What’s ahead still worries me, but I don’t think it’s my job to think about that. It’s tough time for me, but I guess you need these disappointments in your life to spur you on to do greater things later on in life.
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How about that good old rivalry game between Manchester United and Liverpool. It could have been better if United come away with three points, but enjoyed watching Ander Herrera play. My eyes were on him the whole game. He was a beast that night. The game kicked off at 4 am in Korea which meant I couldn’t watch it LIVE. Thanks for not allowing internet during the day, I got to watch the replay at noon with no one knowing the score! I watched the game like it was LIVE.

Update!

It has been way too long since I wrote my last blog post on the ‘Transfer Market Mystery series.’ So… There’s a lot to share! Here’s a quick summary of what has been on my mind this semester.

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First, I would like to share briefly on Calvin Men’s soccer. It was 2011 last time Calvin was in the Final Four, eventually lost in the final. This is a huge moment for the team, players, coaches, and for the program.

“It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.” Henry Ford

It’s no miracle that they are in the Final Four. After crashing out in the second round against Ohio Wesleyan last year, the team was already on sight for next season. The amount of dedication the team put in to be where they are now is unbelievable. Through competition, there was teamwork. In free time, there was discipline.

I have several topics in mind to dive deeper into and I hope to unpack some of these big topics after I finish up school in next two weeks! 

  • Football league system in Korea and England

What’s the common denominator from the following players?

Jaime Vardy of Leicester, Chris Smalling of Manchester United, Charlie Austic of QPR, Gary Hooper of Norwich, and Rickie Lambert of West Brom

They are just a few of many players who came from non-league to the Premier League. There are more than 7000 teams of nearly 5300 clubs in the English men’s football league system (Wikipedia). The vast structure of the league really teaches the importance of developing amateur football leagues to intensify and improve the football culture. My plan is to compare and contrast with the football league system in Korea and stress the need for development in amateur football.

  • Abusive coaches

I always have a negative view of coaches in Korea for their abusive attitudes towards the players. Considering the Asian culture of respecting the senior coaches/players, I thought the negative behaviors from the older coaches/players were inevitable. My perspective changed after watching several documentaries on English football and reading up on the history of abusive coaches in the U.S. First, abusive coaches are everywhere. Second, there is a difference in abusive coaches and demanding coaches.

  • Tainting the beautiful game: Match fixing (Ethics in Sports)

While taking a class in business ethics, I have been challenged to apply some of the big concepts into the football world. FIFA scandal is still making headlines and mach fixing is whole another issue. Unethical behaviors from the football leaders/organizations should not be tolerated. Hope to touch on some of the big issues in the game.

Lastly, a couple of thoughts on the EPL and the Korea national team.

As an EPL fan, this season has been far the worst. The quality of the games are well under par. Inconsistent run of results from the top-tier teams have been frustrating as well. Nick Miller of ESPN thinks this brings more excitement to the league.

I’m really excited to see how Korean national team will progress through the qualifications. The team is cruising in current round 2 qualification for 2018 WC and Uli Stielike is working on picking the best of best players to represent Korea. At this moment, the forward position is worth eyeing on.

More to come from me next this month!

 

Transfer Mystery in the EPL – 3. Why are EPL teams struggling in Europe?

  1. Why is the transfer fee higher in England? 
  2. Why are EPL teams not spending well? 
  3. Why are they struggling in Europe?
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No EPL representatives in the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the second time in three seasons! I often reminisce about the good days when there were three Premier League semi-finalists for three consecutive seasons in 07, 08, and 09. Every football fan should already know the English impact gas faded while teams from Spain and Germany have dominated Europe.

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So far in the series, I have been sharing the status and activity of English teams in the transfer window. This post may seem odd underneath the umbrella of the transfer market, but more than ever, modern football have associated the club’s investments with how they should perform in their leagues and in Europe. Just like the players’ worth must make sense not only on the financial books, but also on the pitch, ‘bigger’ football clubs are also expected to be better than those who are ‘worth’ less.

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Here’s the first verdict regarding performance alone. Simply put, English teams are not good enough football teams compared to other European teams. Credit to teams like Napoli, Sevilla, Dnipro, and Fiorentina, they did the hard work and had a successful European tournament.

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This next argument is more focused towards the Europa League. Looking at how the EPL teams have been lining up in Europa League, it’s fair to say that English teams tend to focus more on the EPL games, preparing for the weekend games. Which means, they use their rotational system in Europe during the week. On the other hand, Swedish, Italian, and Spanish teams line up very strongly in Europe. If EPL teams are good enough to make it at least into the quarter-finals of the Europa league, that leaves just 5 games including the final left in the tournament. Knowing the benefit of winning the Europa can get you a spot in the Champions League, I think it’s an enough motivation for English teams to challenge to win the Cup.

My last opinion for a lack of success in Europe for English teams is the lack of ‘home-grown’ players maturing through first-team football.

The ‘Home-Grown’ Rules: 

Players, irrespective of nationality, will have to be with his club from age 15 to qualify as home-grown

– The number of non-home grown players in each 25-man squad is to be reduced from 17 to 13

– At least two home-grown players must be club trained

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Especially for the ‘bigger’ clubs in the EPL, the home-grown players are making less impact for their clubs.

The following numbers represent a proportion of home-grown players playing in their respective clubs.

  1. Spain: 62.4% of homegrown players play in La Liga
  2. France: 58.5%
  3. Germany: 50%
  4. Italy: 48.6%
  5. England: 36.5%

Only 36.5% of homegrown players are playing in the EPL. The youth players in England compared to those in other top leagues, are not breaking through the first team. The lack of opportunities for home grown players to play competitive first team football has been a concern over the past few seasons in England. Perhaps this is because of foreign player spending? It may or may not be.

How much of 36.5% do you think represents English players who played Champions League football?

The FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, said

“In 2014, just 23 English players were playing Champions League football. That compares with 78 Spanish players, 55 from Germany and even 51 from Brazil – and the numbers will only get worse. If we want to maintain a national side capable of competing against the world’s best, we need change.”

Lack of home-grown players can also be translated into lack of coaches. Here are the numbers of coaches holding UEFA’s B, A, and Pro licences according to the Guardian in big European football nations. 

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According to the Guardian, it will take 123 years for England’s resource of Pro-licensed coaches to match Spain.

Could this also be the reason why England has been poor in the World Cup?

The four nations excluding England have been part of eight of the 12 finalists at all the World Cups and European Championships since 1998.

When Germany went out in the group stage in Euro 2000, there were major structural changes in the development of young players. Since then, Bundesliga clubs have spent hundreds of millions on their youth system.

Lutz Pfannenstiel, first-team scout at Bundesliga club Hoffenheim, said:

“… When we restructured we decided as a country to go for young players and if possible German.

“Now, any player from another country has to be absolutely outstanding. We no longer see the point in taking a player we can maybe find at the same level in Germany.”

Whether the FA needs to increase the number of coaches in England or pave ways for young talents to get more opportunities for first-team football, there is a need for a big change to get back on track to dominate Europe once again.

I cannot wait.

That concludes the ‘Transfer Mystery’ series. 

Very special thanks to Greg Kim for helping me with the organization and delivery of my posts. 

Transfer Mystery in the EPL – 2. Why are EPL teams not spending well?

In part I of the ‘Transfer Mystery in the EPL’ series, I answered the first of three main questions concluding that EPL transfer fees are overly inflated because they have so much money from broadcasting deals. EPL teams – from top to bottom – can outspend most teams in other leagues. Don’t get me wrong. Big teams like B. Munich, R. Madrid, Barca, and PSG still have huge money to maintain their superiority, but it is the second-tier powers like Sevilla, Leverkusen, and AS Roma that are in danger of getting outspent by second and third-tier Premier League teams. However there’s a concern over how EPL teams are spending. Even with the resource to bring good players in, the Premier League teams have been struggling against teams across Europe. We have witnessed too many expensive players come into the premier league only to be shipped out a season or two later.

So today’s topic deals with the second question.

  1. Why is the transfer fee higher in England?
  2. Why are EPL teams not spending well?
  3. Why are they struggling in Europe?

To illustrate how badly the Premier League elites are wasting their money, it is necessary to compare it the spending of other leagues’ teams. (The transfer fees are from www.transfermarkt.com) (in euros)

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Antoine Griezmann, who was one of the best players in La Liga last season with Atletico Madrid, was bought from Real Sociedad for 30 million euros. Let’s not forget. Before he joined Atletico, he was a key player for Real Sociedad scoring 16 goals in La Liga. In return, Atletico benefitted from his incredible 22 goals in the league.

Flying over to England, Adam Lallana of Liverpool cost 31 million euros from Southampton.

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Juan Cuadrado of Chelsea cost 31 million euros from Fiorentina (It looks like he’s going to be shipped out of Chelsea soon).

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And, Tottenham flop Roberto Soldado was bought from Valencia CF for 30 million euros.

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Comparing Griezmann’s worth to some of these players in the EPL, the Premier league elites are wasting way too much money.

Football - FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Final - Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany - 6/6/15 Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic celebrates with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League Reuters / Darren Staples

Let’s look at Ivan Rakitic, who was a key figure in Barca’s treble-winning season. He cost Barcelona 18 million euros. For Sevilla, Rakitic was a playmaker to lead the team to victory in the Europa League

Meanwhile, in the Premier League, Arsenal paid Southampton 20.23 million euros for Calum Chambers, Man. City paid Fiorentina 26 million euros for Stevan Jovetic, and Liverpool paid AC Milan 20 million euros for Balotelli.  

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Signing a player of Rakitic’s calibre for 18 million euros was a business well done. Even the Premier League newcomer, Bournemouth, aka the smallest club ever to play in the EPL, signed a club record of over 11 million euros for Tyrone Mings this summer. Who even is Tyrone Mings?

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Ezequiel Garay: 6 million euros from Benfica to Zenit

Mangala: 40 million euros from FC Porto to Man. City

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City buying Mangala for FORTY million euros is outrageous once we compare a similar player who joined Zenit.

Toni Kroos: 30 million euros from Munich to Real Madrid

Markovic: 25 million euros from Benfica to Liverpool

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I don’t need to say anything here.

It won’t be fair to exclude some of Manchester United players. Of the players brought in by LVG, United got themselves in a messy situation with Di Maria and splashed questionable transfer fees on Shaw (37.5 m), Rojo (20 m), Herrera (36 m), and Schneiderlin (35 m).  

An ESPN FC author, Rory Smith, too, writes an interesting article on this issue.

In terms of analysis and decision-making on foreign players, other leagues, La Liga in particular, have considerably been better at getting a quality business done in the transfer market for past few years.

So, EPL teams are not spending well with their abundance of money. Is this any related to the poor performance in Europe? 

Transfer Mystery in the English Premier League – 1. Why is the transfer fee higher in England?

In one of my previous posts when I evaluated Man United’s summer signings, I pointed out how ridiculous it was for United to still buy more players after large sum of money spent on new players. 

I raised this issue as the league as a whole and claimed that there were two parts to the question: inflated transfer fees compared to other leagues and inaccurate scouting system that sees too many players leaving because they don’t meet their price tag.

I spent some time researching on this area and questioned again if those two parts were any related to poor performance by the Premier League elites in the European tournaments.

So in my “Transfer Mystery in the EPL” series, I hope to answer three major questions.

  1. Why is the transfer fee higher in England?
  2. Why are EPL teams not spending well?
  3. Why are they struggling in Europe?

In European football, the UEFA constructed a point system to help with fair ranking and seeding teams in club and international competitions. The point system is categorized into three areas; national team, country, and club. The one I’m interested is the Country coefficient which is used to assign how many tickets each league receives for the forthcoming UEFA Champions League (UCL) and UEFA Europa League (UEL). As we all know, top 4 teams in the Premier League participates in the UCL. This Country coefficient is the collective performance of the clubs of the same country in five previous UCL and UEL seasons. Refer to the image below.

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The league with the highest coefficient each season is marked in red. Marked in yellow, Spain’s La Liga has the highest point in five seasons. You can readily conclude the dominance of Spanish teams in Europe. Underlined in blue, you can see England’s performance in Europe is on a fall. Underlined in green, you can see Italy’s slow growth. All the Serie A fans would love to see their league overtake the Premier League in next few seasons which could mean seeing four premier league teams in the UCL is no longer a show. However, I personally believe that the likelihood of that happening is still slim as the Premier League holds the most valuable resource, MONEY.

According to Deloitte, eight EPL teams are within top 20 highest-earning clubs, 14 within top 30, and all 20 teams within top 40.

One key factor for this result is the massive broadcast revenue that EPL earns and distributes relatively equally over its 20 teams.

The new TV money EPL enjoys was a 70% increase from the previous deal, $1.52 billion per year to $2.6 billion per year from 2016 to 2019.

The image below, in pounds, illustrates the vast increase in TV rights per season in the Premier League.

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Assuming a 70% increase in broadcast revenues, the EPL’s bottom club will make $160.6 million in TV revenue alone in 2016-17. The top club will make $252.8 million.”

TV money alone, all 20 teams are subject to be placed in top 30 highest earning teams by 2016-17 campaign.

So answering our first of three questions, ‘why is the transfer fee higher in England’, it’s easy for English teams to outspend in the transfer market because they earn so much more than their counterparts in Europe. Under the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules, clubs can only spend what they earn. This rule prevents clubs from incurring huge debts on player spending and falling into insolvency. Practically, teams with more money have significant advantage in the market.

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Looking at this graph of the top 20 richest football clubs in the world provided by Deloitte, elite teams across Europe like B. Munich, R. Madrid, Barca, PSG, and Inter still have huge money to maintain their superiority. However the second-tier powers like Sevilla, Leverkusen, AS Roma, and Lyon are in danger of getting outspent by second and third-tier Premier League teams.

However, even with the financial power, Sevilla won the Europa league two years in row and we’ve already seen too many poor run of results in the Europe by the Premier League teams.

So another argument is voiced. EPL teams have the money, but are they efficient with their playing spending?

Comparing players brought in by different teams in Europe, I’ll cover our second main question, ‘why are they not spending well’ in my next post.

Transfer Market Mystery – Player Valuation

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The only thing I like about the transfer market is obviously the players joining United. Besides that, the transfer market is not so fun to follow with all the ridiculous rumours that break out in the media. However, there is one intriguing aspect about the transfer market.

What do all the seven- and eight-figure sums mean to the players and to the buying and selling clubs?

I did some research and tried to untangle this aspect of the transfer market.

According to Jack Cohen of the WSJ, the simple accounting concept of amortizing capitalized assets can help us understand the price tag on each player.

Whenever there’s a transfer, there’s a fee that the buying club pays to the selling club either in full or in installments. This is usually the ‘undisclosed’ fee that usually leaks out through the media. Then there’s the salary rate for the player with the contract period. The buying club is essentially writing two checks: one to the selling club and the other to the player. As a result, the real cost of a player is the sum of these two numbers per year basis.

Here’s an example used by Jake Cohen.

… Arsenal paid Barcelona a £33.5 million fee… Sanchez then agreed to a five-year contract at a widely reported £150,000 a week. The transfer fee is amortized at £6.7 million (33.5/5 = 6.7mil) and his annual wages amount to £7.8 million (150K*52weeks=7.8mil). That puts his total annual cost to Arsenal at £14.5 million before any agent fees.

The amount of £33.5 million is capitalized and it is spread out over the contract period (5 years for Sanchez and Arsenal) for accounting purposes.

Now, with this number, we can determine if the clubs’ decisions in the transfer market make sense not only on the pitch, but also on the books. Manchester United’s Angel Di Maria’s real cost is about £19.74 million per year before any agent fees. Considering both Sanchez’s £14.5 million annual cost and the impact each player made to their respective clubs, Arsenal certainly benefited more from the business.

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The perspective of the selling club is a little different.

The selling club must account for the remainder of the transfer fee from when it first bought the player (called “book value”), and deduct that total from the transfer fee it received.

Let’s consider again Di Maria. His book value when he extended his contract at Real Madrid in 2012 was £17.1 million. He was given a 6-year contract, which makes Real Madrid’s annual amortization cost £2.85 million. In 2014, Real Madrid sold him to Manchester United. The book value in 2014 was £17.1 – (£2.85 million x 2 years gone on the contract) = £11.4 million. The transfer fee was reportedly around £59.7 million. This gives Real Madrid a great profit of £48.3 million. When clubs are trying get rid of their players, they know how much they need to get to make a profit.

Even though transfer fees can provide an instant investment value of each player, knowing how to calculate the real cost of each player can help us compare players more accurately.