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(LEAD) S. Korean city Ansan to launch new pro football club

All News 16:37 July 22, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS comments, details throughout)

SEOUL, July 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korean city Ansan will launch a new pro football club, expanding the number of teams in the country's pro football league to 24, officials said Friday.

In addition, an existing football team based in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, will relocate to Asan, South Chungcheong Province.

Ansan Mayor Je Jong-geel on Friday submitted the city's application to the K league, the country's governing body of professional football league, for a new pro football club. The name of the team has not been determined yet.

The expansion team will likely make their debut in the second-division K League Challenge next year. There are currently 12 clubs in the top-flight K League Classic and 11 teams in the K League Challenge.

Ansan will be the 11th city operating a K League club, joining other municipal governments like Daegu, Incheon, Daejeon and Seongnam.

Je said Ansan is currently discussing with semi-pro club Hyundai Mipo Dokyard Dolphin FC in the Korea National League, the de-facto third division football league, about inheriting their players. Hyundai Mipo Dokyard are mulling disbanding the team, according to Je. The new club will have about 30 players on the squad.

"We are trying to run the club with the smallest budget possible in the first season," Je said. "It's not going to be easy to run a pro club like big cities, but we will try to connect with our citizens."

Ansan, some 40km west of Seoul, is currently home to Mugunghwa FC, a second-tier club run by South Korean police to help footballers play the sport while fulfilling their mandatory military duties. In 2013, the city signed a three-year contract with Mugunghwa FC to become their host, but the two sides recently decided not to renew the deal after the club planned a move to Asan, home of the Police Training Institute and Korea National Police University.

It will be the first time for Asan, some 100 km south of Seoul, to have a K League club. Asan Mayor Bok Ki-wang also on Friday filed documents with the K League to accommodate Mugunghwa FC.

"We will learn the know-now of running a football club from Ansan," Bok said. "I heard the only thing that a mayor needs to do is to let experts run the club and give them strong support."

Mugunghwa FC currently lead the K League Challenge with 43 points after collecting 13 wins, four draws and four losses. The winner of the Challenge earns a promotion to the Classic next season, while second to fourth-placed teams enter the promotional playoffs.

The K League office said if Mugunghwa FC win the Challenge, Ansan's new football club will inherit the promotion privilege, but it will finalize the matter at a future board meeting.

"This is a big congratulatory event for the country's football," said K League deputy commissioner Huh Jung-moo. "This is the first step for the K League to become the No. 1 league in Asia and a top-10 league in the world by 2022."

kdon@yna.co.kr
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